Newspapers give voice to the voiceless

Newspapers have been a great help in promoting social activism for the betterment of society in general, regardless of race, creed or colour.

I FOLLOWED with deep interest the discussion on print and social media at the recent forum in Shah Alam on ‘Survival of Print Media: Why go soft when you can go hard?’, organised by Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Mass Communications Alumni and UiTM Rembau’s Faculty of Communications and Media Studies (NST, Oct 20).

I have been an ardent fan of print journalism ever since I picked up my first newspaper when I joined the workforce over 50 years ago. I am still happily addicted to this habit of reading the newspaper and cannot remember starting my day without reading at least three newspapers in three languages.

The newspapers have been my daily diet of views, reviews, alerts, advertisements, obituaries, comics and Lat cartoons when they used to appear regularly in the New Straits Times.

Sure, nowadays I also follow the new kid on the block, the electronic media, but it is on the old warhorse and the tabloid newspaper that I rely on for my daily serving of all the news that is fit to print.

There are many reasons for my addiction. The print media is always accountable for what they print. And because of that they are careful to separate fact from opinion.

There are several layers of checks for accuracy, style and credibility employed by reporters, news editors, sub-editors and production editors.

These checks ensure that the news that is printed and read the next day had undergone rigorous checks for veracity and accuracy.

And therefore it was news worthy of print. There was hence no way that mere gossip or fake news could be passed off as genuine.

Even when the newspapers publish editorials or opinion pieces, the journalists are careful to give two sides of the coin, and if there is a third side, to give that side too. That’s how trust was built and nurtured.

Newspapers cater to a cross-section of the community or society. And so there is a sense of balance in the selection of news for print. There is always something for everybody — the baby boomers, the millennials, the Gen X and Gen Z.

And probably one of the most important considerations that I found commendable was the self-restraint that the editors exhibited when it came to publishing racially or morally sensitive issues.

These issues, whenever they arose, were often couched in non-emotive language. And there was seldom a reference to a person’s race unless it was germane to the story in question.

While newspapers gave space and coverage to largely current issues, they also championed non-sensational causes like poverty eradication, social mobility and the plight of the underdog. They gave voice to the voiceless.

The best part is that newspapers are held accountable every day. And journalists are an open book. Their work is available for all to see, to savour or to criticise. Unlike other professionals, their mistakes are there for all to see.

For me personally, newspapers have been a great help in promoting social activism for the betterment of society in general, regardless of race, creed or colour.

Newspapers have also provided me with valuable feedback and insights that have helped in the work of non-governmental organisations that I have been involved in, especially in the fields of industrial safety and health, crime prevention, animal welfare and volunteerism.

I am sure the day will never come when newspapers do not become recorders of history but are relegated to the dustbin of history.

I salute all the journalists, past and present, the editors, the sub- editors, the production workers and the advertising and management teams of the English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil press, and wish them all the best and hope never to see the back end of a front page.

There is no denying that newspapers can contribute to a reading culture which needs to be promoted. We must therefore do our utmost to save and sustain the print media which, for a ringgit or two, brings the world to our doorstep.

But who can save it? Ultimately it is the people who can and must. The print media can help foster an informed community and nation that is so essential for a vibrant democracy.

The people must therefore continue to buy, read and share newspapers.


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