Journalist With News Sites

By June Ramli

Sydney, Sept 19:  In our second part of our feature of journalists with a news website, we would like to introduce you to Johardy Ibrahim, the managing editor of Let’s dig in to what he has to share about being apart of the news business without being too nosy.

Tell us about your background and the publications you have written for?

I started my career as a reporter in a regional newspaper The People’s Mirror (Sarawak) in May 1992. I joined Bernama in Kuala Lumpur in March 1993 and then Utusan Malaysia from November 1994 till October, 2019. I set-up a business news portal last June. Dagang is a Malay term for Trade. I had a short stint with TV Sarawak as the Head of Content between last November to March this year. If it wasn’t for COVID-19, I would most likely still be there now. I have a communication degree from University Putra of Malaysia.

Johardy Ibrahim. Supplied.

What got you involved into journalism in the first place?

Writing, pure and simple since my schooling days. I have had an inclination towards Malay literature and love reading. I even have a personal collection of mafia-related books close to a thousand units which I collected in a decade or so.

Do you remember your first frontpage story? Tell us what was it about and how you felt right after that?

Vividly. It was the National Campaign of Consuming Rabbit’s Meat on May 15, 1992 in Kuching. Earlier in the office, the editor said to me: `take what they give, write what they say and eat what they serve’. As the title clearly shows, we were served with different types of cuisine made with rabbit’s meat. Curry, black pepper, etc. Then the words of the editor rang in my ears when I refused to eat any. But in the end, I ate it. That was the first and last time I did that. I cried a bit that night.

Is journalism the sort of career you go to make money?

Not at all. Journalism doesn’t offer you real wealth. Merely intangible wealthiness. Translation – people presume you are rich but you are not.

What do you think of the level of journalism today?

Bahasa Malaysia is our trade language. There is a rather annoying trend among the youngsters and the lazy old ones who opt for short-cuts by using the English terms and turning them into a Malay words – which is wrong. The Indonesians are doing it. I blame it on the lack of reading and time spent on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok which are diminishing their vocabulary.

Do you think sub-editors are an integral part of any news production agency?

Yes, for a big media organisation, they can afford that. A small portal like ours, I have to train the writers to be all-in-one.

Why did you start your own news outlet?

There is a demand and vacuum in the market for dedicated business stories in the Malay language. After studying the market for a year, we know we have a niche product to offer readers and potential media-buyers.

What were some of the challenges faced in starting your own news outlet?

It’s always related to money. I am lucky that I have my personal investment before pursuing this project and also an angel investor that helps me run the portal for a year without the fear of not making any profit.

How much investment did you pour in to start your own site?

More than AUD$30,000.

Do you recommend any journalists to start their own news sites/outlets?

If you have a choice to stay as a journalist, stay that way. You will need 110 per cent focus, 24 hours seven days a week.

How does your news organisation monetise?

I’m sorry. I can’t reveal too much. You will know once you register your interest with us.

What are some of the challenges faced in running a day-to-day news organisation?

Before the lockdown, the practice was to allow only one person to go out for assignments, while three more will be holding the fort at the office, doing some phone interviews or processing press releases. Now that we’re in full lockdown, we use video conferencing. And I do believe, post-lockdown the online interview will remain as the best way for both reporters and clients.

What are some of the challenges faced in running a news organisation while holding a full-time job elsewhere (if this is what you do)?

I allow my staff to do something else, only on their day offs. We have fixed weekends as we follow the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange working hours. To do it during work days, is a no-no.

What are some of the challenges faced as a full-time news maker of your own news organisation without any other income coming in from other jobs?

For now, we don’t face any monetary issues. True, we’re a start-up portal. We were born in June 2020. But mind you, my team and I are not rookies. In our first three months, we managed to get a hold of a contract with a government ministry to cover the APEC meeting. We have registered a modest number of page views in our first in operation as a niche business news portal in Bahasa Malaysia. Now we can demand a bit.

Do you have an exit plan for your news outlet once you are sick and tired of running it?

I don’t have an exit plan but I plan to retire early so that I can ride my bicycle every morning and afternoon. Oh yes, I’m a cycling junkie.

Some advice for journalists who would want to start their own news outlet?

a) Stay away if you don’t have money and don’t know where to generate it.

b) If you have (the money), prepare at least a three-year business plan for you to adhere accordingly. There must be a strict guideline on how to manage the money.

Do you have any regrets starting the news outlet?

Not at all. Being a journalist since 1992, I feel it was just a natural progression for me moving from print into the digital platform.

What is the difference between a blog and a website?

Blogging is more personal.

Would recommend journalism to anyone else?

You’re not a journalist by simply recording a video on the streets and uploading it on your social media sites. You may get a lot of attention, millions of likes or shares but you are still not a journalist until you learn everything about the ‘Canon of Journalism,’ the do’s and the don’t in journalism and understand that journalism can never make you a rich but can still corrupt you. 

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