The Malaysian Insider - Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
On the midnight of 15th March, The Malaysian Insider closed the doors to its newsroom. After almost 8 years, the highly prolific and often controversial online portal wrapped the business due to financial constraints.
In my university years while studying journalism, I often saw The Malaysian Insider as a more swashbuckling journalistic force. Compared to Malaysiakini, TMI's reporting was more sober, politically-focused and had a sense of integrity that's made it popular among its readers. It also helped greatly that access to its articles was free.
In my final year, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine of where we might head to after we graduate. The both of us agreed somehow that I, the more political of the both of us, will be right at home in TMI, while she would be with BFM 89.9, a rising name in Malaysian talk radio.
How ironic that we both ended up in the opposite media organisations. I, now, the radio journalist, while she the (former) sub-editor of the online portal.
For many years, TMI has received a lot of flak from government officials. Especially Rahman Dahlan, the Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, who is often quick to make controversial statements and criticise TMI when they report it. Perhaps in many instances, TMI can be faulted for click-bait headlines that often do not represent the complete truth of the report. This however, is true of any media organisation.
It was in its final year however, when The Edge Media Group bought over TMI is when trouble stirred into deeper pools. The Edge's aggressive reporting on 1MDB, paired on TMI's platform - I believe, was too much for the government to ignore. The Edge stayed rooted to its financial and economic reporting roots, and TMI became its political arm. A successful version of FZ.com that The Edge never got to realise.
Less than two months ago, the Malaysian online regulators, MCMC, blocked access to The Malaysian Insider, a treatment they applied with The Sarawak Report many months before. TMI tried to get around this by providing a mirror site using the address themalaysianoutsider.com. It was very tongue-in-cheek, but the damage was already done.
With a dip in audience numbers so badly needed for an online portal that survived on advertising, commercial reasons was perhaps a reason why TMI saw its final sunset just days after the 2016 eclipse.
Good journalism isn't free and TMI's shut-down is evidence. The financial models for media organisation ranges from paywalls to subscription, but if no one is willing to pay with their wallets - vital reportage cannot be realised. I will put here for the record that many of my socio-political musings were published by TMI, after good correction by their team of diligent (sub)-editors.
The Malaysian Insider occupied a very important space for alternative discourse in Malaysian politics. We have lost a valuable voice in local journalism. Its news, sharp reporting and the team behind it will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you and goodnight, TMI.