Journalists hit hard as news industry shrinks


PETALING JAYA: While the issue of press freedom in Malaysia will probably continue to fester for a long time, local journalists have a more immediate and basic problem to worry about.

Many are faced with the prospect of having to abandon the profession – if they have not already done so – as media outlets continue to downsize. In fact, a few news organisations have folded in recent times.

Diana, who worked with The Malaysian Insider (TMI) before it closed down, told FMT she had now turned to freelance public relations after trying her hand at business.

She said it was difficult to find jobs in media organisations because most had frozen recruitment. Certainly, her previous employment in an “opposition-friendly” news portal is no help either.

Diana said she was living with her parents to save money so that she could make repayments on her car loan.

Ikram Ismail, 36, who once worked for Harian Metro and then the Malay Mail, was set to join TMI when the portal announced it was shutting down on March 15.

“I left journalism for a corporate job,” he said. “When I wanted to return, TMI had closed down.”

Despite having had more than five years’ experience in journalism, Ikram has so far failed to land a job with any media outlet.

He did some freelancing but found that it didn’t pay enough to enable him to settle his bills. Worse, clients would often delay payments.

“I miss the security of a fixed income doing something I love,” said Ikram, who now works as a personal assistant and driver.

Shaun Low, 24, said the closure of TMI, where he worked for about a year, was a blow to his ambition to be a lifelong journalist.

“I have tried looking for a journalism job almost everywhere, but have had no luck,” he said. “Maybe it’s harder for me because others have had much more experience.”

Low, like many other former journalists who spoke to FMT, has since turned to full time driving for ride-sharing service Uber.

“I earn only enough to pay for my car instalments and other bills,” he said. “Savings are totally out of the question.”

Scores of journalists were left jobless since the end of last year when The Edge Media Group began retrenching its staff and the TMI news portal, which it had bought in June 2014, was forced to closed down in March this year. Most still find it hard to land a job in the same industry.

Several other news portals also closed down or laid off some employees, citing funding issues.

In September, the New Straits Times Press, owned by Umno-linked Media Prima Berhad, was reported to be preparing for closure of two printing plants amid dwindling readership and speculation that it would go fully digital.