Young Malaysians are turning to mainstream news organisations’ news online despite the serious economic challenges and loss of hard copy circulation being faced by the country’s major newspapers, said Malaysian Press Institute chief executive officer Datuk Chamil Wariya.

He said the trend, based on several recent surveys of young people’s media usage, occurred after the 12th general election on March 8 this year when the mainstream media did more ‘straight reporting and less spin”.

“Although many mainstream outlets face financial pressures in hard-copy news, a number of these outlets are successfully using new tools of the media such as data-base journalism and other innovative techniques on their websites,” he said when presenting a paper “Malaysia’s Media in the 21st Century” at the just concluded Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) Eighth Conference here.

He said Malaysia’s media experience was not unlike many South-East Asian nations as major newspapers in the country faced serious economic challenges, including declining circulation and loss of classified advertising to online sites.

The migration of readers to online news and other sites, which were also identified as economic pressures on their traditional business model came at a time of media-ownership consolidation, cutbacks in news coverage and pressures for higher profit margins from owners, he said.

According to the Audit Bureau Circulation Malaysia, the daily newspaper circulation in the Malay, English and Chinese languages in the peninsular had declined to 3,876,526 up to June 2006 from 3,960,122 in 2004, he said.

Similarly during the same period, daily circulation in all three languages had dipped to 394,864 from 483,921 in Sarawak and to 164,168 from 165,578 in Sabah.

Chamil said the best of the internet websites from commercial media used social networking, user-generated content, data-base journalism and other new media techniques to provide journalism that often was better sourced as well as more accurately and fully reported than top-down traditional news.

“Rather than the old model of reacting to a national news agenda – set by a handful of media executives and those in power – readers and viewers are changing the relationship between the media and their audiences, communicating directly with each other and becoming media-makers themselves,” he said, adding that producers on public radio and television were now using the internet and tools of interactive journalism to engage audiences and create news and information.