DATUK Dr Chamil Wariya has spent over 50 years in the world of journalism which covers newspapers, magazines, radio and television.
An award winning journalist, he started as a reporter cadet in 1971 and is a former TV3 managing editor, a former journalist for Utusan Melayu, Suara Rakyat and Suara Merdeka. He is currently chief executive officer (CEO) of the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI).
Because of his association with political figures in Malaysia, he has also successfully produced 36 books on politics.
In conjunction with the National Journalist Day (Hawana) 2022, Suara Sarawak ‘s Senior Journalist, ZARINA ABDULLAH nterviewed him on his success and how to become a successful journalist.
What are the criteria of journalism needed by the industry today?
For me, even though we are now in the digital age, a journalist is still a storyteller.
The only difference is that when I was a newspaper reporter, stories were told through news writing. On the radio and at television stations, it is still in the form of writing in text but styled like a conversation and in visual form.
But now in the multimedia era, a journalist must be good in all the above mediums, namely, writing, audio and even video. At the same time, he or she must take into account the interactions with the public or audiences. The new technologies available now can help a journalist become a good storyteller.
econdly, I would like to emphasise even though we are storytellers in the digital age, the basic skills needed in journalism still remain. This refers to the questions for reporting, interviewing, editing and even writing.
So if we want to be journalists who are good in storytelling in this digital age, we need to be good in writing the texts good in blending the texts with the audio, video and, at the same time, interacting with the audience.
Do these skills also apply to newspaper journalists?
Yes. To me, sooner or later, more newspapers will also be asked to move in that direction. Therefore, their journalists need to have all the necessary skills
In fact, we have seen some leading newspapers move in that direction. Most have their own online platforms and when there is service involved, of course, they will create an audio and video approach that is not just based on writing alone.
Yes, these skills will be needed in the future. Maybe this time, there are still a few who can survive as news writers alone. But believe me sooner or later when a newspaper organisation creates digital editions such as videos, then those skills will be very much needed.
What do you need to be successful journalists?
To me, right now we must have a credible ethos or character. When reporting, we must report news based on facts, not fake news.
A real journalist should be a journalist who can be trusted, not doubted.
To succeed, a journalist needs 50 per cent editorial skills and 50 per cent technical and technological skills, which means the ability to use multimedia and digital.
A journalist must have the writing skills and be good at using applications or software to ensure effective writing. He or she must have the skills to interact to form social networks. Including using any available social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on.
Social media is now one of the important sources of news materials.
Will the use of news sources from social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and so on not affect the credibility of journalism?
Nowadays, social media is a good source of news for journalists. For example, many government agencies, ministries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have their own official accounts in delivering their current news or activities. Make sure an account is official.
This is because nowadays, such agencies need to reach out to their own audiences or users.
owever, for viral news, journalists must know how to differentiate between authentic and fake news. The news must be verified.
Journalists should adhere to journalistic ethics when reporting. We are not like ‘citizen journalists’ who continue to make news without any verification because they have no credibility problems.
But we, journalists who work with professional media organisations, must stick to the facts, truths and so on.
What about the issues facing journalists in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0)?
For me, IR4.0 actually simplifies the way we work. We can generate reports easily. For example, by entering certain data into a machine or computer.
Still, it lacks the emotions of storytelling. So I feel in terms of technology, this IR4.0 really simplifies the work. For example, mobile phones, computers and so on are used to preserve the way we report, that’s all. But in terms of the creative contents, I don’t think it can help.
On the theme of Hawana 2022, ‘Suara Jelata, Aspirasi Negara’, can Datuk explain the meaning?
It means journalists are the voices of the people or ‘the voices’. That is, their role as the fourth estate is to expose to the public, whether it is about oppression, abuse by the authorities, or oppression to subordinates.
It means the media has a role to play. Journalists cannot run away from voicing the grievances of the lower classes in order to reach the upper classes.
Meanwhile, if there is an abuse of power above, it is an abuse of power. It is therefore the responsibility of journalists and media practitioners to disclose so that appropriate legal action can be taken.
Journalists have to be the voice of the people.
During your time as a journalist, what were the news that left a deep impression on your heart?
In 1972, I wrote about the story behind the walls of Pudu Prison. It made me realise how bad life was in prison. In fact it may, to some extent, keep people away from crime.
Having the opportunity to interview great leaders, whether local and foreign, makes me understand their ideologies. Once when I interviewed the First Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, he told me that not all prime ministers had a lot of money. In fact, he told me he was a broke prime minister.
My stories about squatters in Kuala Lumpur who hadno water and electricity really affected me as a citizen. At that time, I rode a motorcycle to go to work from Taman Keramat and often went through the squatter settlements.
The sweetest thing was when my stories opened the eyes of the relevant authorities when the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) who went on to redevelop the places and equipped them with all the basic infrastructure facilities. In fact, my stories are now used as reading materials at Universiti Sains Malaysia by those who talk about the sociology of squatters.
Such stories actually give us satisfaction because we have succeeded in helping those in need. I have been in this field for over 50 years and have many bittersweet experiences to share and remember.