Dec 1 2018
By Azman Ujang
It has outlived just about every living thing in Malaysia, but after 122 years, Malay Mail, our oldest newspaper and certainly among the world’s oldest, too, finally calls it a day with its very last edition today.
But the paper, famed for its robust journalism and bombshell exclusives, has reached the end of a very long and historical journey after coming to terms with the revolution taking place in the media industry with the advent of technology.
From tomorrow, Malay Mail is only available online, with its Editor-in-Chief Datuk Wong Sai Wan, in his farewell message to readers of the newspaper, asking all stakeholders from readers to advertisers to embark on its new journey where it will do everything digitally possible to inform, entertain and promote in a globalised digital world.
Worldwide, the newspaper industry is facing the toughest period and bleakest future in its entire history and many had already stopped publication.
For example in Canada, dozens of provincial newspapers have closed shop over the past several years. Here in Malaysia, Malay Mail is so far the biggest casualty, while massive down-sizing of staff has taken place or are underway at some of the mainstream newspapers.
Just yesterday,some 800 staff of Utusan Melayu Berhad, the publisher of the influential Malay newspaper Utusan Malaysia, bade farewell to their employer in an emotional ceremony as they leave Utusan under the voluntary separation scheme (VSS) exercise.
Elsewhere, a similar exercise has been implemented in Media Prima, the largest media group, and Star Media Group which offloaded over at least 1,000 staff across the board, with more expected in the future.
What happens to the print media industry is best summed up by Wong Sai Wan himself when he says: ” The printed newspaper business model is flawed as it depends on advertising to survive, and the explosion of easy access of information digitally has rendered us useless as a news provider”.
And he says, the printed newspaper no longer has a reason to be in business, except to serve the older folks who cannot do without a physical medium to hold on to.
With such readers becoming a dying breed so, too, is the fate of newspapers. Malay Mail publisher Datuk Siew Ka Wei told Bernama that the end of the paper was one of the saddest days personally for him.
” I love Malay Mail especially the front page as we chronicle the good and bad stories happening around us. We have no choice. But I believe the brand shall remain strong because we have a very good team to grow the brand digitally.
“Newspapers have a very limited future in remaining relevant,” said Siew, a prominent businessman who took over the paper nine years ago.
The sadness of seeing the demise of the physical newspaper is shared by Datuk Ahiruddin Atan, better known as Rocky, one of the country’s pioneer bloggers whose blog RockyBru is one of the most widely read. Ahiruddin has the distinction of being Malay Mail Editor not once but twice.
” Naturally I’m sad that the Malay Mail will not be found in print anymore. Personally I believe they should have kept the print Malay Mail alive as the brand remains strong and the product viable and they wouldn’t use the name online if it wasn’t strong and viable right?,” he added.
Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar, the former chairman of Media Prima Berhad, described as an irony the dark days ahead for the newspaper and related industries with their massive layoffs when “we are living in an information era”.
“The media industry as a whole needs to reinvent itself and its business model needs rethinking,” said Johan, the former Editor-in- Chief of Utusan Melayu, adding that the glorious history of newspapers is perhaps coming to an end.
As someone who has been a journalist for 47 years, the end of Malay Mail the paper is indeed poignant and I have been spending the last 24 hours asking friends and Whatsapp groups to keep the final copy.
I have never bought two copies of same day editions,but I have told my news vendor to book 50 copies and another 50 copies from a friend at Malay Mail for posterity.
Good bye Malay Mail!
(Azman Ujang is the chairperson of national news agency Bernama.)