11 Commandments to become a great journalist

Datuk Ahiruddin Atan, Advisor, Blog House Malaysia.

1.Be curious & inquisitive (Always ask questions & when the question is answered, throw in more follow-up questions)

2.Be observant (Always watch, observe & survey people & look out for ironic/unusual things that they do. The devil is always in the details)

3.Be friendly & social (To build contacts/sources & speak/converse well in any language. Stories always revolve around interesting people)

4.Be skeptical (Install a personal bullshit detector. Never believe anything until it is proven.)

5.Be aware of & understand religious, socio-political & legal sensitivities. But don’t fear exploring them.

6.Read, read, read (Any newspaper, book, magazine). Knowledge is superpower. The more you read, the better you report & write. Research is always valuable.

7.Write, write, write (The more you write, the better writer/reporter you become. Write with creativity and passion of ideas, and words)

8.Be honest & ethical on how you report. Stick to the facts and your powers of observation.

9.Learn from mistakes. Make them (all good reporters do as they take risks and cross the line) but don’t repeat them.

10.Take a stand but don’t take sides in making your opinion matter. At the same time, absorb criticisms & allow rebuttals from your critics, who will grow as you grow in stature.

11.Above all, laugh during crises & maintain your sense of humour, the wryer, drier & sicker, the better. You’ll need it to stop you from becoming a jaded cynic & succumb to life’s supreme ironies.



1.Journalism is a mechanism which enables information to be communicated, transmitted, broadcasted or disseminated from a particular source to a group of people, trade or profession or to the public at large.

2.The mainstream medium through which information is circulated, transmitted, broadcasted or disseminated are by means of individual intercourse (engagement) mode, printing and electronic medium. As such, the government of the day is often said to be in control of communication of information. They would decide to whom, what, where and how information is to be disseminated, communicated, broadcasted or transmitted.

3.Through specific government departments such as the Ministry of Information, Department of Information, Department of Broadcasting (RTM), JASA, BERNAMA, National Film Department (FILEM NEGARA) and FINAS, to name a few, the Government is indeed seen to be in control of disseminating information to any particular group or the public at large.

4.The fact that communication through printing and electronic medium is subject to a license to be obtained from the specific authority established by the Government is commonly seen as further enhancing the Government’s control on the distribution of information by any particular interested party to other party or group or the common members of the public.

5. The advancement of technology in the electronic media such as the internet and mode of disseminating, communicating, broadcasting and transmitting information provides a greater independence medium for journalism to flourish. As such, whether being under the control of the Government or independent, a good journalism is often evaluated through the several consideration such as:-

(a)the accuracy of reporting: it would determine reliability and authenticity of the subject matter reported;

(b)the independence of thoughts: it denotes the level of independence, originality of thoughts, appreciation of the subject matter reported and responsibility of the journalist and not merely parroting. Merely parroting any information received would enable the said journalism being used as a vehicle to disseminate, communicate and distribute the intent and motives of the original author to any particular target group or the public at large at will;

(c)the level of efforts applied: it marks the level of professionalism, experience and satisfaction of

discharging any given task executed by a journalist which makes the world of difference between a good and distinguished journalist with an ordinary or common or a mediocre. Quality journalism can be evident by the level of research conducted which would influence the accuracy and fairness of the news content;

(d)fair and unbiased reporting: it would undermined the scope of readers or followers. It also determines the reliability the journalist in the eyes of the person receiving such news or message; and (e)responsible reporting: pen can be a deadly instrument. A journalist must always own the responsibility in their works. Only then would they apply all the above consideration to ensure that they have discharged their function responsibly.

1.A good journalist knows the difference between opinions and facts, but realises that reality is perception. The truth according to one person will never be the same as another.

2.A good journalist is a storyteller: the truth only matters when it’s well-told. The job is not to just report the truth, but to engage and move their audience.

3.A good journalist MUST be fair in reporting. There’s always more than 1 side to a story.

4.Lastly, it ain’t about the storyteller, it’s all about the story. People who seek self-glory have no business in journalism.

Good journalist.

1.One with nose for news. Someone who can spot a good story from a distance and go for it. Must go fast. Yes. In today’s world speed is of essence. Online virtual reporting gives you no more luxury of sitting on a story.

2.Good journalist also someone who always adheres to the principle that there is always two sides to a story. And print both side views on the matter in the same story. Not an easy task in today’s virtual world. Not publish one side and then get a reaction. Today’s world, I read somewhere, they say, there are three sides to a story. Your side, my side and a third side of the story.

Bad journalism.

1. Today’s world is hacking. 30 yrs ago it was tapping (Watergate) of the phone. Now new phenomena of hacking emails, or other such accounts. Unethical. Increasingly no privacy. Look at the ongoing feedlot saga how personal cheques , with bank account numbers, are splashed online. Scarry. No more secrecy. They call it – transparency. Surprisingly, the world accepts it. it is no longer seen as bad journalism.

There are 2 kinds of journos, one that just writes about things that happen, and the other who makes things happen writes about it. The latter to me is the good journo, for he also makes the news.

Good journalism is when you always try to fulfill your obligations, foremostly your responsibility to the netizens

Accountability, accurate, closest thing to telling the whole truth

In the reverse, u get bad journalism when you use the power of journalism to serve first and foremost your agenda

For example, you ride on the popular wave of condemning, screaming your lungs out, calling for transparency, accountability, honesty, etc and yet, you spin it to suit your personal agenda

A point I raised on Ibrahim Ali, for example, was the fact that while he is chasticised for being ultra Malay, why is he being given crazy amount of publicity, especially by people like Malaysian insider and Mkini

At times, his comments were induced or provoked


Why? Because his fumbling ways serve the agenda of making the government of the day look bad

Not telling the whole story is not just the onus of the MSM

Every other guy is a journo by virtue of technology

Then, why for example, did many of pro-opposition “journos” conveniently leave out stats like the average percentage of Malaysian not trusting the government is at 48 per cent

The spin was “only slightly more than half of the Malaysian population trusts the government”

Some conveniently left out the fact that the average percentage of trust for governments globally stands at around 40 per cent

Classic case of bad journalism.