There is a battle now between traditional media and alternative media, and the latter seems to be winning. That is why Star is in a race to go big in multi-media. Even before Raja Petra’s arrest, Malaysian blogs were already getting a lot of attention as a source of information, especially on political news.
Raja Petra’s Malaysia Today formidable force of 1.5 million readers (in Malaysia alone) is but an example highlighting the vast number of people who follow alternative media like blogs and online news portals.
A research done by Dr Abu Hassan Hasbullah of Universiti Malaya last year showed that 64.5 per cent of those aged from 21 to 30 years preferred blogs and online media while 23.1 per cent of this age group relied on the television and only 12.4 per cent on newspapers.
For the age group 31 to 40, 61.7 per cent believed in alternative media while 23.5 trusted the television and 14.8 per cent the newspapers. The older generation, however, from 41 to 50 years old seemed to trust traditional media more than alternative media.
Why is this happening? Even before this flux towards alternative media, the public in general appeared to be losing confidence in traditional media. The windfall win by opposition parties in the last major elections really shook things up, and it’s not a state secret that alternative media played its part.
Little wonder newspaper companies are feeling the pinch now, but I don’t think traditional media will become obsolete; not unless the entire population of the country becomes tech savvy.
Maybe that could happen a few decades later when technology is as cheap as a RM1.80 newspaper so that the poorest person can afford to read digital news 24-7 from a Wi-Fi connected device. Oh yes, that is also provided literacy rate is 100%.
For the time being and in the next decade at least, printed media and television news will still be in demand. Ask avid readers around the world, and there are many who aren’t in the 41 to 50 group. Do they enjoy reading more clicking a button or flipping a page? I’m quite sure printed media will still have its allure despite advance in technology.
How do traditional media stand up to the onslaught from alternative media? Perhaps the authorities could go a little easy on traditional media companies. Without a sword hanging above their necks, they would be encouraged to give more balanced reports especially of political news. In turn this would slowly win back the people’s confidence.
Some powers-that-be fear that people will buy everything that is said in blogs, buying false reports and totally disregarding what is said in traditional press. Well, now that the government has put in place cyberspace laws, I don’t think there would be any rampant spate of online entries that are defamatory or a ‘danger to national peace’.
Still, that doesn’t resolve the need for intellectuals to express themselves. Imagine all the collected thoughts and educated opinions as one big mass of lime concentrate complete with seeds and roughage.
They are all contained in a metal container with one very fine sieve at the end of it, with increasing content pushing in from the top. After a long while of sitting in the container, the acid starts eating through and the seams of the container start to give way.
What goes in must come out. Since the concentrate cannot be released from the main channel, it either overflows or little holes are created where they leak out from.
History has proven that suppressing and eliminating these non-mainstream expressions of thought is futile. Somehow or another they will reach the masses, but this time I think they would be more careful of how their opinions are phrased.