Amir shares his journalism experience with young people

By Siti Sarah Mohammad Sabri

I chose to do a profile story on Amir from Harian Metro for my final assignment for Principles and Practices of Journalism class this semester. Here, I want to highlight his vast experiences in the field of journalism which he was willing to share.

He started as a journalist with a mosquito paper and then moving on later to join Harian Metro which he found was not an easy thing. For him, being a journalist sometimes can pose a danger to his life, but because of his love and passion towards this field he was willing to face all the challenges.

“No matter in whatever field you are, whatever thing that you do or you want to do, you must have passion for it. Whatever challenges or difficulties that might happen to you, you have to face it whole-heartedly. Remember my words, grab the chance you can. If not, you might not have a chance to do it again,” Amir said.

This beautiful quote really gives me something in my life, that we do not have the second time exactly as the first time. First time is always the first time. So, if I do not know what I want to do now, I might not have any chance to do it after this. So, in my mind, be like “I must do it no matter what.”

Profile of Journalist

His full name is Amir Abdul Hamid. He is 36 years old, from Tanjung Tualang, Perak. He received his education in matriculation and then pursued his studies at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) where he did a degree in Mass Communication. At first, he was not interested in mass communication or media field, but later he was influenced by his sister who works with TV3. He said that when he saw his sister always meeting with various people of different background, including artistes and celebrities, he started to develop his interest in media field and decided to major in mass communication.

After graduating from UiTM, he started to work with a mosquito paper before moving to Media Prima. A mosquito paper is a small company where there are only a few staffs working here. Compared to Media Prima he said in a mosquito paper he has to do all the work by himself. For example, he is the one who files a report, takes pictures, gathers information as well as handles the editing part in the process of making news or articles. Unfortunately, the mosquito paper was not popular at that time. The company did not survive and now it is already closed.

Amir emphasised that when he moved to Harian Metro only then he knew that all the tasks given are divided according to their specialisation. For example, his job is only to write a story or an article. He needs to go and find the related news, while the editors are responsible for the pictures and the editing part. It is totally different when he was at the mosquito paper where he needs to do everything. His current position in Harian Metro is as a special desk journalist.

Experience as a Journalist

He shared his experience on how he covered the news and identify the content of the news. The first thing, he said, is that he needs to find a reliable source of information such as the authorities in various fields – the police, fire fighters, doctors etc. This is an important aspect of journalism to make sure that the news are authentic because readers put all their trust on the news reported by them and the power of newspaper to influence people’s thinking and behaviour. Therefore, they cannot simply create a story based on their assumptions. In addition, the contents of information or news must be approved by the authorities.

Besides that, as a journalist, he needs to find more details about the events and issues. The contents must be detailed and based on human interest rather than direct reporting. The hardest part for them is to write the introduction. For them, an intro is the most important part in writing the news where it attracts the readers to read their news.

According to Amir, the stories that they need to write cover all categories such as crime, sports, national and international stories, business, environment, fashion and trend which mean they cannot cover stories only based on one genre. Usually they need to follow the instruction of the editor on what news to cover. Basically it is like an assignment for them where they need to submit the news to the editor before the due date. This is because they need to compete with other newspapers as well as the online version. Latest news is essential in newspaper market because people want to know recent news or information that happens around the world.

Challenges for being a Journalist

Here are some of the challenges that he faces during the process of news reporting or gathering of the information. Firstly, the challenge, he said, is that they will meet with a lot of people with different types of attitudes, some can give you ‘rain’ but some can give you ‘heat’. Moreover, as a journalist, he needs to play with psychology skills in order to gain information especially when it deals with death. For example, the incident of MH370. He stated that it was very hard for him to get information from the victim’s family members because they are very sensitive during that time. It took about three days to approach the family who were still in the state of shock due to the incident.

He added that being a journalist taught him to be more sensitive towards others’ feeling. Sometimes he did the interview informally where he sat beside the family members and let them tell their stories and express their feelings. He did not write anything during the interview session out of respect for the family’s feeling. Thus, he needs to memorise or secretly record the conversation using his recorder.

Then, he also faced with rotation of news that consists of different fields such as business, crime and sports etc. Just as mentioned earlier, as reporters they will not stick with one field only. Based on the interview, he said they will rotate from one section to the other section based on the editor’s instruction. It became a challenge to the reporters when they do not have any interest on what they have been assigned for. This would lead to lack of information and difficulties for some to write their report.

Next, he needs to find reliable sources of information especially while covering news from other countries. As a reporter, it is important for him to find authentic sources to make sure the stories that he writes are based on the truth and also as a proof that he does not make up the stories. In order to find authentic sources they need reliable informers. It is hard to find someone who can help to be the informer for them. He has to list the details about the informer for example, who he or she is. Where does he or she live? Is the informer a person of authority? In addition, the informer also must know every single detail of that place or country. The reporter has to make sure that the information is true or accuraate.

Furthermore, threats and negative responses sometimes can be challenges to him. Some people they do not like things or information about them spread to the public. Mostly artistes and celebrities tend to have this attitude. They might accuse that the reporter is encroaching into their privacy. They are also mad with the reporters and might threaten their life. As a reporter he needs to be more careful because his job is very dangerous. Amir mentioned that he went to Lombok, Indonesia, to gather information about why Malaysian Malay women there married Lombok guys. People in Lombok were mad when they came to know about him and chased him away because they did not want strangers to come close with their wives.

The last challenge is the rejection from editors. Before the reports or articles get published in the newspapers, journalists have to submit their reports to the editor first. This is because the editor has to check and correct if there are any mistakes done by them. This is also because they want to produce perfect and interesting stories. Amir said that sometimes the editor even rejected his work and wanted him to rewrite a new one. It became a challenge for him because he has to produce a complete and perfect news report and he needs to struggle to make it fast due to the limited time to submit the news report.

On suggestions and advice to young journalists

During the interview session, Amir also gave his advice in the field of media especially in journalism context so that it would benefit the readers.

Firstly, he advised me to not be spoilt while doing any work and try to be more independent. Based on his observation, many of those in the younger generation do not push themselves to find their own ideas but keep relying on what have been assigned to them by the editor. Actually, reporters are given a chance to approach his or her own news to be published. So, he told me to be more independent and not relying on one source by putting our effort to search news on our own. We need to explore more, he said. This is to stimulate us to be critical and creative in thinking and in writing news so that we can continually renew our skills in writing so that our news can be more interesting and attract readers to keep reading our news. In other words, he said, we must learn by ourselves without totally depending on other people.

Secondly, as a journalist we also must have the courage to face the challenges in journalism field. Since it is not an easy work, we need to be brave when we are assigned to cover the stories from many places and under odd conditions. Based on his experience, he has gone through all kinds of hard situation especially when dealing with crime cases and with the outsiders. However, to get the information we have to face with threats from people. Thus, to be a good reporter we must be brave and have strong enthusiasm so that we can face any challenge.

Thirdly, he advised not be afraid to make mistakes and to ask questions to senior reporters because they have a lot of experience that might help in writing and communication skills. He stressed on searching true experience rather than relying on books. This is because when we learn from experience and mistakes of others, it gives us more practical understanding on how to make our writing better and different from others. Besides that, he advised me to make references from other people so that we can see comparisons from different perspectives.

Lastly, his advice to young journalists is to grab the chances “while you can”. Be good in grabbing chances in line with the increasing role of the new media and technologies, he said. As a young journalist, we need to be updated with the technology, adapt with both printed and online media. Online media have started to get a place in conveying news but printed newspaper is still relevant and people still want to read news in printed form. However, we cannot deny that with the existence of online media, to some extent this has influenced the position of printed media. Thus, we as beginners, must start to learn both the online and printed media so as to acknowledge the direction on where the news should be.

Throughout the interview, I got a lot of exciting experience as I had the opportunity to meet a credible practising journalist. I also acquired excellent knowledge and advice from him that can be useful not only in journalism but also in my life and future career.

To simplify, we need to be independent, brave, and grab the chance while we can.***

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