I'm at the moment a bit tired of the Najib-Dr Mahathir spat.
So, today I want to write a bit about something else.
Yesterday, I met with an old friend who is a former journalist.
We talked about all sorts of things.
However, the main topic of our discussion was the state of journalism in this country.
He was clearly unhappy about it.
"They (the journalists) are now mostly reduced to taking directives from people with vested interest who don't even know anything about journalism," he said.
"Unlike during my time, nowadays even the big time editors don't seem to have the balls to say NO to such people," he added.
I mostly just listened to him as I don't feel that I'm really qualified to comment much on the matter.
Nonetheless, I do agree with my friend that journalism as practiced by those at most media outlets in this country needs quite a lot of improvements.
To me, it's the credibility issue of journalism as a profession.
Otherwise, how else was it to explain the huge influence of the social media among Malaysians despite its known reliability issues.
Anyway, what does one needs to be a good journalist?
Someone forwarded me this article a while back which I think gives sound advice to those who really want to be a good journalist,
Everything I Know About Journalism in 395 Words
• Don’t cut corners. Do the actual work.
• If you “borrow,” always credit with a link and a specific mention, and always write in your own words.
• You can lose your reputation and your career in an instant.
• Despite that, don’t be timid. Be brave; just don’t be brave and stupid.
• Ask for advice from smart people.
• Do the work that improves the world, even in a small way.
• Don’t sink to least-common-denominator journalism.
• A little snark goes a long way.
• Think more about fairness than objectivity.
• Think about how close you can get to the truth.
• Put yourself in the place of the people who will be affected by your work. That doesn’t mean to pull your punches.
• Be rigorous. Go the extra mile. If you think you should interview five people, interview 10. Fact-check with a vengeance.
• Be aggressive — a passive journalist isn’t really a journalist.
• Get to be really good at one or two things. And get to be decently good at a whole bunch of things. (A hat tip to my friend Drake Martinet of Vice Media here.)
• If you screw up, apologize fully and move on.
• Try to work for someone great.
• Whatever help you’ve received in your career, pay it forward.
• Be idealistic. Resist cynicism.
• Never be boring — be engaging and clear, especially when the subject is complicated or hard to understand. If you’re writing blurry stuff, maybe you don’t understand the subject yet. Pity the readers (or viewers) and consider their attention span. (E.B. White on clarity, referring to his teacher William Strunk: “Will felt that the reader was in serious trouble most of the time, a man floundering in a swamp, and that it was the duty of anyone attempting to write English to drain this swamp quickly and get his man up on dry ground, or at least throw him a rope.”)
• You are not in this business for the money, so what are you in it for? Do that work.