By LIAO HONGQIANG
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
News of MerdekaReview.com (MR) winding up has left many expressing their sorrows. In the meantime, MR has published two articles to explain why it has to cease operation soon.
The emotionally charged Close shop vs big sale penned by Ah Lye, has reflected the author's helplessness in response to the website's destined closure, while the second, Let's say goodbye, has manifested the author Liang Yuxuan's anguish.
Both writers share one thing in common: Blaming the website's closure on the readers, "They are not willing to spend an extra dime to keep Merdeka Review going."
But the cruel reality is: Why should the readers spend this additional dime?
Let's say goodbye argues that: "While our society appears to appreciate a truly independent media platform, it fails to keep it going. Why has this happened? Is it because the community that cares about freedom of expression and quality commentaries is both quantitatively and economically inferior? Or because we are still very much oblivious to the "pay as you use" idea, stubbornly believing that every bit of information fed to us has to be free of charge without taking into consideration the cost involved in churning out the content? I really don't know, but I feel we should probably ponder over this as we spend with MR its final moments."
Indeed, the imminent closure of MR provides a timely opportunity for all readers to contemplate whether they have actually abandoned MR, or MR has deviated off its course and fumble.
To be frank, there isn't a clear cut demarcation line between the readers of traditional print media and those of online media as they overlap. Both are a melange of the rational and the irrational, albeit at different proportions, and both provide platforms of interactivity with their followers. A major distinction lies in the fact that a guard mechanism is non-existent in the online media so that irresponsible web users can repetitively indulge in their abusive, scornful, invective and even assaultive discourse, while arbitrarily passing down their own verdicts on things, especially when dealing with Sin Chew Daily.
They take on the roles of self-professed "mentors of the young generation," the "fearless voice of their contemporaries" and the "terminators of the senile and recalcitrant." In their careless and disrespectful flow of words, they have nevertheless allowed their much cherished "independent" and "autonomous" spirit to dissipate into nothingness, subconsciously reducing themselves to hired thugs for some political entities while still shamelessly claiming to be righteous fighters voicing up for the underprivileged.
Worse still, these people have transplanted wholesale the repulsive culture of political squabble to media rivalry, calling Sin Chew names and putting its readers in the same league as the cronies collaborating with political parties. They label the contributors to Sin Chew's Op-Ed column as beasts, and question the motives of its readers betraying Merdeka Review.
"Pay as you use" is an undebatable issue, but then why have so many readers opted to fork out double as much just to get a copy of Sin Chew Daily instead of patronising a website that claims to shoulder a noble mission but is in reality just as squalid and loathsome? This should serve as a point to ponder when we contemplate MR's closure, something Ah Lye could not, and will never be able to visualise, that the reading public want to see good-natured competition among the media players, not specifically targeted offensives against Sin Chew and its readers.
Ah Lye's Close shop vs big sale deduced that MR is winding up because it could not secure a sufficiently large reader base to keep it afloat while Sin Chew can continue to act arrogant because it has a massive following to keep it this way.
MR fails because it has lost the ability to conduct soul-searching while pointing its finger at the readers. Are you going to say that Sin Chew's million-strong readership is blind and dumb?
As a reader of both Sin Chew and MR, all that I am asking for is some helpful information, interesting entertainment news, a clearer picture of government policies, hometown stories closest to my heart, plus some truly uplifting editorials that are non-biased in nature.
Unfortunately, whenever I turn on my computer, the LCD screen is invariably inundated with abusive, trashy stuff. How do you expect me to spend an extra dime to subject myself to even more mental affliction?
In the absence of such soul-searching ability, there will not be any positive implication to draw from the closure of MR.