Be credible and trustworthy in journalism

Speech by Datuk Yong Soo Heong Editor In Chief, Bernama at Closing of MPI International Fellowship Nov 25, 2011, Kuala Lumpur

It feels good to be here today to be among my young colleagues at the end of a very fruitful programme to become better journalists.

I was like you, many years ago, undergoing a similar kind of course. It was held at a newly opened hotel in a downtrodden part of town. Despite the poor surroundings, I had fond memories of the course there because it taught me to ponder, reflect and how to become a better journalist.

Perhaps it created more interest in me for my job. There was an oil industry executive known as Clay P Bedford who said:“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”

So I hope that this course has provided the spark in you to become better journalists when you go back to your work next week. And I suppose the learning doesn’t stop when you leave this place. It should continue. It should even make you want to learn more and become better.

This reminds me of what another oil executive,  Henry L. Doherty, said: “Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study.  Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.”

I must congratulate the MPI for putting this programme together and attracting 19 eager journalists who want to make a name for yourselves or want to be bigger names later in your careers.

I am told you have been taken on a number of tours outside the classroom, to Genting Highlands, Belum Forest, Putrajaya and Penang. I am especially pleased that you found time to visit George Town in Penang, one of the two UNESCO heritage sites in Malaysia, because I come from there. I am sure that your new friend, Kenny Teng, had been a good tour guide about what is good to see and do, and what is nice to eat. Penang is very strong on food and I am sure my Malaysian colleagues will attest to that, no matter what the ethnic background. I suppose the lack of natural resources has somewhat influenced the people there what they should do best. I can’t cook and so I became a journalist!

Back to serious matters: I have often told my colleagues that they have to perfect their craft all the time. We just have to write better and better all the time. We are not paid to sing or run but write.

In our profession, capability, trust, credibility and integrity are very precious commodities. We must earn the trust of our news sources and audiences with our ability to be trustworthy and credible in the way we present our news stories. In light of what has happened in the Britain in recent months, the Leveson inquiry into standards of journalists and the lengths that some journalists go through to get a sensational story is really shocking. What are we? Do we have to stoop down so low to get a story?
I had always told many budding journalists that it is not worth the while to do something in an underhand or unprofessional way just to get the glory for 24 hours and then be damned for the rest of your life.  Like I said before, trust is very important. Not only that you have to gain the trust of your news sources and audiences, but also your peers. In this day and age when we have to face so many challenges, including citizen journalists, who seem to have plenty of time on their hands, we need to step our professionalism and capability. We need to go the extra mile to get good stories and let our work reflect our professionalism.

Nothing beats the accolades and recognition that one gets from people after they have read our stories and how such stories may change their lives for the better. Yes, we may have to face challenges including the information on social media networks that travel at almost the speed of lightning. Yes, we need to get scoops in order to prove our  worth. But we have to do it in an above-board manner. If we are true to our craft, we will certainly help our profession to have an even better reputation  in years to come. As long as we hone our skills, honest in our jobs, we can take on any challenge that come our way.

I hope you will be like me, like the course which had a tremendous effect on me many
years ago,  have fond memories of this programme and let it be the spark that will ignite
the path of glory for your exciting careers ahead. I wish you the very best.

Now I pronounce the International Journalism Fellowship (IJF) 2011 closed.

Thank you.

Mr. T. Selva, Chief News Editor of the Star, delivering Datuk Yong’s closing speech at the graduate ceremony of the program.He also presented IJF Diploma to participants.