A general view of the Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd office ahead of its closure on Oct 9 in Kuala Lumpur. -NSTP/Mustaffa Kamal

One newspaper’s end may not mark the death of the media industry. But it must be a cause for reflection.

All deaths, including those of inanimate newspapers, must be given the dignity they deserve. Utusan did have its good days. Of this we are certain. Otherwise, it would not have lasted this long.

All good things must come to an end, people say. We do not agree. They don’t have to. The bad can be made better; the good even better.

This Leader isn’t about Utusan. It is not even about the print media. In this debate of a death, people miss the point of it all. Death often leads to reflection. But this particular death didn’t. Liquidation or death, what is the difference?

There was good journalism in Utusan, though it lost it along the way. We did lose it, too. When poisonous politics dips its nasty nib in the inkpot, journalism becomes soiled. Fair becomes foul and foul fair.

A poisonous pen such as this shrouds when it should reveal. Journalism such as this rightly deserves the Shakespearean response: Et tu, Brute?

It is for this reason we place our faith in press freedom. Truth and the argument based on it must be protected. Opinions may differ, but they must be allowed to be given expression. A nation that does not allow this will forever remain inchoate.

Do not get us wrong. We are not arguing for the right to be offensive. Because we believe we can put truth across without being offensive. A nation with a free press will do the country a mighty good, too.

Today, Malaysia stands ranked 123rd in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index. Imagine being ranked among top scorers Norway, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark. It will be a major economic booster.

Never underestimate the media. It is a sprawling think-tank. On adrenaline, 24/7. Non-stop thinking. Critics will say journalists think in column inches, but we know of no others who have made thinking their profession. Except for Edward de Bono, perhaps. The point is: we correct yawning gaps, which otherwise will go unnoticed. Take the case of the batik industry, a business the New Straits Times has been fighting to rejuvenate.

One account puts the worth of the industry at RM100 million while another RM5 billion. Why the gap? Has anyone asked? We have. We will put the bamboo industry under similar scrutiny, too. As the conscience of the nation, it is our duty to do so. Lest we forget, newspapers are the biggest debating forum in the country. Sure, we may need improvements. But so does the national football team.

The media business is too strategic an industry to decree its death in a mere speech. Such is the blight of hubris. Newspapers do not die, people. They just get better. Newspapers are about good journalism. Do not for a moment think it is about platforms. Platforms do not make good journalism. In fact, the reverse is true.

Instead of ringing the death knell of newspapers, we must help make good journalism. Platforms come and go.

Some are read, some are not. Old media, new media. Print media, digital media. Bigger media, better media.

These words are mere nattering of newly-minted nabobs. Good journalism is here to stay. The newspaper isn’t dead. Long live the conscience of the nation.

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