Sunday, March 16, 2008

Media Reform

At the CPPS organised post-election forum, a number of panel speakers agreed that the media overkill during the campaign period was actually counter productive to the BN. I highlighted in my short speech on the role and impact of mass media during the campaign period which put off many English educated middle-class especially in Penang.

Some newspapers and their editorials acted as mouthpiece of the BN coalition, spurned out propaganda, poor and unbalanced prognosis and analysis, unfair reports and even manufactured threats against those whom might be thinking to vote against the powerful coalition.

Some of us can understand that editors of these newspapers are on the payroll of organisations controlled by component parties but we were shocked that their reporters and journalists are so out of touch with their own readers. The demographic of the readers has changed. Most readers, especially those between 20 to 40 years old, can no longer be treated as passive receivers of information.

With the advent of the internet, traditional media must work doubly hard to earn their credibility and trust. By going on a propaganda overkill only confirmed to the voters that there could be hidden rot behind the veil. Hence, many of them turned to the web. The reaction towards the mainstream media has actually helped to strengthen the role of the Internet as a superior channel of communication and news dissemination. Internet is here to stay.

Moving forward, there is a need of a radical reform in the newsroom. First, there is a need of mindset shift among its editors and journalists. They must now play a more proactive role in offering balanced reporting. Access to information is no longer the monopoly of traditional media. It pays to move towards the centre where news from opposite sides can be carried so that readers can make an informed choice.

Second, the role of the media as a sounding board must be revived. It must resurrect its role as an effective watchdog for the community. By playing a more mature and independent role by offering fair and balanced reporting can only give a good perception to its shareholders.

Finally, our current batch of journalists and editors must remain consistent and credible. Credibility lost in the run-up to the poll will take a long time to be rebuild. However, it is not too late to relearn the language of professional journalism.

It is time too for media reform in Malaysia.

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