The Differences between Malaysia's Leading Newspapers

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Differences between the Star newspaper and the New Straits Times

The Star and The New Straits Times are two of Malaysia’s most read English-language daily and Sunday newspapers.

Having given the task to observe and analyze both newspapers for a week; from the 15th of March till the 21st of March 2010, many similarities as well as differences were spotted.

From the aspect of the content and objective of the papers, ownership plays a major role in determining what materials are included in the publications. The Star newspaper acts as a medium to spread political opinions and ideologies of the MCA (its owner) besides highlighting issues in relation to the said party. For example, ‘MCA plans SME one stop centre’ that was printed on the 16th of March 2010 highlights issues concerning the party. Often, The Star portrays the MCA in a positive light with pictures visualising them giving aid to victims of theft and abuse thus, prioritizing the image of the political party over other relevant newsworthy articles.

The New Straits Times on the other hand acts as the mouthpiece of the government due to its UMNO ownership hence articles are written from a perspective that glorifies the said party. ‘Middle Malaysia is mere rhetoric and sloganeering’ (Prime News, News Straits Times, 17thMarch 2010) is a clear example on how the paper undermine other political parties to highlight their own cause. In this context, the report emphasized the Prime Minister’s (who happens to be the UMNO president) opinion that he disagrees with the concept calling it as a new take on the failed ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ concept. This shows that the paper acts as a medium to spread government opinions.

The similarities observed were in terms of both papers being pro-government as both are owned by parties under the government coalition party; Barisan Nasional (BN). Thus, both The Star and New Straits Times practices hegemony in reporting news to persuade and maintain the government’s rule and power over the nation. As a result, more articles in both publications highlight the government’s good deeds while undermining its wrong-doings.

Other than reporting news, both newspapers act as a platform to advertise products and services via colourful and creative advertorials (i.e. usually found on right-side pages) as it pose as the main source of income newspapers. The act of including more advertisements reduces the space for news coverage. Based on the week long observation, the Star has more advertisements compared to the New Straits Times. Perhaps this is due to the fact that The Star has a higher circulation and readership making companies opt to advertise in The Star as it has a higher chance of being read by the masses, reaching its target audiences. The Star has a bigger following with 294, 479 (The Star Corporate Profile, 2009) while The New Straits Times have a circulation of 120, 770 (New Straits Times Press Berhad, 2010).

Both newspapers have special features to boast about. The Star is known for its photograph voting column that highlights extraordinary pictures sent by readers. A winner will be chosen and RM50 will be awarded. This unique feature balances the serious contents of the paper besides promoting citizen journalism and encouraging readers’ contribution.

New Straits Times on the other hand have readers looking forward to the weekly Lat drawings that complements Mahendra Ved’s column in the commentary section. Here, an interpretation of Ved’s thoughts is visualised using caricatures along with humours captions that captures the gist of the commentary.

A journalist from The Star that is worth mentioning is Marina Mahathir (daughter of the opinionated former Prime Minister) who writes a bi-weekly column entitled; ‘Musings’. Marina is known for addressing issues pertaining to human rights, freedom of speech and on Muslim lifestyles. Her article that appeared on the 17th of March 2010 ‘Gender equality still falls short’ uses...
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