© Media Watch 8 (1) 30-43, 2017
ISSN 0976-0911 e-ISSN 2249-8818
Whither Objective Journalism in Digital Age:Malaysia’s Mainstream versus Alternative Media
WONG KOK KEONG
Berjaya School of Communication & Media Arts, Malaysia
In this digital age of online news, objective journalism is increasingly treated as unnecessary, if not obsolete. In the liberal West, news portals can offer different views to counter the political economic status quo proffered by traditional hyper-commercial corporate media. In more authoritarian Asian countries like Malaysia, “alternative” news portals are assumed to provide opposition political parties with favourable coverage to balance whatever bias the traditional, mainstream print and electronic media might have displayed towards the ruling political party. As a result, Malaysia’s ruling political party, including many from the critical mass, has claimed that Malaysia’s “mainstream” and “alternative” media, collectively, have attained the democratic principle of offering diverse, balanced and fair news coverage. This has strengthened the view that there is no need for objective journalism-as in providing fair and balanced news coverage. To what extent then are Malaysia’s “mainstream” print media biased towards the ruling political party and to what extent Malaysia’s “alternative” news portals biased towards the opposition party? Has the digital age finally rendered objective journalism obsolete, at least in Malaysia? These are key questions examined in a study that content analysed the coverage of Malaysia’s general elections in 2013 performed by three “mainstream” newspapers and three “alternative” news portals based in Malaysia. The results show that even though partisan journalism continues to dominate, especially the “mainstream” newspapers, objective journalism is far from being
abandoned. It is rendered unnecessary only by being politicized by the ruling political regime.
Keywords: Objective journalism, partisan journalism, mainstream, news media, news portals, election coverage, Malaysia, Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Rakyat
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Dr Wong Kok Keong received his higher education in journalism and media and cultural studies in the U.S. and had lectured in the U.S. before returning to Malaysia where he had held positions as faculty manager and program chair in Malaysian universities. He currently heads the Berjaya School of Communication and Media Arts in Berjaya University College of Hospitality, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His publications and research interests are in journalism and political economy of media and culture in Southeast Asia.