Flacks, hacks and Malaysian jeernalism
A plea for more facts and less propaganda in news columns
By Gobind Rudra
A muted voice in the journalism wilderness
Walter Pincus, defence and security correspondent of the Washington Post, retired this week after 40 years. In his farewell piece, Pincus raises questions about the pernicious effect of influence-peddlers dictating the news agenda, and how the relentless drive to capture eyeballs on the Web demeans journalists. It’s the same story with us.
Over the past decade, Malaysian journalism has been subverted by the politician and the adman, with little difference between the two except for the products they sell. Online media have become stooges of opposition politicians and the regime-change movement. They have little reason to look down upon the politically-owned press.
Malaysia remains a long way from achieving anything like a free press — especially when opposition politicians who loudly proclaim their belief in the virtues of a free press show in practice that they don’t care for free and independent journalism, but merely want a megaphone, a pulpit, and journalists to dress up their words. That’s what they’ve managed to achieve with online media. What would they do once in power?A Farewell to The Washington Post
By Walter Pincus
an extract from his farewell column
Leaving The Post, I have three concerns — not about this newspaper, but related to journalism as a whole, the profession which I love.
One is how much more influential the media has grown to become, first with television news shows, then 24-hour cable and now with the Internet and Twitter.
The second is how much better so-called newsmakers have become at influencing what is written and broadcast to the public. In many ways I feel journalistic ventures have become “common carriers,” printing whatever newsmakers say — even if they know them to be untrue or inflammatory — just because the person involved was willing to be quoted and because such stories generate readers, viewers and, these days, hits on the Web.
The third is that the current competitive rush to be first in both breaking news and slick commentary is leaving behind the facts related to the complex issues of our time. Facts seem to be taking a back seat to arguments and slogans in what’s written and shown. That means the public is left to make up their minds on important subjects by choosing between arguments without knowing much about the facts that may or may not underlie them.
In short, we have been moved further into a PR society and, sadly, public relations has become a key part of government and our politics.
Thank you, Walter.