Side Views

Farewell, The Malaysian Insider – Ooi Kok Hin

March 14, 2016 will go down as the day one of the most popular news portals in Malaysia closes its door. The Malaysian Insider (TMI) has been a constant source of news for many of us, be it in the country or abroad.

I remember beginning each day by browsing the news on TMI. Particularly when I was a student abroad, like many others, TMI was the connection to home.

I sent my first article to TMI back in 2011, when I was a college student. A friend had suggested that I write for a publication, but I was afraid that no one would want to publish a “nobody”. But TMI is an equal opportunity platform which became a launching pad for many of us.

Looking at not just my personal experience, but also many young and first time writers who have had our articles published in TMI, I believe this testifies to what TMI meant to us.

Not only it provides daily news, it has also become a platform through which we wrote and published for the first time. Without TMI, many of us would not have gone into writing. In fact, my current job is courtesy of an article published by TMI.

What I particularly admire about TMI is its willingness to publish a range of views, from the layman to the scholars, the ordinary folks and the famous folks, the worshippers and the dissenters. Of course, no individual or entity can ever claim to be truly freed from bias, but in terms of publication (Opinion and Sideviews), to the best of my knowledge, TMI has never censored or refused to publish any disagreeable views.

I vividly remember an article published in Sideview entitled, “Why the Malaysian Insider has lost its credibility”. No other news portals will publish such a critical piece in full, unless forced by court order to avoid defamation suit damages.

With TMI, if you dislike something you read, you can write to the editor and, unless your piece is not up to par, it is likely to be published regardless of how critical you are of TMI’s view or no matter what ideology you profess.

However anti-establishment the slant TMI has been accused of, TMI is still one of the few news portals where you can find a variety of views and opinions. And that, I think, is more than respectable.

TMI has churned itself to become what could be the model for a news portal: You are free to have an opinion, but you should also publish all other variety of opinions.

I also appreciate TMI being a dual-language paper. On a different tone, all this while, many friends and I have always preferred The Malaysian Insider compared with the mainstream media and also subscription-based media. However, what transpired today may force us to rethink.

The owner of The Edge Media Group claimed that good journalism cannot be sustained without commercial support. This is a reality that we need to confront, and perhaps press a debate on media financing.

Syahredzan Johan wrote, “The shutting down of TMI has made me think. Providing alternative news is not commercially viable, nor does it appear to be self-sustaining. Should we pay for alternative news, following the Malaysiakini model? Before the internet, we did pay for news. Maybe the internet has spoiled us.”

If this can happen to TMI, which are among the top three news portals in terms of traffic, what about the rest? Must media outlets be backed and owned by either the state or big corporations? Would that affect their autonomy then? We have to think of the appropriate model to finance media outlets.

If “Spotlight”, the recent Oscars winner of Best Picture, has shown anything, it is that quality journalism (especially investigative journalism) matters. They should have, and need to be, equipped with sufficient resources, time and support to be able to do their job well. Otherwise, readers are fed with tabloid news and soundbite journalism.

Lastly, I would like to say THANK YOU to all the people behind the Insider team. For all that you went through to get the news for us.

For crossing the line to report the news we need to hear.

For providing a platform to many first time writers.

For connecting the intellectuals with the public. And to the editor and sub-editors, particularly Cheng Tuan and Anand, for diligently “layan” us the columnists... and thank you for always tolerating my lateness!

The editor wrote that he will not put down his pen. Neither will we. The 59 people in TMI, your dozens of columnists, and thousands of readers... we will not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light! – March 14, 2016.

* Ooi Kok Hin is a columnist with The Malaysian Insider. He is a research analyst in Penang Institute, and is also the author of the book, "Aku Kafir, Kau Siapa" , published by DuBook Press.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.


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