Why Malay Newspapers Suck

First of all, here’s my disclaimer: This write-up is related to Malaysian Malay newspapers and is purely 100% my personal opinions on them.

To me, important indicators of a printed material’s target audience are as follows:

The Cover Page

  • Cluttered with multiple data (target: busy decision who are always on the go, the cover should provide a gist of what’s happening in Malaysia and the world and how this affects them)
  • Having one large primary picture, a three to four word headline and a maximum of two paragraph as a “trailer” to the full story (target: people who are easily distracted by images, nevermind if the story behind it doesn’t affect them in any way whatsoever)

Partiality

  • Attempts to be as neutral as possible, however, if a piece is about a strong opinion, the author makes this fact known very clearly (target: people who make decisions themselves, based on their surroundings and opinions of others)
  • Has an agenda beforehand and makes no attempt to even mask this as an opinion, in fact, many uncertain issues are quickly and rashly brushed away as nonsense or elevated to the status of supreme truth (target: people who can’t make decisions on their own and need “coaxing” from “people in the know”)

The Resident Caricaturist

  • Puts in a lot of effort to highlight the surroundings of the main characters who say intelligent things related to their environment (target: the thinking and analytical individual, and the message is meant more as a wake up call rather than a lesson)
  • Shoddy and/or lazy drawings which only vainly highlight the main characters who tend to teach you on what conclusions you have to make from a particular situation (target: people who can’t make intelligent observations, let alone decisions on their own; people who are out of touch with reality)

Readers’ Feedback Section

  • Varying angles of feedback on multiple issues, with passionate arguments and a large majority are not afraid to get their real names published (target: thinkers who are more than willing to share their opinions and take ownership of them)
  • Concentrated rantings on issues of significantly little importance, and often using corny pseudonyms (target: anonymous cowards who rarely put their minds to work before putting pen to paper)

Situation Vacant Ads

  • Contains mostly professional and high-skilled positions (target: qualified people who are moving up the corporate ladder)
  • Contains mostly low paying, low skill, manual jobs as well as “work from home” and get rich quick schemes disguised as entrepreneurial work or business propositions (target: people with little working and inter-personal skills, and thus are unemployed for most of their lifetime)

The first description under every header should roughly describe most English language newspapers in Malaysia. The second description should be accurate enough to describe almost all Malay dailies. But please, don’t take my word on this… get yourself a copy and see for yourself.

However, more often than not, a tabloid which I will describe as champions of excremental reporting, Harian Metro, takes extreme measures to meet each and every one of the second descriptions I’ve highlighted above. Stay clear of this shite at all costs! The only reason why I’d recommend people to read Metro is to find out how not to publish a newspaper… yes, it really is that bad.

Berita Harian tends to focus on issues that are more relevant to the Malay professional. Their editorials are well written, most of the time, and the overall content is laid out in a way that makes it easy to digest. However, BH can improve by leaps and bounds by focusing more on current affairs rather than adding more content to its lifestyle and entertainment supplements. BH and Metro are published by the NSTP group, but their differences are so obvious that sometimes I find it hard to believe that a reputable organisation such as NSTP actually has something as vile as Metro in its stables.

Utusan Malaysia often reeks of “Malay Power” content. Sometimes, even an ethnic Malay like myself, find their content way too overpowering for my tastes. The content is very pro-government that sometimes I feel like I’m reading some sort of printed government propaganda material rather than a newspaper. However, Utusan’s forte is its one on one inteviews. Their reporters ask really interesting questions, sadly though, the respondants are often thrift on the juicy details. Alas, more often than not, Utusan is a little bit too politicentric (yay! I’ve invented a new word!) for my tastes.

Lucky thing that there’s the Internet now… So much information, so little time. One day, newspapers will be extinct anyway, I guess… I, for one, won’t miss them that much.