Saturday, May 2, 2009


Ref: Blog 84, Jalan Tangsi
Group Editorial Adviser. The Italian-backed* Malaysian Insider has a speculative story here that Ahmad A. Talib, the Pahit Manis blogger, will be going back to the New Straits Times Press to restore order.

I've heard something to that effect, too. By next week, all the speculation will be put to rest.

In the meantime, just to put some perspective to the Malaysian Insider's byline-less piece (usually, if there's no byline in MI, then the writer would be Brenden Pereira or Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan himself, but I can't confirm that):

"Both individuals were senior members of the media establishment during the Mahathir era, a period when the Opposition had to be content with footnote coverage and the public was served with daily dose of government speak."
Yes, that's a fact - Johan Jaafar and Ahmad, 57, were major players then. But during that era the de facto media baron was Anwar Ibrahim, Dr M's trusted DPM. Johan Jaafar, in fact, was said to be an Anwar man along with Nazri Abdullah, Khalid Ahmad, and Yunos Said. Ahmad was close to Abdullah Badawi and was widely expected to be made NSTP editorial supremo when Pak Lah became PM. That was before Kalimullah came into the picture and "reluctantly" took up the post of Pak Lah's man in NSTP.

"During the Abdullah years, the media were given more space to criticise government policies and debate contentious issues. But Umno members felt that this policy was misguided because it only opened the ruling party and some of their politicians and institutions to ridicule."
If that's true, then the NSTP under Kalimullah's rule and Brenden's leadership failed to take advantage of that "more space". Instead, the NSTP became a paper to prop up one man and one man only. The Malay Mail (then an NSTP subsidiary) which I headed was turned into a "college paper" not because it was not doing well BUT because it was doing exposes´involving cronies of the PM and for being too critical. I was there, so I know. Kali and Brenden know. Hishammuddin Aun, who could be reporting to Ahmad Talib soon, knows that too.

"Ahmad left the NST in 2004 and was part of senior management which presided over the steepest drop in the newspaper’s circulation."
I can't help grinning at the attempt of a spin here. The NST newspaper's circulation was hovering over 150,000-180,000 for many years. It dropped to 120,000 a day and sometimes lower in the last 4-5 years. It also shrunk in terms of size! The editors believed then that if you go tabloid, the NST would beat The Star in no time. Amateurs. Luckily they managed to sell the tabloids to the schools, otherwise I do not know what the numbers would look like.

When Ahmad Talib was the GE of the NST, he was also responsible for the Malay Mail, which became the fastest-growing daily by 2004. In 2003, the Malay Mail's permit (KDN) was not renewed for three months because they said we were breaking too many rules. Ahmad and I went to the KDN together to bang tables and got back our KDN. Something a lesser GE would not have done!

I shall look forward to the announcement next week.

* Vincenzo is an Italian restaurant in Bangsar that Kalimullah set up (when he was at NSTP and a friend of the Prime Minister) because he didn't know what to do with so much loose change. He wrote about the restaurant lovingly in his column back then. The restaurant advertises heavily in Malaysian Insider.

p.s. For the record, the last real Editorial Adviser to the NSTP was the late Pak Samad.

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