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When Malaysians scored a wonder goal

IT began with a phone call, snowballed into a frenzy and ended up gripping the nation.

The year was 1982 and the World Cup in Spain a day old — Belgium had stunned reigning champions Argentina 1-0 in the curtain raiser on June 13.

Live matches had been airing since 1974 but RTM only showed the opener, semifinals and final.

That proved inadequate for a self-confessed “Soccer Fanatic”, who spurred into action and a historic event into being.

As often the case, The Paper That Cares — then part of the New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad — stepped forward to turn his brilliant idea into reality.

That fanatic was insurance agent Peter Teo, who reached out to the paper’s then-popular-now-defunct Hotline team to propose collecting RM1 from the rakyat to sponsor matches.

The 27-year-old West Germany supporter later told Malay Mail his dream was not far-fetched because “after all, there must be millions of football fans in the country”.

The Hotline report the next day by Noraini Shariff, who took Teo’s call, was titled How About This?

It sparked a revolution and what is now known as crowdfunding.

Malay Mail editor Ahmad Sebi Abu Bakar believed Teo’s suggestion was doable and reporter Daniel Chan was assigned to get feedback from Information Minister Adib Adam.

Three days after Teo called, Adib said “yes” to Chan when met at Angkasapuri.

Malay Mail went to town with his reaction — it was cover story the following day — and the nation was taken by storm.

The People’s Live Telecast Fund (PLTF) was launched on June 19 to a terrific response.

Malay Mail office in Balai Berita, Bangsar and New Straits Times branches nationwide were swarmed by people from early morning to late night in the days that followed.

The threshold was RM60,000 for one match and unsurprisingly, Teo was the first to donate (RM10) among thousands that also included children.

Even a six-year-old emptied his piggy bank to donate savings of RM12.80.

Some contributions came via cheques, postal and money order.

The paper published reports and donor names daily to update the public.

Within five days of launch, the PLTF pool swelled to RM66,116.45.

That was enough for a match but Malay Mail “challenged” its readers to take it up a notch.

Their response was emphatic and by the time a Malay Mail Invitation team took on Malaysian Artistes on June 27, the total had surpassed RM170,000.

A day before, RTM did their bit by waiving technical costs totalling RM33,000, and a contract for three group matches — England-West Germany, Soviet Union-Poland, Italy-Brazil — was signed.

The Malay Mail team at Selangor Club Padang (now Dataran Merdeka) consisted of staff and internationals like Soh Chin Aun, Wong Choon Wah and Dell
Akbar Khan.

Wagers were placed on three players to score past legendary comedian
Hamid Gurkha.

Former Malay Mail Editor Emeritus Frankie D’Cruz, then a reporter, was one of them — with RM80 for every goal — but he fired blanks.

He vividly remembers how “effective” Hamid was and one particular incident still gives him the giggles.

D’Cruz reminisced: “I was through on goal. Hamid being Hamid, he rushed out and performed a comedic jig and weird facial gestures.

“I ballooned the ball and the crowd booed me!

“Hamid later said Jangan marah bos, ini taktik. It was great fun.”

Then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ahmad Shah (RM1,000), Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad (RM200) and his deputy Datuk Musa Hitam (RM150) also chipped in later.

PLTF eventually collected RM300,000, enough for a fourth match (England-Spain) and a post-tournament telecast — the Fifa World All-Star charity game on Aug 7.

There was almost a last minute snag due to technical difficulties — with RTM informing Ahmad Sebi on matchday (June 29) that the England-West Germany second round telecast was off.

Somehow, Telekom Malaysia and RTM worked a miracle and it was back on at the 11th hour, albeit in black and white.

Retiree K. Sivadasan, 63, then a young father of two, remembers how he beamed with pride when the phrase DiTaja Oleh Rakyat Malaysia flashed on TV screens before each match.

“It showcased what the Malaysian spirit could accomplish. I didn’t contribute but knew friends who did. It was a proud moment,” he said.

D’Cruz added: “It gave us goosebumps. Being involved in such a move left an indelible mark on our lives, history of our nation.

Malay Mail has seen its fair share of scoops and good reporting in over 100 years but this was a true people’s initiative.

“The Mailers came together with one aim, to make it work.”

And work it did, for it remains the only World Cup that was DiTaja Oleh Rakyat Malaysia.

The honour of seeing that gigantic effort through, will forever be the
Grand Old Lady’s.

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Roller coaster ride with Malay Mail

ON the last day of our journalism course in 1990, then New Straits Times group editor Datuk Kadir Jasin solicited questions.

Mine was simple, and perhaps rather naive: Can I join The Malay Mail?

From Kadir’s mouth, a curt reply daggered my way.“You can decide when you become the group editor,” he said, effectively ending all debate on my placement upon graduating from the Pre-entry Journalism Training course.

A few days later, I was inducted as a rookie reporter with The Malay Mail — the start of a colourful, roller coaster journey lasting 16 years under the NSTP group, and then another five under Gabungan Kesturi Sdn Bhd and Redberrry Media Group.

Why The Malay Mail?

It had all the right ingredients of a paper with a mission: fighting for the average Joe without fear or prejudice, prioritising human interest, good story telling opportunity, ability to enact changes, countless crusades to champion right causes…and all the while, perched closely to being apolitical.

Its staple was a daily dose of investigative reporting, the crowd favourite Hotline, racy entertainment pieces, sports section, and its Classifieds segment.

It was really more than a newspaper, it was a big brother that could be depended on.

Through its Malay Mail Charity Fund, for example, it had helped raised millions for the underprivileged, in need of medical funds, started campaigns such as the crowd-funding 1982 World Cup via a suggestion by a Hotline reader that Malaysians chip in RM1 each to bring the world’s biggest sporting events “live” via the telly when sponsorship was hard to come by then.

I once read a book on famous quotes by Malaysian personalities, and Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, when asked if there was a need to set up a hotline for a cause which has escaped my flailing memory, cheekily replied: “We don’t need a hotline. Malay Mail already has one”.

It was both a paper that cares and scares; soft and empathic when championing causes of the downtrodden; unyielding and hard when confronting the wrongdoers and criticising for the better.

One particular case I vividly recall was the case of a missing boy in 2007. We printed 10,000 posters in the weekend edition to get people to assist in locating Mohamad Nazrin Shamsul Ghazali, or Yin as he was fondly referred to.

He was just five at the time when he vanished while shopping in Kuala Lumpur with his parents, who hailed from Perak.

The paper had asked the help of Malaysians and it gained traction with motoring clubs, bloggers, the Malaysian Bar, among others, joining in to locate Yin.

The late Rehman Rashid wrote how in mosques, temples and churches across the land, special observances were held for Yin.

“Within the first week of his disappearance, newspapers, radio and TV were calling out his name in all languages; The Malay Mail distributed 10,000 posters of his picture and the numbers to call, then reprinted it as a full page in the paper every day for a week.

“By email, SMS and the Internet, the word went out to look for Yin. People offered money. Ministers lent their weight; political parties and non-governmental organisations their personnel. This wasn’t just the work of a few key individuals and good Samaritans. Yin’s disappearance gave the nation a visceral clutch of fear and anger.”

Two weeks to the day after Yin vanished in April that year, a woman emerged with the boy, his head shaven.

He had been looked after by a family of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, living with them at Sentul Pasar.

For years, the father would send me Raya greetings to express his gratitude, via the paper, to Malaysians who had helped.

I had served under Sallehuddin Othman, Datuk Fauzi Omar, Datuk Ahiruddin “Rocky” Atan (twice), Zulkifli Jalil, Tony Francis, A. Sri K Nayagam and worked with legends like Frankie D Cruz, R Nadeswaran, Badrolhisham Bidin, Eddie Chua, Lionel Morais, Yusri Azmin, Ian Pereira, Johnson Fernandez, Jaffry Azman, to name a few.

Under Sallehuddin and Fauzi, we were a Klang Valley newspaper and up till 1997, was the single most profitable unit in the NSTP group.

The Asian financial crisis in 1997/98 saw the paper losing its grip on classifieds, and along with it, circulation numbers.

When Rocky became the editor, the paper went regional; starting offices in Johor Baru, Malacca, Ipoh and Penang.

In slightly more than a year, the circulation grew from sub-30,000 copies to more than 60,000.

That journey was, again, short-lived, and a decision was made to revert back to being a Klang Valley newspaper.

It went through a radical change, converted into a lifestyle brand, and some would have remembered the suspension of Weekend Mail.

It was testing time for all Mailers then.

Circa 2008, it was sold to Gabungan Kesturi, under Datuk Ibrahim Nor, with a hybrid focus on Klang Valley and national news.

Under editor-in-chief Tony Francis, it tried to revive the old flavour, albeit with some national news infusion.

There was growth but was a financially difficult model to sustain. The paper was then sold to the Redberry Group under Datuk Siew Ka Wai, and became a free paper before being printed as a paid model as a morning newspaper.

It has been a good journey.

And we have put up a valiant fight.

It is an emotional day that this is the Old Lady’s final day on print but she is far from her last breath. Still, the legacy lives on…

Datuk Yushaimi Yahaya is
currently editor-in-chief of New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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The Malay Mail was where it started for me

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

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A voice for the people

OVER a lifetime working as a journalist across social, cultural and political boundaries, no newspaper or latter-day portal has so touched me as The Malay Mail.

The oldest newspaper going back to the Federated Malay States first blushed [note to ed: plse retain ‘blushed’] me with the SYTs of SH Tan as a wet-behind-the-ears 19-year-old cadet to its heyday as Public Servant #1 22 years later, when I left in search of learning of my calling.

Public Servant #1 is a big claim to make, but as colleague of later vintage Frankie D’Cruz would remind us, The Malay Mail has the “paper” to show for it.

No newspaper that I knew of before The Malay Mail, or since, had fostered in its readers such faith in a paper’s servanthood — and sense of service in themselves — as to inspire this audacious idea of people giving RTM RM1 to televise live to the rakyat all of the matches of the 1982 football World Cup as it was able.

As “Soccer Fanatic” Peter Teo put it, what’s to stop RTM if a million Malaysians were to put their hands in their pocket to contribute RM1.

Teo could not have dreamt up the idea were it not for the go-to Hotline 443002 service of the then 86-year-old The Malay Mail, at the time emerging after seven months revamped as The Paper That Cares.

That was the tagline the paper had adopted after its transformation the
previous December.

With the revamp came Hotline 443002, for which Prime Minister Datuk Seri (later Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad presented The Malay Mail the Public Service Award in 1983.

Not least of the reasons was for the People’s Live Telecast Fund that Hotline 443002 sparked, which brought people on the street, Prime Minister and King at times rousing at dawn to watch the matches from Spain.

Hotline 443002 hit on the voice-of-the-people genre hitherto disdained as “longkang” journalism, for the drainage, potholed roads and telecoms woes the rakyat brought to the paper.

Yet it served a suppressed need of a people at a loss for voice against entrenched red tape. Hotline 443200 quickly became a rich vein of news-breaking front-page headline stories, precursor of today’s whistle-blower investigations in the pioneering spirit of justice of luminaries such as R. Nadeswaran, Frankie D’Cruz, Fabian Dawson and Ho Kay Tat.

News-breaking stories spun out into Malay Mail Insight behind-the-headlines investigations launched in company with Hotline 443200 in the revamp.

To conclude “the rest – as they say – is history” would be to consign the contribution of The Malay Mail in Malaysian media to the scrapheap of print journalism.

The “minnow” of media in Malaysia had found its way within the limitations of the time. It fired the imagination of the people on proactive engagement the way the media had to play the game – bringing the rakyat together through caring.

The ideas were drawn in-house, teased out at the end of the workday by a masterful then group editor of the New Straits Times Datuk Noordin (later Tan Sri) Sopiee, after the morning’s edition of The Mail had been put to bed.

As workings of the day allowed, over a period of weeks, staff headed by then editor Chuah Huck Cheng and news editor M.A. Razman would huddle in the room of Noordin brainstorming ideas, building on the signal event the paper then long owned, the Malay Mail Big Walk.

On December 15, 1981, The Paper That Cares was launched, with it, Hotline 443200 and the beginnings of a voice for the people in the media.

K.C. Boey feels privileged to have been among the brains trust of 1981 who went on to reap the benefits by association as editor from 1986 to 1989.

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Breathing, living journalism

AROUND this time in November 1981, Frankie D’Cruz and I were called up by the then news editor, (the late) Ratan Singh a.k.a M.A. Razman.

He briefed us on NST Group Editor (the late) Noordin Sopiee’s plans to revamp Malay Mail — cosmetically and in content.

He wanted an impactful Page One.

The changes would take place on the anniversary of the founding of the newspaper — Dec 14.

We started calling contacts to get a “big” exclusive for the front page to make an impact.

Weeks earlier, someone had called the paper’s Hotline complaining that patients in the third class wards of the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital were being served poor quality food.

Chai Khian Chong and C.H. Loh were two photographers seconded from the NST Photo Department pool to Malay Mail.

I did a week of observations.

On four or five separate occasions, both photographers took turns so that we could get that shot which would make it for the
front page.

Hospital employees were taking home food from the hospital kitchen and we struck gold so to speak.

On Dec 14, 1981, the banner heading in 96 points was “HOSPITAL FOOD THEFT”. It caused uproar.

Calls came in; the police called at the office wanting the photographs; and the health ministry claimed that they should have been alerted to it.

Two weeks ago, Malay Mail’s Editor-in-Chief Datuk Wong Sai Wan dropped me a note asking me to pen an article to be published in the last and final edition of this newspaper.

Thirty-seven years after helping launch a revamped paper, I now have been asked to pen its “obituary”.

What can I say about spending 17 years in Balai Berita of which 14 were with Malay Mail?

There’s so much to say because you worked alongside great characters and bosses who ate, breathed and lived journalism.

Philip Mathews and Ratan were two editors who stood by their reporters all the time. You don’t find their kind these days.

I had always wanted to be a sports writer and started as a sports stringer from Klang after leaving school in the late 1960s — sending short reports and scores, which earned me a princely sum of RM3 for each filler and 65 sen per column cm for longer stories.

I then was the Bernama retainer in Klang after having left the now-defunct
Malaysia Raya.

I then spent a year with Ipoh Bureau of
The Star.

I quit fulltime journalism and despite having a fulltime job elsewhere, I remained a stringer and covered games for Malay Mail.

By a twist of fate — more so by accident, I had caught Noordin’s eyes.

On Sept 26, 1977, it was raining cats and dogs which forced the cancellation of a hockey match on the Kuala Lumpur Padang (now Dataran Merdeka) which I was supposed to cover.

I came back to the office and was having a chat with some of the reporters when Ratan screamed: “There has been a plane crash and I need help.”

I volunteered and headed off with photographer Soong Hon Sin’s car for the site of the crash off Subang airport — Elmina Estate to be exact.

I was one of the first reporters at the scene.

Later in the night, I was coming down the slope in the rubber estate to get to the NST car to get me back to the office.

Then a policeman (if memory serves me) handed me a baby and told me: “Bawa dia ni pergi hospital.”

The baby was shivering and crying with cold water dripping from the leaves of the rubber trees.

I took off my shirt, covered her and got to the car.

I made a detour to the University Hospital to hand over the baby before making it to the office. Her name was Maria Bukhart.

When I got back, there were questions asked about the delay in coming back.

The late David Tambyah, the executive editor of the NST was listening to the conversation and told me: “Have you got a picture? I want 10 paras on how you happened to be carrying the baby.”

Going through the rolls and rolls of film, there was one grainy picture.

NST had that picture of a bare-bodied youth carrying a baby on the front page the
next day.

When Noordin was told I was a stringer, he signed a payment voucher for RM100 as an incentive for my efforts.

“Why don’t you join us?” he asked when I was introduced to him.

I was asked to go to the personnel department to do some paperwork but it was not until February the following year that Noordin interviewed about 20
wannabe-journalists.

I reported for work on April 1, 1978 and am proud to say that I shared a front page byline with the legendary James Ritchie — two days later.

There are so many good memories about my time in the papers.

We organised the People’s Live Telecast Fund together with contributions from Daniel Chan and Noraini Shariff. This certainly stands out for me.

It was during this period that I struck up a partnership with Frankie D’Cruz — yet another who rose from the ranks of stringers.

We produced a string of exclusives — week after week — so much so, we were followed by other reporters after press conferences.

Both of us had a knack for gathering our information and seeking a quote of two which would complete the story and make the headlines the following day.

He was the reporter who followed an “escaped convict” when I did a test of
public apathy.

In September 1981, I walked the streets of Kuala Lumpur with handcuffs dangling from my hand.

No one dared apprehend or approach me. That was the story!

Together we exposed exclusives ranging from a mail order scam run by a former politician and to being able to buy police uniform without any checks.

Nik Salleh Nik Mat, Trade and Industry enforcement director, allowed me to accompany his officers on raids on
counterfeit products.

Most times, I was the only reporter there, so they all became exclusives!

Stories are plenty.

Who would believe that three reporters — Kek Soo Beng, Frankie and I — could generate enough stories to fill eight pages of a Monday edition while all the others were at The Sunday Mail celebratory party in Port Dickson?

Frankie and I “stole” documents from the National Film Censorship Board, made photocopies and returned the original and then wrote about lax security.

The director general threatened to prosecute us, but we were ready for any eventuality.

However, sad to note, the then-editor Maurice Khoo chewed us and then apologised on our behalf.

There’s so much to write and reminisce.

On subsequent visits after leaving the paper, the camaraderie which Ratan and Philip built, celebrating every scoop was no longer existent.

Surely, there were bad times too.

I had a spat with a minister prompting a complaint to Philip who had already defended me, call me in for “advice” — do not quarrel with ministers in public.

On another occasion, a deputy minister in response to my question said: “I was only joking.” I stood up and told him: “Malay Mail produces serious journalists, not jokers.”

R. Nadeswaran is married to Sharmini, also a Malay Mail journalist, whom he met in the office. Their daughter Vichitra was also a Malay Mail reporter.

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The dawn of Malaysia

The people waited with bated breath for the birth of a new country that would be called Malaysia.

It was the culmination of years of hard work behind the scenes to see this historic moment happen.

Malay Mail took pains to chronicle the special moment and provided a well-rounded coverage including coming up with a supplement in conjunction with Sept 16, 1963.

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Caring paper made ordinary people extraordinary

MALAY Mail will forever shine with a deep-rooted reputation as the Pied Piper of the common man.

With a canny grasp of the little people’s problems, the paper justly expressed everyday concerns.

It lived up brilliantly to its once revered slogan “The Paper That Cares” coined on Dec 15, 1981.

Mirroring an intimate reflection of Malaysian society, the paper’s ethos was to always put the everyday Malaysian in the centre of storytelling.

It was also a wrecking ball that fought with frightening intensity.

So, it was incredibly emotional trying to recall the spectacular stories during my close to 40 years with Malay Mail.

Malay Mail has always been about people — the people who built it, the people who wrote for it but most importantly the people who read it.

The paper’s brand of journalism was to express not to impress.

There is a thought that the 1980s and early 1990s was an invincible era for the afternoon Malay Mail.

Readership, advertising and circulation figures soared dramatically.

Newspaper sales topped the 100,000 mark when stories such as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on Aug 2, 1990 and the killing of notorious criminal “Bentong Kali” on June 29, 1993 gripped the nation.

So, I will parcel these memories, package to that period.

The paper’s strongest selling points then were five mainstays: Hotline, Mail Expose, Mail Inquiry, Mail Insight and Sport.

Game plan: uncover stories, not just cover news.

Clearly, the paper turbo-charged integration and community relations; spotlighted inspiring Malaysians and feel-good stories; and corrupt practices.

Also exemplary was the sportsdesk that set a magical tone in sports coverage and unparalleled talent scouting for future sporting stars.

Even before the government began its austerity drive in the 1980s, the paper had a column Cutting Corners which focused on areas where money could be saved.

In Your Neighbourhood drew neighbours together and made residents one big family.

Slick Hotline, launched in 1981, was not just a breath of fresh air but a tornado that blew everyone away.

Hotline was the bane of the bungling bureaucrat and the indifferent powers.

The paper had an amazing ability to tug at the heart strings of the public to rally for a cause such as children in need of medical care and the 1982 People’s Live Telecast Fund.

Money for needy children’s medical expenses was raised within 48 hours as in the case of baby Allan who in 1990 needed RM250,000 for an emergency operation in Australia.

Mail Expose was much like a shark with the reporters being instinctive and having an unquenchable scent of blood in the water.

In 1990, the paper led the crusade against child abuse after exposing the case of baby Balasundram who was bashed by his mother’s boyfriend and left for dead at the city’s general hospital.

The death of Balasundram was one of several cases that acted as a catalyst to the introduction of the Child Protection Act in 1991.

The story that never went away was Malay Mail phenom R.Nadeswaran walking the streets of Kuala Lumpur in 1981 as a bedraggled man with handcuffs dangling from his wrist — looking every inch a dangerous criminal.

It was a unique experiment in which I tailed Nadeswaran with two police officers and cameraman Yip Yee Kheong to gauge public apathy toward crime.

The gripping escapade on Sept 3, headlined Shocking found the Kuala Lumpur public sorely lacking in support to curb crime.

On the heels of that story, we delivered another heavy-duty expose So Easy To be a Cop that revealed for a fistful of ringgit you could walk into a shop and leave with all you need to dress up as a cop.

We went cop-shopping after a “police hero” in full uniform who helped in a fire in Brickfields turned out to be imposter “PC Maniam”.

Nadeswaran as a B-grade reporter and I on C grade scooped the Journalist of the Year Award in 1982.

Then prime minister Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his speech that night encouraged the media to venture into investigative journalism.

We did things differently then, breaking ground.

Illustrious editors like Chua Huck Cheng who became the youngest editor at 30, K.C. Boey, Salehuddin Othman, Ahmad Sebi Abu Bakar, Maurice Khoo, Joachim Ng and A.Sri K.Nayagam inspired reporters to:

Push back screens, peer behind facades and lift rocks to unearth hidden truths.

The stories we did were a sign of the times, a daring-do spunk that extracts the best and the worst in people.

Like when Nadeswaran and I spent two days and two nights in the new open prison in Marang to find out how the prisoners and authorities were coping with the open farm concept.

Our findings astonished critics who had been pushing for maximum security in prisons because of a series of jailbreaks then.

Another explosive exclusive that had reporter Badrolhisham Bidin and photographers C.H.Loh and Goh Seng Chong in the forefront was Privileged Prisoner.

It involved businessman Abdullah Ang who was a free man despite serving a four-year jail term for criminal breach of trust.

Instead of being locked up, he was out in the open helping a family business in Kuala Lumpur.

The Abdullah Ang saga that originated from a tip-off to then news editor, the late Nayagam, resulted in a massive clean-up of the prisons in Malaysia.

The story got the paper the 1989 Malaysia Press Institute Journalist of the Year and Best Photography awards.

Special mention should go to the Seremban office where I began as a stringer in 1977 under the indefatigable Kek Soo Beng and later the relentless James Ritchie.

The tireless pair of Ronnie Krishnan and photographer Leong Weng Onn helped ensure Seremban delivered the highest number of scoops among all branches.

Hotshot Fabian Dawson spread the Malay Mail culture when he left Malaysia for Canada in 1988.

He pounded it into his Vancouver colleagues as assignment editor, news editor and deputy editor-in-chief of The Province.

Malay Mail stories were told through the prism of the affected rather than the rhetoric of pundits, politicians, public servants and police.

“It may not have always worked. But when it did, it provided clarity for the reader and the journalist,” said Dawson, now a media specialist.

Prolific is the word that springs to mind when one thinks about the opus and personality of Sheila Natarajan-Rahman.

The highlight of our investigative comradeship was in 1981 when we uncovered the controversial cult, the Moonies, who had set up base in Petaling Jaya.

Malay Mail print has had a complicated adventure but it will always be remembered as “feisty, fun and frank”.

It’s a credit to the celebrated alumni of this paper who over the years at their liveliest made the structure daring and disciplined.

Sometimes, it was fun and easy. Sometimes it was a bitch.

It’s not the end of the story. The current crop of Mailers who will focus on digital Malay Mail is the next big thing.

But now we say a sad but a very proud farewell to the loyal readers of a Malaysian institution that has breathed its last after 122 years.

Thank you and goodbye.

Frankie D’Cruz continues to pursue journalism with monastic devotion having spent some 40 years with Malay Mail, the last two as Editor Emeritus.

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In war and peace

Malay Mail continued to print through troubling times like World War II and the stories were reflective of the period. The newspaper kept its up-to-date reporting through it all, including capturing the days and months before Malaya reached its independence. There were even different pull-outs in 1957 such as Junior Mail and Woman and Home.

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It’s about time

I HAVE been preaching for more than two decades that the printed newspaper is in a state of sunset and recently I even said it was “on its last legs” because of the decimated readership numbers.

Many of my contemporaries in the industry saw me as a doomsayer and accused me of pouring sand into everyone’s rice bowl by saying all these negative things about the newspaper industry.

However, many of them are now coming around to see things from my point of view.

The present printed newspaper business model is flawed as it depends on advertising to survive, and the explosion of easy access of information digitally has rendered us useless as a news provider.

Two of our main stakeholders — readers and advertisers — no longer need us.

The printed newspaper no longer has a reason to be in business except to serve the older folks who cannot do without a physical medium to hold on to.

Unfortunately, such readers are becoming smaller in numbers.

In addition advertisers no longer want to sell products and services to the older crowd but are now targeting the younger ones, and this means that even if we can find these older readers, the advertisers — the lifeline to financing printed words — are still not keen to spend their money with the printed paper.

This brings us to this final issue of Malay Mail in its present format.

After 122 years of the physical newspaper, it is time for us to evolve for us to continue the spirit of Malay Mail.

In the following pages, my predecessors recount the history and their thoughts about this wonderful newspaper which was epitomised by its famous tagline “The Paper That Cares”.

Over the last five years as Editor-in-Chief, I have agonised on how to keep the paper going; my colleagues and I tried almost everything, but I must humbly admit that we failed.

For this failure, I apologise to my colleagues and thank them for following me into battle. We fought a good fight.

Of course, I do hope that one day Malay Mail returns as a printed copy.

I have been a print man for more than three decades and making this decision to switch over to the digital format pains me greatly, but over the past nine months I have also become energised by our new plans to forge ahead.

As I gaze into my cloudy crystal ball, I see the only hope for a news provider is to be one that makes news dissemination as easy, as convenient and as relevant as possible in order to ATTRACT all readers.

Technology has made this possible and instead of becoming slaves to the digital world, Malay Mail will strive to enslave technology to be an effective content and information provider as well as an entertainment outlet.

We want to make Malay Mail synonymous with all information, opinions, promotion about Malaysia and for that, we need to occupy that digital space and use all the technology available.

We want to take Malay Mail — firstly regional and then global — into all facets of the 4.0 Economy.

I invite all stakeholders — readers, viewers, listeners, influencers, marketeers and advertisers — to join us on this new journey where Malay Mail will do everything digitally possible to inform, entertain and promote in a globalised digital world.

Instead of bidding farewell, I bid all of you to a warm welcome to this new adventure of a Malay Mail that still CARES.

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Over to you, Tigers!

THREE hours was all it took for the remaining 40,000 tickets for the Malaysia-Thailand match to be snapped up yesterday. With 80,000 supporters roaring Harimau Malaya on in the AFF Cup first leg semifinal tomorrow, Tan Cheng Hoe’s men have the motivation to land a telling blow in the battle against the War Elephants.

 

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