Friday, July 17, 2009

So long, TNG.

Today was my last day at The Nut Graph. I took my blazer and got out. Literally. I kept it in a drawer attached to my desk.

They're finally starting to run all the features I had backed up in the server, from when we weren't sure if I was going to get my student visa or not and they couldn't publish my byline. So look out for articles on KL's changing indie music scene and why Malaysia isn't likely to revoke its sodomy laws any time soon, as well as more feature interviews in the Found in Malaysia section.

That internship was the most challenging thing I've ever done. I often wanted to beat my head against the wall. I frequently found myself getting home at 9:00 wondering what in the world made me think being a reporter in Malaysia was a good idea. And the fact that all my hard work was sitting backed up in a server made it even more frustrating.

But damn, am I ever glad I did it.

I got tons and tons of contacts for my MRP. I was even able to make my interviews for the sodomy laws article do double duty, and now have one of the leader of the opposition's lawyers and a conservative Muslim member of parliament on tape. That's a blog post for another time, possibly titled "Putting the 'fun' back in 'fundamentalist.'"

And more so than that... it was just really, really cool to work for that organization.

In Malaysia, the print media is controlled by censorship laws. Because the laws only mention print and broadcast media, online news sites can't actually be charged under them. So they're popping up like crazy, and criticizing away.

I have never heard of this happening anywhere else. You hear about people turning to blogs for their information in countries with media censorship, but I've never heard of entire, fully functioning newsrooms developing a parallel media system.

The Nut Graph is the coolest one. It's like a hybrid between Canadian lefty news commentary stalwart and The Toronto Star. It does these intellectual feature news analyses that are sort of a news story/op-ed hybrid, but it also does daily news reporting. This is what I think is missing from the "alternative media" in North America like rabble - it's not really news media, because it's not gathering and reporting the news. It's letting the usual corporate suspects do that, then ripping them apart for having a corporate agenda, as if this is surprising.

The Nut Graph has a political agenda, definitely. But in Malaysia, being in favour of free speech and against detention without trial makes you a rabid radical in many quarters.

I really liked writing these news analyses. I really liked being allowed to use my own brain to deduce what the implications were of the interviews I was doing, instead of having to call an "expert."

This week in the journo blogs, everyone is blowing a gasket because the editor of the Financial Times predicted almost all news websites would start charging for content within a year. Cue the usual self hating journalistic whining. You can't charge for content, because newspapers don't produce enough original content of value for it to work, goes the argument.

Want to make a subscription based pay wall work for your news website? Get the government to pass sedition and censorship laws against the print and broadcast media. That's why Malaysiakini, a competitor site to TNG that focuses more on breaking news, is so successful - if you want original content of value, it helps if it's illegal for your competitors to produce it. In fact, Malaysiakini is the only successful paywall news website I've ever heard of.

Perspective, people. Perspective.


Anonymous said...

Wall Street Journal. Another example.

Claire said...

Oh right... knew that, but forgot.
Still. One of a very few.

Anonymous said...

True but then again they are very few sites that are paysites.

The sample size is too small to make a sweeping statement.