News junkies celebrating a potential combination of Terence Fernandez and Steven Gan after the Malay Mail bought lifting rights to MalaysiaKini should first note that the Mail is also getting Rocky of Rocky’s Bru.
It comes in the shape of Mole.my, Rocky’s blogger-news site and an Umno-sponsored alternative to alternative journalism, whose articles the Mail says it will also lift.
MalaysiaKini, which celebrated its 12th anniversary this month, has built up a strong following and a reputation for independent political journalism, as the only online news site not backed by any political party or any political sponsor.
Mole.my began on Sept 16 after teasers by Rocky promising with his usual hype “something you’ve never seen before” or something like that, with news combined with blog pieces, promising to check, verify and confirm articles by bloggers (coincidentally, many are from Rocky’s circle of pro-Umno bloggers).
The intention is to give an appearance of journalistic credence to the sometimes wild and inflated claims that float in the blogosphere, which Umno ministers have often complained about. However, Mole makes no attempt at journalism beyond checking out some blogs and trying to aggregrate them.
The NST, where Rocky has many friends, provides backing by running some of Mole pieces. A backdoor entry into the NST by Rocky, sort of.
Overall, Mole comes across as a pathetic attempt at producing an alternative Malaysia Today or an alternative MalaysiaKini, without the professional skills of one or the serious commitment of the other. (Of course that follows the tradition of Umno-sponsored ventures.)
In practice, Mole.my is merely an additional platform for Rocky and friends from which to attack Pakatan Rakyat as well as Malaysian Insider for its supposed connection to Singapore (but Mole also runs stuff from Singapore and Rocky was a columnist for a Singapore paper) and its supposed connection to Kalimullah Hassan.
The Penang state government under DAP leader Lim Guan Eng is a frequent target, as are other Pakatan Rakyat leaders. Support is given to friends and patrons in Umno factions: an example is an article providing a platform for Abdul Rahman Dahlan, MP for Kota Belud, Sabah, to attack Malaysian Insider on the Alstrom corruption allegations. Abdul Rahman is described by blogger Sakmongkol (Mohd Ariff Sabri) as a BN sycophant.
Mole.my was Rocky’s next move after his reputed RM30,000 a month contract ended with Redberry group, current owners and publishers of the Malay Mail. The paper had been hived off from NSTP group after years of decline, first to Umno-friendly Blue Inc outdoor advertising, then to Redberry, allies of Umno leader Najib Tun Razak.
The site also claims to be independent, but hasn’t said how it is funded to pay salaries of full-time staff and rent of its office in PJ.
Rocky’s return to press journalism came after Najib became prime minister and party leader. In his years as a blogger, after accepting VSS from the Malay Mail, he ran insider leaks attacking Kalimullah Hassan’s stewardship of NSTP group, the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi government, and Abdullah’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin.
(Having Mahathir Mohamad as an unseen patron did no harm, either.)
Reaction at one blog to the Mole surfacing
With Redberry’s takeover of the Mail, Rocky made grand promises of returning the paper to its former glory as the leading (because the only) Klang Valley newspaper. Besides allowing Mail staff to wear blue jeans to work, pig-tailed Harley-loving Rocky turned the Mail into a free evening paper. (Apparently, this was to feed the desperate hunger among urban folk for the latest news from Parliament.)
That didn’t work. Rocky got his datukship, made a pile some say, and moved on with Mole. Redberry lost a pile and is moving the Mail on to the urban markets of Penang, Ipoh, greater Kuala Lumpur, and Johor Baru.
It’s a no-brainer to find readers and buyers elsewhere after another losing battle in the lucrative Klang Valley, already dominated by the Star, the NST and the Sun.
Twice before, the Mail had gone to the provinces, both times aborted by NSTP executives afraid of cannibalising NST sales. National circulation at one point reached 60,000 (compared to the 75,000 in its Klang Valley heydays).
So it’s deja vu for the Mail. Thrice beaten in the Klang Valley, and back into the provinces again.
Well, there’s an election shaping up next year. People will be hungry for political news. Penang Umno will want someone to take apart the DAP-run state government. Someone to play up their weekly Friday demonstrations in Penang Road.
Newspaper sales will be buoyant up to and just after a general election. After that, who knows? Building up a newspaper takes time and effort. It’s a long haul.
But people do want the kind of news that MalaysiaKini and Malaysian Insider now provide, and also the kind of news the Sun had in the heyday of Terence Fernandez (now Mail editor) and R Nadeswaran (now having a cushy time in London as an offshore citizen, after the massive exposures of the RM12 bn Port Klang fiasco).
The Mail gets to ride a little on MalaysiaKini’s reputation for independent journalism.
MalaysiaKini gets money from a new customer in addition to subscribers, advertisers, and Yahoo. It also gets exposure in print to people outside the Klang Valley.
And Rocky’s pro-Umno Mole gets a free ride for more eyeballs besides that provided by a friendly New Straits Times.
The Mail gets a little alternative journalism. For balance and to please the PM’s Department, there’s Rocky’s version of an alternative to alternative journalism. Or you prefer, an alternative to journalism.
Either way, someone will be laughing all the way to the bank — until Redberry runs out of time, money or patience. In any case, Umno will provide. For now, that is.
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