Though Utusan Malaysia is used interchangeably with Utusan Melayu, that it is re- garded as the romanized form of the latter, I prefer to dis- cuss these two newpapers separately. My main reason is the pioneer spirit of Utusan Melayu no longer dwells in Utusan Malaysia.
The popular Utusan was born 1 September 1967- six years after UMNO took over its Jawi-language predecessor Utusan Melayu, to cater for a change in the Malaysian education system which began to emphasize romanized Malay. I doubt another reason given that it felt challenged by other rival papers, as most major newspapers come under political control as well.
Perhaps now you are asking:" Hey Wan, I am here to learn Bahasa Malaysia, why are you referring me to a political party propaganda tool?"
First of all, you are not that dumb to put faith in everything printed in any newspaper, are you? Second, this paper is a good test of your knowledge in Bahasa Malaysia because you are required to understand the printed page and also the 100% Malay mentality.
The third reason is rather personal. I LOVE to use its online archive to search for information relating to Bahasa Malaysia not found elsewhere. Many of the feature articles ( except for political news ) are very interesting.
The standard Google search box is there so it's quite easy, just type in your search and select the appropriate radio button. With patience, I must say so far I am seldom disappointed. My only regret is they don't archive the dates of the articles.
"Tak ada orang berani mengusik," said Tan Sri A.Samad Ismail regarding the undisputable status of the Utusan in reflecting Malay nationalism during anti-colonialism days. That was years ago. Things have changed since then.
One unforgettable example is Anwar Ibrahim's trial case. You might have read those explicit details by the Malaysian press. ( They still make me blush ). People were so angry about the press coverage that they attacked the press including pelting bricks and stones on a four-wheel drive belonging to Utusan and smashing two windows. Columbia Journalism Review reported that crowds also burned copies of Utusan at demonstrations. The "meliwat" story is on again, I'd boycott that. :-)
"We're biased, but we don't tell lies," was the response of Zainuddin Maidin, then deputy executive chairman of Utusan to allegations that his paper is not telling the truth. " We are bound by the law and trained by journalistic ethics. People will choose the newspaper they believe." that's how he was quoted by Asiaweek.
And choose the people did, from among foreign press, opposition and blogs. So...is Utusan still the superior Malay paper? Instead of quoting figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation and the Nielsen Media Index, let me share with you another way I used to ascertain its popularity.
The software I am using to build this webpage has a tool that can find out the number of clicks on my chosen topic. If there are a lot of clicks for a month, that means surfers are interested. This information helps me to select topics that appeal to most people.
I did my research in July and here are the results on Bahasa Malaysia newspapers in ascending order. The brackets contain number of clicks in a month according to Yahoo: Mingguan Malaysia (4132), Harian Metro (7023),Berita Harian (14853), Malaysiakini ( 20839), Harakah ( 23548), Utusan Malaysia (144301). As you can see, like it or not...Utusan is NUMBER ONE.
*The tool I use is called "brainstormer", if you are curious to see how it works, just click here
. Scroll to the bottom of the webpage and look for "day 3 Brainstorm for profitable topics", you can also download the video demonstration.
Media Chiefs, Power Play
Prior to Anwar Ibrahim's arrest, it is believed his powerful supporters in the mainstream media were pressured to resign. The editor-in-chief of Utusan Malaysia Johan Jaafar was the first one to go. This caused a stir beyond the publishing circles.
According to a letter from the Committee to Protect Journalists to the Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, this seem to tied to Utusan Malaysia's role in highlighting " severe operational problems at Malaysia's new airport." Whereas Asiawek mentioned "extensive coverage of the controversial government-sanctioned rescue of a shipping company controlled by Mahathir's son Mirzan."
Want to hear Dr Mahathir's version? " When [ Johan] came, there was talk that it was political pressure. Now he leaves. We all come and go sometime."
Remember that cool guy Zainuddin Maidin? From a part-time reporter, he became Utusan Malaysia's Editor-in-chief in 1982. In early 2006, he was promoted from deputy to the position of the Information Minister of Malaysia. We Malaysians like to call him "Datuk Zam" and he was voted out in 2008, yippee!