Malaysiakini in the era of alternative facts

Lynn D'Cruz

30 Oct 2019, 2:40 am

Updated a year ago


COMMENT | Journalism is in such trouble. It almost feels like we are continuously fighting a losing battle.

People no longer have faith in journalistic integrity. The truth is losing its foothold amidst the vast onslaught of fake news and alternative facts in the post-truth era. Many would trust a piece of news forwarded by a friend above that of a credible news outlet.

Platform giants like Facebook and Google have taken to scaling at rocket-speed and publishers have a tough time competing, not just on advertising, but getting their content noticed as the public are simultaneously bombarded with facts and fiction alike. Never in the history of humankind have the truth and lies danced so delicately together, almost synchronistically.

I must admit, being a media professional, I do often fear for the journalism industry, especially with deepfake and other technologies which can artificially induce information.

With artificial intelligence slowly becoming more prominent in newsroom tools, will storytelling one day be done by machines? Will data and analytics preside over our decision-making that the true essence of journalism will one day be lost?

I sat in a class at Columbia University three weeks ago deliberating the role media should be playing in order to elevate humanity to greater heights.

We should never forget our true purpose. Journalism should be all about service. Journalism should serve the masses, be the trusted voice for the people, it should help bring betterment to humanity, be a gateway for solutions, and provide a platform where the most difficult of discourse can take place.

Does the media have the courage to stay independent? To innovate its business models and build vertices which do not steal from the integrity of journalism? Does it have the courage to challenge misinformation and shed a light on disinformation? Will it behave, as stoics do, in holding the powerful accountable even at the cost of its own destruction?

Will the news industry take it upon itself to strengthen local news so as to give the powerless a voice to shed a light on their plight? Will media organisations have the gumption to fight against bias, intolerance and injustice?

Malaysiakini began its journey 20 years ago steeped in such idealism. But at that time, the only war it had to fight was to overcome the monopoly of truth by the powers-that-be because most media organisations were state-owned and politically controlled.

Its truest intent was to ensure that the Malaysian public heard all sides of the story, and Malaysiakini kept exposing the truth even when it could lead to its own peril.

Malaysiakini co-founders Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan stuck to their guns about holding true to that mission. With the number of court cases they faced over the years, we the staff, have watched them fight the good fight. And just like all of life, if something has gone seemingly wrong, I know absolutely, the decision was always governed by good reason.

20th anniversary

Our greatest asset will always be that our hearts are in the right place and our intentions for what we want for Malaysia, sincere. Many of us who work here are done with the business of individuation and have a great need to serve something larger than ourselves.

We do this not for us but for the future generations. We have to leave behind a world our children can thrive in, a world they would be proud of, and a safe space so they could be creative and innovate.

It's been a long road, these 20 years, especially for my bosses who saw every rainy day and kept going. People know Malaysiakini around the world and speak highly of it not truly understanding that we have a private tome filled with failures. We tried many projects and failed.

We tried to get our technologies right and were unsuccessful on many counts. We brought in people whom we thought would take us forward but were left disenchanted. Our failures inevitably were our fondest friends for they taught us the value of our successes. It did not come easy, and especially, did not come without our subscribers, readers and supporters.

Our 20th Anniversary Gala Dinner is going to be attended by the Malaysiakini team, our friends, family, our readers, subscribers, ‘Buy a brick’ donors, our columnists, consultants, lawyers, and just about everyone who helped build Malaysiakini.

That includes you. Do join us and over 1,000 others on Nov 23, 2019 at Pullman Bangsar. It will be a celebration of what we have achieved over the past two decades. It is also a celebration of what we can achieve – together.

Together, let’s put journalism back at the heart of service as we at Malaysiakini continue in our quest to bring you the news and views that matter. Indeed, there is no other way journalism can survive in this day and age other than the core of its mission being that of service to the people, especially the downtrodden, the poor and the dispossessed.

To book a seat, visit our anniversary dinner page.

LYNN D’CRUZ is a member of the Malaysiakini team.

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