Media should give space to creative exploration2

Media should give space to creative exploration

Newspapers in Malaysia are so backward. They are very good in reporting about gutter news, but they have no time for any intelligent reporting about what is coming next, about what and who are making a difference in the country.

They should do more coverage about creative industries, about people who do things differently.

In the advanced countries, the newspapers devote pages to introduce and promote innovation and innovative products and services.

You will find reports of people whose businesses are not huge but what they have done is very new. They will show you a new hand phone someone is developing. This will encourage people to break away and do new things.

The news often is not generated by the companies that produce the products but done on the initiative of the newspapers which introduce innovative products as items of public interest.

That is the most effective means to promote innovation and innovative thinking. Readers will see that it is done in the public interest rather than a public relations job to influence consumers.

Of course, the bottom line is important. So these newspapers do have many pages about companies and business people and what they are doing. That brings in the advertisers and the money.

Here in Malaysia the business pages in newspapers are full of news reports about buying and selling and takeovers and the bulls and the bears of the stock market.

They devote pages and pages to people in public listed companies. They seem so obsessed with this kind of people.

There is very little about bright young entrepreneurs; just the same old faces there talking about buying another company, starting another company, listing or delisting yet another company.

We have lots of sections on computers and stuff like that. These are mostly about vendors, new products and maybe some features of new models, but not about content that comes out of business development.

And there are many stories about banks and financial institutions but none about ideas bank or intellectual property bank.

We are very much into a buying and selling mentality where hardware or software is concerned.

Even when we promote them, we merely state what they can do and that is the end of the story. That does not encourage innovative thinking and the use of creativity.

Looking for better answers

Creativity in the corporate world often is seen as a cosmetic thing.

Business people understand the need to build confidence in the consumers. The buildings they have put up are efforts to convince the public that the companies are solid, big, modern, profitable and imaginative.

That is as far as creativity goes in their minds.

This is a country where conformity is still priority.

Even if you are producing something for a TV station, there are rules and a code of conduct that you must comply with.

To play safe, the margin given to creativity is very narrow. You are instructed not to take risk, not to offend.

Building competitiveness would mean we need to change the environment, to find better ways of doing things so that we can get something done in a more interesting manner, in a manner that will add value and improve performance.

The environment must inspire; it must celebrate success.

At the end of the day, creativity means you apply your knowledge to find better answers. That could be used to build a more comfortable or a better looking chair. If it is a filing cabinet, then it is one that enables you to get to your files faster or allows it to shut more efficiently and securely.

In the area of tourism, creativity could inspire a restaurant that is more interesting and responds better to what consumers would expect to see or receive.

The media and those in a position to influence industry must give recognition and space to creative exploration, to people who will go the extra mile to innovate and bring about more imaginative solutions, in whatever form.

If we go that way, we will have an environment within which we can build awareness, provide motivation and inspire innovation.

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About Tan Sri Lim

Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing, the Founder and President of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, does not fit into any ordinary mould that would describe most entrepreneurs.

His journey has been closely linked with the economic and social development of Malaysia.

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Singapore has retained its crown as the easiest country in which to do business for a fourth year, followed by New Zealand, Hong Kong and the United States. Malaysia is ranked 23rd.

World Bank’s Doing Business Report, September 2009

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2009 September 2

I’m probably the first reader to land here and leave a comment.

Your thoughts on creativity and innovation resonate with my own especially the newspapers in Malaysia.

Over the years I have observed the news presented in some of the major newspapers have gone from bad to worse. What is there to read apart from “gutter news” and propaganda (of the political and business kind)?

Despite the fact that more and more readers are moving away from traditional print media to the internet, newspapers are still slow in changing the way they disseminate news.

Although they have created websites, their content is not very much different from what we can read in the newspapers we hold in our hands.

In that respect, Malaysian newspapers are not that advance as elsewhere where creativity and innovation have moved hand in hand with the advent of the technology age.

For example, technology is bringing profound changes into our lives and that is important enough for us to pay attention to new innovation and products so as not to be left behind.

Yet, I have noticed, Malaysian newspapers are still not giving good play to “breakthrough” news of tech products. More often than not, they are relegated or downplayed. Or sometimes totally ignored.

Sometimes, I think editors do not regard such news worthy to be in the general news pages and thus, they are carried deep inside and missed by readers.

One problem with Malaysian newspapers is that they are all beholden to their owners who are more interested in seeing news that put them in good light. Editors are constrained and have little room to move.

And over the years, journalists who rose up to become editors today are already “indoctrinated” with a mindset that does not allow them to think beyond what they have to do when selecting stories for the pages.

In business, one key element to attract readers is news about entrepreneurs but, like you say, it’s all filled with dull corporate news, buying and selling, takeovers…and in the end, there’s not much leftovers for readers who’d rather prefer business stories with interesting human interest elements in them.

I guess most editors are not savvy enough to understand we would like to read about Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerman and a host of other wunderkind, Malaysian or otherwise, who are coming up with new ideas and products that can change the direction of business.

Having a nose for news requires some years spent in the business to attain that level of competency as a newshound. I think, in the last two decades, there’s a widening gap in journalistic professionalism.

And I suspect some people are not using both sides of their brains to think. As a journalist or a newspaperman, one-sided cerebral usage is not good enough.

Yes, creativity and innovation are sadly lacking among Malaysian newspapers. There’s a whole lot of things to be said but I think this is enough food for thought for now.

I agree wholeheartedly with your great article and hope you will write more about the change that many still fail to see or accept.

2009 September 4

Often a ‘breakthrough’, no matter how good or great, is hard to accept by the public. They are usually influenced by what the media have shown what actually is a ‘breakthrough’. For example, if a newspaper publishes a new product made by Malaysians, the public will most likely judge it as low quality, no matter how great the actual product can perform.

One way to improve Malaysian newspapers is to create more newspapers. When you have competitors, you will do your best to stay ahead.



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