I HAVE always wanted to be a reporter from the time I was old enough to think about what career to pursue.
It came as a relief that six months after graduation from Universiti Sains Malaysia with a major in political science, I landed a job with The New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd with the help of Philip Matthews who was the then editorial manager.
I had hoped to be with The NST as I wanted to cover national affairs but when I reported for work on Aug 1, 1983 I was told by Group Editor (English) Dr Munir Majid to start at The Malay Mail, the afternoon paper for Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.
Disappointment quickly disappeared, however, as being in a smaller outfit gave the chance for a rookie to cover three of the biggest political sagas of the 1980s – the 1984-85 MCA crisis, the 1985-86 Sabah elections which ousted Barisan Nasional/Berjaya and the 1987 Umno elections which Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad survived by a close margin.
As the afternoon paper, reporters covering national stories had to always find a different angle to our stories so that we can offer a different perspective.
This was challenging but was good for it forced us to up our game.
The camaraderie and team spirit of the MM team was strong and when I started I was in awe of big names like R. Nadeswaran, Frankie D’Cruz, Sheila Natarajan, Arun Biswas and Padmaja Padman.
As a KLite, I have seen their bylines in the paper and finally got to meet them in person at Balai Berita.
Others who were in MM during my time there were Alex Choong, Lam Seng Fatt, Daniel Chan, Ooi Inn Leong, Lim Chong, Yusri Azmin, Au Foong Yee, Theresa Manavalan, Haliza Ahmad and Noraini Shariff to name a few.
We had a lot of fun together at and off work. There were certainly many happy hours!
The real strength of MM was in our coverage of community news and nothing underscored this more than the Hotline public service which was also the source of tip offs for the desk. In the pre-internet and live football days, MM was also the first source of international sports news, in particular English football because of the time difference.
I spent a total of 4.6 years at MM including a six month stint as a MM sub-editor, waking up at 4am to get to the office by 5am.
I struggled to adapt to the hours and missed the reporting beat.
With the help of NST editor Lim Thow Boon, I was transferred to the NST newsdesk in June 1989 where I had the opportunity to follow Dr Mahathir as he criss-crossed the country as PM.
I left Balai Berita to join Reuters in January, 1990 and have worked in several other media companies but MM will always have a special place in my heart as that was where I started.
It is a shame that MM will no longer be in print but I am happy to know that it will continue online. Long May It Run !
Datuk Ho Kay Tat is now publisher and group CEO of The Edge Media Group