Once insignificant, journalism is now a sought-after glamorous career


AS the years go by and now pushing the golden age of 80, which is not too far off, god willing, I cannot help but reminisce my years in  journalism — the only job that I had ever known or been in.

Especially now,  journalism, which of late has become some sort of a much sought after profession.

This is a far cry from what it was when I first became a cadet reporter with the Straits Times Press (STP) at its HQ in Robson House on Jalan Pudu back in October 1963.

The building was later to become the HQ of Magnum the 4 digit betting company after the STP moved to its own premises in Jalan Riong with the new name of The New Straits Times Press.

At that time in 1963 nobody bothered about journalism and I was one of them, not knowing one bit what it was all about.

My first encounter with a reporter was when my school, the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar played football against our rival, Clifford School, just across the road from our Big School.

He came to the match when it was about to end and to ask the officials about the outcome.

He was, of course, not a staff reporter but just a stringer and only interested to write about the score and not about the actual match.

After all it was just a match between schools and not such a big deal.

But nowadays reporting or more precisely journalism seems to have acquired some kind of glamour and a much sought after profession.

It is something which never crossed my mind when I was looking for a job after I dropped out of the University of Malaya in 1963.

In fact today journalism as a profession seems to be more glamorous than just being a reporter. 

But the fact of the matter is that it is the reporter who is the foundation of the profession, notably in the print media.

Though there are, of course, the others like the subs or sub-editors whose job is to place all the various reports into the pages already allotted based on whether it is local or foreign and whether it is politics, economy, human interests or crime, among others, and including sports, of course.

Then there are other sections, such as features, columns and opinion pieces by certain notables, including ministers which at times required the publication of the full text of speeches by the nation’s leaders, especially the Prime Minister when making important and far reaching policy pronouncements.

And not forgetting, of course, the editorials which seek to establish the newspaper’s own stance on current issues and developments.

Thus, through the years the press has acquired some sort of importance with wanna-be politicians jostling for positions and hoping for exposure in the newspapers with the help of reporters.

The belief is that such exposure in the papers can help push them up the ladder of leadership.

Depending on whether the publication is an English, Malay, Chinese or Tamil newspaper in so far as this country is concerned, those speeches needed to be translated.

Malaysian newspapers generally do not employ translators but leave the job of translating a story to the subs.

For example, in organisations like the national news agency, Bernama, which provides its services in two languages, Bahasa Melayu and English, it is the sub editors who have to translate the news into the two languages.

Thus, for example if a newspaper like the New Straits Times decides to use the full text of a speech by the Prime Minister and if the speech was delivered in Bahasa Melayu, the paper needed to get it translated into English.

The job would normally be handled by a senior reporter.

I remember when I was appointed as the Chief Editor of Bernama, among my first instructions was for the reporters to write their stories in the language of origin; that is if a VIP or minister spoke in Bahasa Melayu when officiating an event, then the reporter had to write his report in Bahasa Melayu, and conversely if the VIP spoke in English then he writes his report in English.

This is to avoid double translations for its services. For example, if the VIP spoke in English then the reporter needed to write his report in English and vice versa.

Double translations for the English service would also mean that the words and nuances may differ.

As in this case, if the reporter was to write first in Bahasa Melayu, he would already have translated that speech into that language whatever the VIP said in English.

When the report reached the English sub the Bahasa Melayu report would have to be retranslated to English. In such cases there would, invariably, be usage of different words and the nuances different to what was uttered by the VIP.

Or in the case of a news agency like Bernama, the story needed to be transmitted via  wires in the two languages of its service to subscribers.

The public, and especially readers of newspapers do not realise this, for it is something which they take for granted and seldom think about what really goes on behind the scenes at the newsrooms.

— BebasNews
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