FOR the past nine years, one month and 10 days (not that anyone’s counting), I’ve helped put out a print edition of R.AGE in The Star every week, and it has been one of the greatest privileges of my life.
I remember the *ahem* good old days of my editor Niki Cheong, the Bangsar Boy himself, yelling at me across the office whenever my stories weren’t up to scratch. Quite the perfectionist, that one.
I remember the 13-hour shifts we used to work, trying to realise our dreams of turning R.AGE into this crazy, revolutionary youth news platform that would finally stick it to all the old cynics who kept telling us “young people don’t read newspapers wan lah…”.
I remember the countless sleepless nights we’ve spent figuring out new ways to engage young Malaysians with news content, from blogs (remember those?) to Twitter to Pinterest to Facebook videos. Heck, we even had a radio show once.
To put it extremely mildly, there was never a dull moment, and it was all about making sure young Malaysians would pick up that weekly print edition, and read.
You see, I’m a stubborn, old-school news feature writer. I like my 2,000-word stories. My first news feature as an intern was rejected because it was 3,500 words long. “You want to publish a short novel is it?” barked one of the Star editors at the time.
But I couldn’t help it! I like taking the time to research and interview people, to really sink my teeth into an issue, and write a nice, long read that would get people thinking. And that’s the power of longform feature writing – it forces readers to think, it encourages them to flex their powers of imagination, it engages them on a level that an online listicle never will.
And that’s why today is such a bittersweet day for me. R.AGE will finally stop its weekly print edition in Star2 so the team can focus more on our multimedia and investigative projects.
Like I said, it has been an absolute privilege. I’ve been given this massive platform for close to a decade to put my work out there, from the time I was a rookie fresh-grad journo all the way until now.
Print has allowed us as a team to run campaigns on issues close to our hearts, like HIV awareness, gender equality, freedom of expression, youth empowerment, orang asli rights, and, most recently, child sexual grooming.
If there’s another news organisation in Malaysia that has given the same amount of support to a youth platform (especially one with crazy our ideas), I’d like to see it.
Funnily enough, it was the support we got from our management at Star Media Group to turn R.AGE into a multimedia documentary journalism team that has kinda led to us stopping our weekly print edition.
Many of our multimedia documentary projects like Predator In My Phone, The Curse Of Serawan, The Last Survivors, Racist Rentals, etc. have taken on lives of their own. Some have evolved into nationwide campaigns, producing actual change not just in the hearts and minds of the people, but at the highest levels of government.
Many of these campaigns go on for months, and involve not just print stories, but also video production, on-ground events, website development, public forums, advocacy work, and so much more. We just don’t have the resources to sustain a weekly edition right now.
Today, for example, a full nine months after we launched Predator In My Phone, we will be holding a press conference in Parliament where, remarkably, MPs from both sides of the political divide will stand together to support new laws and policies to combat child sexual crimes.
And this comes just weeks after we helped organise the national Jenayah Seksual Kanak-Kanak: Hentikan!! (Child Sexual Crimes: Stop It!!) seminar, which took months of planning and hard work.
And of course, our journalists were all working on other investigations and projects the entire time. Our next major project has involved weeks of cross-border undercover work, and it could have even wider-ranging implications than Predator In My Phone, so stay tuned for that.
But one thing I can promise you is this – you will still see my long-winded, 2,000-word feature stories in The Star (told you I was stubborn). They just won’t be part of a weekly edition, and they’ll appear throughout different parts of the paper whenever R.AGE puts out a new multimedia project.
Even though we can’t sustain a weekly edition at the moment, print is still a very powerful platform which will evolve to serve different functions (as did radio and television), so we plan to continue utilising it, only in a more strategic, fluid manner that will complement our multimedia documentaries.
And that’s the new reality for news media. We have to constantly evolve and innovate. We have to change the old way of doing things while constantly exploring all the new mind-blowing ways available to connect with our audiences.
At the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about for us as journalists – engaging, informing and inspiring our audience.
It’s getting more and more difficult, given the sea of noise out there on digital media. But like I keep saying, it’s a privilege, one which we hope to continue having for many years, months and days to come at R.AGE.
The new R.AGE
STARTING today, R.AGE’s multimedia documentary projects, like Predator In My Phone, will be published primarily on our various digital media platforms and The Star Online, Malaysia’s top online news platform.
Here are a few FAQs we’d like to answer regarding our next big step:
Does this mean your stories won’t be in The Star anymore?
Far from it! Our stories will simply be published throughout the paper, no longer confied to Tuesdays and the features section.
Why are you doing this?
Well, it certainly wasn’t an easy decision, as we’ve had an amazing platform with our weekly print edition here in Star2 for over a decade. But here are a couple of reasons why we felt this move was necessary:
1 It allows us to bring our brand of in-depth, cause-driven, investigative and youth-oriented journalism to a broader audience. Journalism by and for young people shouldn’t be confined to a section in a newspaper – our voices should be represented across the board.
2 We’ll now be able to spend more time crafting and innovating better multimedia experiences for our audiences.
Putting out a weekly print edition is not easy, especially since R.AGE only runs original content – no rehashed top ten lists or reader contributions (though we’ve worked with a handful of columnists). Pretty much everything you’ve read here was fully produced by us.
Now that we don’t have a weekly edition, we’ll have more resources to create a seamless, more impactful multimedia experience. And yes, that experience includes print stories as well.
Where can we follow your work now?
You can follow our Facebook page (fb.com/thestarRAGE), The Star Online
(thestar.com.my) and, of course, the print version of The Star you have right here in your hands. We’ve got a big new project coming up, so stay tuned.