Malaysiakini and The Star

Malaysiakini and The Star differ symbolically and structurally. Where Malaysiakini represents a crusader who actively seeks to bring changes for the betterment of a democracy, The Star is an absolute business icon, to which stability and healthy revenue must be placed above everything else. These traits are strangely reflected in the physiognomy of the heads in both companies: that of Malaysiankini’s co-founder Steven Gan is a mark of hardship and bitter struggle he has willingly subjected himself to (imagine someone who works for humanitarianism just so that he can have a good sleep at night), and that of The Star’s Editor-in-Chief, Wong Chun Wai, is a cordial refinement tinged with business wit.

One interesting revelation from my trip to The Star newsroom last week is that this media conglomerate, contrary to popular belief,  does not deign to feign a passion it does not have (whether out of a sense of self-pride or prudence to avoid embarrassment, I don’t know; my bet is the former). I can remember clearly what one of the senior staff told us that day: if you want good pay or if you want to save the world, do not come here. Very interesting indeed. If it is neither of these that a journalist aspirant seeks in this field, then I guess, his/her motivation should be something very close to fulfilling a passion for repackaging all the readily available media release from the government.  And that is almost exactly what the journalists do in The Star.

Both companies have attained different prestige in the media field.  The Star establishes its own prestige through its high readership (a result owes largely to the absence of rivals in the print environment), willingness to pander to readers’ taste (tabloidisation), and later consolidates it with its ostentatious office.

In contrast, Malaysiakini’s prestige is acquired through its role as the pioneer of legislative-structure-loophole exploiter in Malaysia, which provides alternative reportage to the mainstream news stories, and those that will never appear in mainstream news media. Its shoplot office is in one of the most accessible area in Bangsar. Unconfined by their limited budget and outdated equipments, the online newspaper produces journalistic works that are recognised internationally. And being one of the very few online media that thrives solely on online subscriptions, it certainly has reasons to take pride of and to boast about its achievement so regularly.

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Niki Cheong on Twitter and Journalism

The realm of journalism is changing, driven by technology, faster than a connoisseur’s taste for pleasure.

We have known this to be a reality, but none of us can probably affirm its impact better than Niki Cheong did:

“Media is no longer one way, but two ways. . . . . about you guys giving back.”

An assistant editor of R.AGE (The Star), Niki came to our college last Friday, to fill us in on the latest technology application in the practice of journalism: Twitter.

“A great tool! I think everyone should be on it,” he told us enthusiastically during the talk in AV studio. “I use that to get public contacts” and stalk people, which is what Twitter is for, he told me when I first added him to my stalking (following) list on Twitter.

The young editor had had some sweet experience with Twitter during the course of his career. When David Archuleta, an American sing-songwriter, paid a visit to Sri KDU in Malaysia three weeks ago, Niki was there, covering the story entirely through Twitter.

Tweeple (Twitter people), who had been informed of David’s surprise visit, would twitter (send a twitter message) their questions for David to Niki, who would then twitter David’s answers back to the Tweeple.

“At one moment I was taking information, giving information, and conversing with everyone . . . it was great,” he said as he recalled the thrilling experience, which exposed him to a diversity of opinion.

Certainly, new technology has not failed him. Drawing lessons from such experience, Niki encourages the journalist aspirants to embrace it with an open mind like he has for the past 12 years:

“People like you who will come up with different ways of using it . . . then people will come up with ways to help you use it.”

After all, is not two-way communication what good journalism should be like?

Al Jazeera Trip

Last Monday, April 6, I had the opportunity to visit Al Jazeera’s broadcast centre in Kuala Lumpur. It was located on the 60th floor of the famous Petronas Twin Towers. Like the grand edifice itself, Al Jazeera English symbolised the desperate effort of  a developing country in generating an ‘intimidating’ presence in the international community, despite its claim of providing unbiased news; it was the same display of extravagance and of a force that needed to be recognised globally. The integration of these two big names in this case was probably a synergy at work. 

To those who were not already aware of its presence in the local scene, it could be a pleasant surprise, that Al Jazeera English had managed to earn the tolerance of our government known for its strict media restrictions. However, what was even more surprising was the fact that Al Jazeera English’s arrival was not a result of its proactive lobbying but that of our previous Prime Minister’s invitation and promise of no governmental interference in its operation–one of the very few things for which Pak Lah should be given credit, but which was again, surprisingly, not widely known.

What awaited me in the broadcast centre was a mixture of both disappointing and surprising elements, a result owed largely to my ignorance of the broadcasting culture. 

Firstly, the consistent staff base of Al Jazeera English was only about a hundred. During the time of my visit,when the show was on air, the staff, on day shift, numbered even less, which made up one of the surprising elements aforesaid. I had never thought that an international news programme of such grace, magnificence and scale could be handled with such small number of manpower.

Its possibility soon dawned on me, as Mr Jayaganesh Sabapathy, the Head of Technical Operations, showed us around the workplace, where I was exposed to the advanced technology employed and the assets each of the staff displayed. But the nature of broadcasting was such that there was usually no time accorded to modification, that the raw content had to be presented immediately after it was first gathered, disregarding the need for a large base of editors and double-checkers.

Although there were no political and (in Malaysia, the subsequent) legislative restrictions, there were architectural problems that Al Jazeera English had to confront with. The workplace occupied one entire floor of the building; but it was still too tight for Al Jazeera English to exert its strength in full power. For example, the studio room had a very low ceiling that could hinder the best lighting effect and was therefore rarely used. Also, because of the same reason, there was no proper, sound-proof room for the news anchors to present their stories, they had to do it in an open space surrounded by a great number of computers and staff which could affect the entire show should a small slip happened (or if someone there failed to suppress the sound of his fart). 

All in all, the trip was fun and enlightening. And I believe that Al Jazeera English’s presence here could help to improve the overall media performance in this country by giving pressure to its local counterparts, as was displayed in its coverage of Bersih Rally last year.

60 useful links of fairy tales

1. Aaron Shephard a site by award-winning author of fairy tales

2. Absolutely Whootie: Stories to Grow By an interactive library of fairy tales for children

3. Alissa Zulhanif a fairy tale blog run by a teenager

4. Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books an extensive collection of fairy tales

5. Art Passions fairy tale arts site

6. Asian Storytelling Network a site for aspiring storytellers or simply those interested in participating a storytelling programme

7. Beauty and the Beast everything you need to know about this interesting story, including information regarding its hitherto existing adaptations in different media

8. Bookmarks run by a children’s book author, this blog discusses and reports on new trends in children’s literature

9. Cepink a personal HCA-related blog

10. Cerita Anak a site dedicated to sharing children’s literature and interesting articles that can help cultivate the children

11. Cerita Dongeng Penglipur Lara a blog with a collection of Malay fairy tales

12. Cerita Kanak Kanak a blog featuring famous Malay fairy tales

13. Cerita Kecil another resourceful site of Malay fairy tales

14. Children’s Literature Association this site provides good resources for serious study on children’s literature

15. Cinderella this site provides different versions of the same tale by other authors

16. Cinderella: A Bibliography another site dedicated to the study of Cinderella, with good bibliography

17. Cabinet des Fees a fairy tale journal

18. Curious George Store this site reports news on children’s literature and takes order for related books

19. Cuttlefish a personal blog of fairy tale arts

20. Dunia Anak an Indonesian storyteller shares his views on storytelling

21. Dongeng Kak Rico an Indonesian storyteller’s site with traditional fairy tales and many entertaining video clips for children

22. East o’ the sun and West o’ the moon an introductory website to fairy tales

23. East of the Web a huge collection of fairy tales and short stories with rating

24. Fairrosa Cyber Library a personal cyber collection of materials related to children’s literature

25. Encyclopedia Mythica an internet encyclopedia of mythology, folklore and religion

26. Fairy Bird Children’s Books a Malaysian children’s book site by a former teacher dedicated to providing high-quality, entertaining and easy-to-read books for children

27. Fairy Tale Review an annual literary journal devoted to contemporary fairy tales

28. Fairy Tale Review Blog a blog which reports news and updates on anything related to fairy tales

29. Fairy Tales: Birth of A Genre an interactive site that tells of the origin of fairy tales

30. Fairy Wings a collection of fairy tales currently being re-written

31. Folk and Fairy a good source for analysis and interpretation of folk and fairy tales

32. Folklore GMU a folklore site with good bibliography

33. Juru Dongeng Indonesia a storyteller’s blog which shares tips of storytelling

34. If All the Seas Were Ink We’d Call Them Fish Tales a site with rewritten fairy tales and original illustration

35. Kevin Brooks: Fairy Tales a Penguin’s fairy tale site

36. Kids’ Corner a site with fairy tales in different languages

37. Kid’s Storytelling Club simply the best place aspirant to hone their storytelling craft

38. Legends: Fairy Tales another resourceful site of fairy tales

39. Les Bonnes Fees a free fairy tale magazine site

40. Malaysian Board on Books for Young People (MBBY) an international network for people dedicated to children’s literature

41. Marni Gillard an inspiring storyteller sharing his view on the art of storytelling

42. Mother Goose an exclusive site for graduate of children’s literature

43. Odense City Museums a site where you can find anything you may want to know about Hans Christian Andersen

44. Paskalina another personal blog with tips, recommendation and stories for children

45. Protozoa99 this blog shows you how one can make a fairy tale out of anything

46. Raja Dongeng the Indonesian King of Storytelling’s site which reports news on storytelling

47. Rosemary Lake a fairy tale site with tips, review and stories for avid listeners

48. Scholastic a site run by one of the largest distributers of children’s material which regularly reports related news, new information and activities

49. Story Arts anything you need to know about storytelling

50. Story Lovers’ World the world of story lovers, featuring stories ranging from fairy tales, bible to classics from any part of the world

51. Supernatural Fairy Tales a blog which features fairy tale and supernatural related articles and reviews

52. SurLaLune Fairy Tales a very helpful site with annotated fairy tales for scholars

53. TDD Don Bosco a resourceful site of storytelling in Indonesian

54. Tellitagan Children’s Stories a site features illustrated and audio fairy tales

55. The Classic Fairy Tales: A Pathfinder a useful site for beginner

56. Tim Sheppard’s Storytelling Resources another English storytelling site by Tim Sheppard

57. Tom Davenport this site talks about the films that have been adapted from fairy tales

58. Tukang Dongeng another blog by Indonesian storyteller with many illustrations

59. Troy Morash’s Tales Troy Morash has written his own fairy tales and have them freely accessible for everyone interested in this site

60. Welcome to OZ everything about the Wizard of Oz

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A movie fanatic talks about fairy tales

“Fairy tales are stories to entertain children when they are young. Of course, certain moral values can be learnt as they get older, but realistically, what is depicted in fairy tales are an idealistic take on what is real.”

Jason Loo

A journalism student who aspires to be a great director, Jason Loo used to be an ardent listener to fairy tales when his joyous childhood consisted in having boon companions like The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Suit, and The Ugly Duckling. Despite now that they have largely been replaced by movies with more realistic depictions of the world, he still retains his penchant for these childhood companions.

A few words about fairy tales

Fairy tales are miraculous and intriguing.

Kannikskorner (2008)

Kannikskorner (2008)

I probably have not felt it that way until a few years ago when I was reconciled with some of these old-time favourites, especially those by Hans Christian Andersen. Apart from the simplistic way of imparting life lessons, what I discovered in these tales behind their innocuous look were something more eerie and disturbing than I thought would have been suitable for children. Much contrary to popular belief, not all fairy tales have a happy ending, and are meant to bring joy to the readers. That fairy tales are happy stories is largely a misconception projected by Disney’s adaptations. In fact, many of these tales are rather harsh and depressing, and in some ways the feeling they evoke are very much akin to Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”. Just think about the uncanny contrast between the lovable style of writing fairy tales employ and the cruel reality they are trying to describe, and especially in Andersen’s later works, the artificially happy and crude endings which involve union with God, leaving the real issues unsolved in the despairing world.