Just a few weeks ago, the president of NUJ offered some very damning thoughts on the reasons for the overall decline in newspaper circulation. Example: the principal cause for the decline in Utusan Malaysia's circulation is its racist tilt. In other words, Utusan Malaysia is racist.
Coming from a Malay against a Malay vernacular paper is almost blasphemous! I am not going into that area. What I want to know is whether Saudara Hatta's views are capable of general application. Will I be able to say then; the reduced circulation of NST for example, is caused also by its overt racist inclinations?
NST people will be the first to go up in arms. It will say and state, in its usual dour and bossy tone- it practices no racism and discrimination.
Even though I may not like its way of stating things, I will have to agree with NST. I would have thought, NST's reduced circulation is not caused by any overt racist inclinations. For that, we have to look elsewhere.
Therefore, Hatta's views are not capable of general application.
The decline in Utusan's circulation cannot be due to the fact that it's written in Baahsa Melayu. If that is so, how do you explain the circulation of the other tabloid papers, those mosquito papers written in Malay which are big on sensational stories about artistes' lives and ghost stories and with the appealing mix of sex, violence and romance are doing well?
Hence language is not the reason for reduced circulation.
In any case, any newspaper, in whatever language it's written, if they have the UK Sun's page-3 element, will certainly increase circulation, especially among male readers. Way back when I was studying in UK, the Sun was a popular daily tabloid. People used to joke that the hottest part of the Sun is page 3. Page 3 of course displayed pictures of nubile fairer sex in tantalizing poses au naturel. Likewise, on Sundays, the most popular segment ofMIngguan Malaysia is Pancaindera.
If the decline in NST's circulation isn't caused by racism, then what's the cause?
This does not apply only to NST. It applies to all prints.
I would say, there are two principal causes. One, the rise of the internet. Two, the rise and expanding relevance of citizen journalism.
The main cause for the decline is the internet. More people read online newspapers than printed material.
Traditional papers employ tens and hundreds of journalists. Online newspapers a fraction of those.
How do you explain the 'defeat' of the many against the few? We have to look first at the composition, structure and quality of the many. The decline in NST's circulation and therefore relevance may actually be caused by these things in the many.
The many in the NST are from the school of journalism from one educational institution. And you know they operate like a secret society, guarding entry into the brotherhood, jealous of anyone not schooled in the same values. Above all, they have this overinflated notion of self-importance that THEY and THEY ALONE have the right to have an opinion on anything. This is the main cause of NST's degeneration.
I can guarantee, if they continue with this misplaced sense of self-importance, the paper will die together with the demise of their egos.
Well, the readers have given their verdict the opinions of the enthroned journalists are not worth the paper on which they are printed.
The answer also lies in the quality of journalism offered. I will simply say, the decline in NST's circulation is caused by the questionable quality of its journalism. The quality of its journalists and the quality of issues reasoned out.
As to the power of citizen journalism, the internet and the peoples' verdict, I hope ALL mainstream papers need only look at what happened in Tunisia recently.
It is interesting though that it took a combination of angry Tunisians, Wikileaks, U.S. diplomacy, a dissident soldier and social media to ignite the rebellion. Most likely if it had been Hillary Clinton alone telling the Tunisian people how corrupt Ben Ali was, it would have backfired.
I think the State Department should learn a lot from Tunisia and rethinkWikileaks, cellular networks, social networks, and the power of the raw truth when dictators lose control of the popular message.
Perhaps the papers like NST are missing on these things. Having the 'many' fortified by walls of self-interests and intoxicated by its own inflated notion of self-importance and indispensable relevance, does not help matters. It has probably prevented NST into becoming the crusader of journalism's holy grail- truth and objectivity.
What happened in Tunisia demonstrated the general distrust of the public of mainstream explanations. It took some activists diplomats and Wikileaks to reveal what many Tunisians suspected and that is the extent of the government's corruption and abuse to ignite the overthrow.
The state apparatuses supported by papers with an inflated notion of self-importance should also reflect on what happened in Tunisia.
The paradox here is obvious. The U.S. spends hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of human lives are lost in a bloody military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq with very little success in establishing grassroots change. And instead, U.S. diplomats telling a detailed story about corruption in Tunisia and a group of determined journalists at Wikileaks and Bradley Manning accomplished what a decade of military intervention in the Middle East could not: a popular uprising against corruption and dictatorship.