October 30, 2012
My Friend Syed Nadzri: The Last of the Malaysian Newspaper Mohicans
His impending departure had been talked about for the past month and word was that he would be taking up a directorship at a large corporation, but for the moment that is just shop talk.
The newsroom focus is more about who might replace him: next in rank is Managing Editor Nuraina Samad.
For the past year, however, it has been Group Managing Editor Jalil Hamid, former Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, who has been calling the shots in the newsroom, as Ahmad Talib did before him and occasionally still does.
Syed Nadzri’s departure comes against a backdrop of constant sniping from pro-UMNO bloggers, especially those allied to Mahathir Mohamad as well as Najib Razak, determined to root out anyone still at Balai Berita seen to be allied with former Deputy Chairman Kalimullah Hassan.
Syed Nadzri rose through the ranks, beginning as a sports reporter with The Star before he moved to Balai Berita on the News Desk. Even as group editor, he would often be at a terminal near the desk in the afternoons, going through copy, rather than in his office.
Last month he was honoured by the National Press Club with its Lifetime Achievement award for his contributions to the industry.
With his departure, the NST has probably seen the last of the professional journalists holding the position, although the appointment of NST editors has always been subject to approval by UMNO Presidents.
Political appointees as group editor-in-chief, responsible for both the NST and Berita Harian, have been the NST editor de jure for many years, with the NST Group Editor (editorially responsible for the New Straits Times and New Sunday Times) reduced to a figurehead position responsible for day-to-day affairs.
Now with the New Straits Times Press swallowed up into the bowels of Media Prima, with television revenues covering for NST losses, and the politicisation of the group media in preparation for the coming general election, it remains to be seen whether there will still be a group editor’s position to be filled.But they do say nature abhors a vacuum.