In Other Words: Ideas on Journalism, Social Science and Society is based on selected articles by Ahmad Murad Merican based on the themes of journalism, communication and social science, published in the New Straits Times and the New Sunday Times between 2012 and 2015. The articles are part of the author’s occasional and regular columns in the newspapers covering the broader realm of ideas, history, intellectual life and the universities ‘Media’ since the appearance of the Internet, which have hijacked ‘journalism‘. Here the author develops a particular perspective on journalism, the newspaper and certain facets of social science and communication studies. Some has their genesis in earlier thoughts, others a reworking of ideas presented and published elsewhere. It reflects the author’s sociological orientation on journalism.
This book, therefore, serves as a small contribution to the pedestrian discourse about journalism in Malaysia. There is poverty in conceptualizing and theorizing on journalism amongst academics in Journalism, Communication and Media Studies, and the broader Social Sciences and the Humanities in Malaysian campuses. Some decades back there was this popular thinking amongst certain journalism school academics that we can teach journalism in “two days.” One does not need a degree in journalism but the author would suggest that one needs to go through university to become a better journalist. Anyone can be a journalist. And those who jump into the “profession” after school would always claim to be more proficient, with the ultimate sense of the news, and a flair for writing, boasting on speed and accuracy, compared to fresh graduates. But do we remember truth to be in the picture?
In his years engaged in the teaching of journalism and in Journalism education, and in the interactions with practitioners and academics, the author had seldom encounter reflective discussions on the concept and theory of journalism. We have not appraised the rest of the elephant, because we cannot see the elephant in the room. What we see are parts of the creature. After almost 30 years of asking and querying in serious and casual ways, the author has not found an answer that gives justice to journalism. The dominant responses would be writing skills, usage of language, and knowledge of current affairs. Go to any journalism school in Malaysia or the region, and one would find a skills-centred paradigm. Talk to practitioners, and we would find something like “deadlines”, “informed on current affairs”, and “a flair for writing”.
Journalism research in Malaysia is poor. There are virtually no books of Malaysian journalism in the local bookshops except for the very few on the history of journalism, ethics, and writing skills, if at all they are displayed on the shelves. Some university publishers do publish many titles that are just languishing in the storerooms—due to apathy towards marketing and promotion. Such a state of affairs makes it even more difficult to represent journalism to the nation and society. Who is a journalist then? What is journalism? Does it matter for the laity in Malaysia to know and comprehend the craft, job, occupation, profession, or vocation?
But journalism matters more now than it mattered as if it ever mattered much earlier in the life span of the nation. It is the end product of a huge enterprise, institution, industry, employing hundreds of thousands of people, involving billions of items daily—news, features, commentaries and documentaries, opinions reviews and criticisms, sound bites, and visuals daily, and consumed by millions of humanity. This book is about what journalism is or should be. Journalism also about news, opinions and commentaries, and accounts of social actualities. It is also about the essay, reminiscing on human follies and foibles, joys and celebrations, thoughts and civilizations. In other words, journalism produces images constructing our consciousness of daily life.