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The Man Behind The Malaysian Insider April 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — wantedwords @ 2:03 PM

Jahabar Sadiq doesn’t belong to the old school of editors – he’s not white-haired, bespectacled or conspicuously accessorized with suspenders.

Instead, The Malaysian Insider (TMI) editor effortlessly fielded calls from his two mobile phones (“Must show off a bit lah”), gently boasted of his more saucy introductions (“It’s a lucky man who gets to see a Great Tit”) and comically shared some of the more hilarious encounters he’s had on the job (two men in a bathtub were found dead – the elder from a heart attack and the younger from accidentally slitting his wrist while trying to get up in a panic) on our recent trip to his office.

In short, he’s as interesting an editor as a journalist (especially a rookie) could possibly want.

While some might find it difficult to relate to a class of fresh-faced journalism students, Jahabr had such no problems. His gusto in story-telling and expressive gestures lent an energetic feel to the session, while the tips and tricks of the trade he scattered in conversations were illuminating.

“Remember the basics you learn in college,” he said, much to our surprise. “Yes, I know most people tell you nothing you’ve learnt is relevant, but the rules of journalism are important.”

What rules, pray?

The inverted pyramid model, for one.

“It helps your story to stay focused,” said Jahabar. ”

Oh, and a tip for those who want to work at a tabloid newspaper? Inverse the inverted pyramid.

“Write the fluff first and keep the hard details for the end – there you go, your article,” Jahabar joked of tabloid newspapers.

He also advised us budding journalists to find our own voice and style.

“What do you want to write?” he asked us individually, nodding to answers such as features, travel stories and video game reviews.

Tips? Know and understand your field of interest, read up on it, and find your voice.

“Different people see things differently,” he said. “It depends on which of your senses you tend to focus on more.”

Some will describe a view by its sights and sounds, he explained, while others may start with a narrative of the emotions it invokes.

Dressed in loose slacks and a casual shirt, Jahabar’s lecture is interrupted every few minutes by the incessant vibrating of his phone(s), which bring us to the all-important question: Do journalists have much of a personal life?

He laughs.

“Journalism becomes your life,” he said, smiling as our expressions turn uncertain or dismayed.

“I watch movies, I hang out with friends,” said Jahabar. “I just have to leave early whenever something newsworthy happens.”

After all, news, like time, waits for no man. A fire breaks out and off you go, pen and notebook in hand. Is it worth it?

“Yes,” he says, simply and eloquently.

If you’re passionate. If you’re determined to succeed. If you’re inquisitive and curious and have a desperate need to sniff out news and be the first to break it to the public.

“You’re only as good as your next byline,” said the editor as a parting pearl of wisdom.


Impact of Internet on Journalism March 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — wantedwords @ 8:15 AM

The newspaper brought news to your doorstep – the Internet brought information at a click of a mouse. What happened when the two joined forces?

Once spectators, audiences are now active participants in journalism. While reporting was once the privilege of few, the Internet’s user-generated content element opened virtual doors for closet writers. Citizen journalism is now a common feature in modern culture – a 2006 report by blog-tracking site Technorati said a new blog is born every half second, which means two new writers are brought into the online sphere every second.

Politics, entertainment, social issues, sports, business – there are no limits to what bloggers can comment on. Multimedia technology sees them creating an audio-visual reenactment of the news through photos and videos, and news portals welcome these contributions to their own online sites.

The boom of the Internet saw the creation of not only a global village of information and communication, but the realization of dreams and the creation of opportunities for many who have always wanted to participate in the news, but never had the chance.


Petrina’s Labyrinth March 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — wantedwords @ 9:00 AM

The alphabet “P” could represent a lot of things; amongst them the bright red sticker new drivers proudly display on their (parents’) cars. Receiving your first set of car keys is like metaphorically receiving your keys to freedom; it’s a coming-of-age rite. It says “We are here – we have arrived”.

One of the most exciting days of Petrina’s life was also one of the most terrifying days her mom had lived through – the day the then eighteen-year-old Petrina slapped that “P” sticker onto her old Iswara. She might have been a tad overenthusiastic when she pulled away from the curb without checking the side mirror, and (jerkily) joined the steady stream of traffic outside her driving school. Her mom heroically kept her cool as Petrina forgot to brake while going over bumps and forgot to signal while changing lanes. But it was when she turned into a wrong lane and found herself facing a fleet of oncoming cars that her mom abandoned all pretence of calm and screamed “Petrina Jo Fernandez!” And then she knew she was in trouble.

Petrina is never called by her full name. Ever. She prefers going by “Pet” amongst friends and lecturers and colleagues, while her family has called her “Trina” from the day she was born. So when she hears her full name being called anytime other than roll call on the first day of school, she reflexively cringes.

For the next two years, Petrina heard her full name being yelled almost every time she got into the driver’s seat. No surprise there – she’s the first to admit she is a menace on the road. Although she exercises great caution while driving, Petrina inevitably finds herself in situations few drivers could imagine, the culmination of that being the day she knocked an old lady off her  bicycle.

But her lack of driving skills does not define Petrina – the twenty-two-year-old believes she is more than just the epitome of a bad woman driver. When she’s not curled up in a corner with a good book in hand, she’s often lounging in front of the TV with a bar of chocolate.

Ah, chocolate. Now, if she had to define herself in one word, it would be chocolate. From her chocolate-colored skin and eyes to the number of chocolate wrappers lying on her untidy room floor, her life appears to revolve around chocolate. She has at least one bar of Cadbury a day, the flavor depending on her mood: Hazelnuts and Almonds are her staple, while she saves Fruit and Nuts as a treat and Dairy Milk for that particularly bad day.

Books also play a major role in the journalism major’s life. She lives and breathes all things fiction, from her Harry Potter book sets (one set to read and the other to just look at and admire) to her intensive Sweet Valley collection from her childhood. If she could pick one person to meet before she shuffled off this mortal coil, Petrina would choose J. K. Rowling – Rowling’s sheer creativity and brilliant turn of phrases have captivated her for years now. Her idea of a good book is one she can read over and over again and find something new in it every single time, and she find that in the entire Harry Potter series.

Entertainment, especially fiction, is something Petrina wants to immerse herself in for the rest of her working life… or a good few years, at least. Her idea of the perfect job would be writing for The Onion, an online satirical newspaper. She loves how they present the most outrageous news in a perfectly somber manner; the hilarity of an article increases in direct proportions to their solemnity in “reporting”. But as that’s “about as likely to happen as her migrating to Afghanistan”, she’s thinking about a career in lifestyle or travel magazines.

Traveling has always been a dream of Petrina’s. She’s always wanted to see the Twelve Apostles rock formation in Melbourne and enjoy the Mediterranean breeze in the south of Turkey. She wants to roll down the green hills of New Zealand before spending a night in The Emirates Palace, the world’s most expensive hotel located in Abu Dhabi. But top of her list of places to visit is London’s famed Portobello Market – she’s not sure what magic she believes she’ll find there, but Petrina can’t wait to find out.

Yes, the letter P means a lot to her. Aside from being the first initial of her name, P stands for Potter, her favorite fictional hero. It stands for Petaling Street (her favorite walk-around spot in KL) and pets and purple. But most of all, it stands for “Passport” – her ticket to every place she’s ever dreamt of exploring.

And in case you’re wondering about that old lady she  knocked over, she’s fine. She calmly got back on it and cycled away without a word to Petrina, but that incident gave the traumatized driver nightmares for weeks afterwards.