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Return to an empty shell at the silenced Star

Fri 2012-Nov-2 @ +08 09:48:39 am

Tales of the Dark Days – XI
Recollections by some Star journalists of the Shutdown

The day of the dictatorThose black days when the Star was shut downThe game of Risk in journalismTunku’s lament, then off in search of jobsA personal silver liningHow the Star newsroom culture changedThe voice of silence. . .Dreading the late-night knock on the doorWedding bells and tears – then screws and hinges
Hidden hands of the blackest dayWhen the Sunday Star almost defied KDN
Rookie reporter sees end of an era

By Matthew George

Having left The Star almost exactly a year before the guillotine fell, I decided to visit the office in Section 13 on my first return home in early January 1988.

There are few experiences as eerie as walking into a deserted newsroom. Normally a hub of activity, the silence in the vast space spoke volumes of the treachery inflicted on what was once a vibrant people’s paper as the masthead label proudly declared.

There were about six or seven editorial staff present, presumably there to draw comfort from each other or just to while away the time.

There were a few familiar faces from my time at the paper, where I had honed my skills, on different occasions, as reporter, writer and editor, thanks to versatile comrades such as Cheryl Dorall, K. Nadarajah, PC Liew, Gobind Rudra, and the encouragement of others such as M. Menon, but time has taken its toll and names escape me today.

The place was as sombre as a wake to the many memories, with Pitt Street and Jalan Travers, of challenging times and desperate deadlines and human emotions, of tempers and tantrums, comics and camaraderie.

In London, I had been involved in protests to highlight the democratic deficit in Malaysia, including arranging public meetings for Dr Chandra Muzaffar when he was released from detention and came to visit, as well as holding vigils for the victims of the repression in Singapore.

Matthew George: farewell to silence

At Section 13, the chatter was stilted: it seemed the heart had been ripped out of its sanctum. One conversation remains stark. I had the use of a hired car, courtesy of South magazine where I was Asia editor, and a junior sub asked me how much it cost to hire: $700, I said. Poignantly he replied that I could have had his car for a month for that amount. The desperation in his voice brought me down to earth.

The memory of the empty shell of the Star remains. I have not returned. The product has gone on to birth a multimillion ringgit empire but the sun has firmly set on The Star of wonder.

Previous episodes…

The day of the dictatorThose black days when the Star was shut downThe game of Risk in journalismTunku’s lament, then off in search of jobsA personal silver liningHow the Star newsroom culture changedThe voice of silence. . .Dreading the late-night knock on the doorWedding bells and tears – then screws and hinges
Hidden hands of the blackest dayWhen the Sunday Star almost defied KDN
Rookie reporter sees end of an era

 

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2 Comments
  1. Fri 2012-Nov-2 @ +08 21:35:06 pm 21:35

    The original Star definitely died on 27 October 1987. What subsequently appeared to rise phoenix-like from the ashes was initially but a shadow of the former “People’s Paper”… but over the decades it has shown itself, under Wong Chun Wai, to be the Evil BN Empire’s Death Star in disguise.

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