Saturday, November 3, 2012

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

I hardly, if ever, write about my work. My job. I find it unprofessional to do such things. Most of the time, you wouldn't know where I'm working. I've always separated my presence on new media with my work in old media.

However, I watched the presentation today done by some of the top bosses - one of them comically and in good fun calling himself  'Futureboy' - and a realisation came over me.

"I'm working for a multi-billion dollar company."

I had to sit down for a moment, after that. Alan Moore did the same, when he realised that his daughter had turned eight or 12. So I guess I'd do the same, since I don't think I'll ever have or even want any children.

You see, all I ever wanted was to write, and all of the outfits I worked for - save Astro - were smaller ones.

Sure, The Malay Mail was once part of NSTP, but we were the underdogs, the black sheep. Nobody gave two hoots about us until we started making strides and they killed us and whatever. That's old history, and last I heard, the culprits are quietly sipping beer alone somewhere.

I am more used to being out of the way, free to experiment and execute. I remember Mail Motor, which was manned by one editor and one writer. Entertainment - my desk - had to help out. It was in a time when The Malay Mail had three senior news journalists and four interns, while NST had over 100. So naturally, everyone rallied together under the leadership of our crazy editors.

For Mail Motor, we got celebrities to do 'celebrity drive' where they would drive cars and give feedback on the machines.

I remember thinking, as I took the pictures and wrote the stories, that it was going to be 70% celebrity, and 30% car, which was reflected in the text as well as photos.

That caused a lot of ruckus. Some feminists had some things to say, of course. But the most flattering thing came when other newspapers copied our format. I finally understood what it meant to be a market leader. A trendsetter. Automobile ads were spilling over into lifestyle and entertainment pages. Those were halcyon days, and I remember them fondly.

I left The Malay Mail in 2006. It was 31st August 2006. I woke up one Sunday and thought, "I need to resign tomorrow." And so on Monday, I printed my first resignation letter with no savings, no offers and almost just the clothes on my back.

I have used that same resignation letter at the end of my tenure at a number of different companies, including The Malay Mail again when I left for the second time on February 14, 2011. My leaving the paper I so loved in 2006 had allowed me to go and take a tour of the Malaysian media industry.

I have worked at so many places, yet I believe everywhere is the same. Only the names and faces change.

They always expect nothing from me or my department, and I allow myself sometimes to believe that the teams I have worked with delivered more than what was needed.

It is different now.

My travels have taken me to new media, and I feel like there is a huge burden of expectation hanging over the division I work for, like a sword of Damocles. It is certainly disconcerting, even when I am not being overly melodramatic about the affair. Not altogether unpleasant, but it is a huge responsibility nonetheless.

My old boss - one of them - tried to convince me that I should climb the corporate ladder. I did not tell her that I have no such ambition. I constantly find myself, over the years, holding the bag, as they would call it.

My perhaps rapid succession - I was the youngest editor at The Malay Mail at one point - I suspect had more to do with there being no one else to do it rather than anything else.

Oh, I am grateful, of course. But I have never planned for it, and certainly never asked for more responsibility. My concern lay with the job at hand, and any 'achievement' I have done in my life, I owe to people I work with.

Some people crumble under pressure. I have problems with expectations. I am forever fearful that I would disappoint. But that is egotistical, at the end of the day.

Truth be told, I joined a new media division of the largest newspaper company in the country, because I had megalomania. Yes. Delusions of grandeur.

I have no more ambitions - having seen my name four feet tall on a screen, and feeling no different afterwards - has cured me of any crazy desires somewhat. I know what is important, and it is definitely NOT getting people to be jealous of you or proving people wrong.

My megalomania stems from my superhero complex. I believe that newspapers are dying and journalists as well as content creators would do themselves a favour if they adapt to an ever-changing world.

I thought that if I were to do something in new media, I could - Oh, I don't know - show the way how journalism can move on from selling dead trees. This was to be my love letter to the profession I love.

That was my drive. That was my arrogance.

I know now that the process do not need a catalyst. It is already well in its way. Sooner, or later, and I dare not be so arrogant as to predict when, 90% of media will be soft copy. Perhaps many years after I die, maybe next month. Who knows? The pundits who would have you believe they know are liars and charlatans. False prophets. Because they have all been wrong.

What is left for me is to protect my team. I am the last of the Generation X(born 1980). We are destroyers, not builders. We seek out what is wrong and we kill it.

The future, lies not in our hands - certainly not in my hands - but in the dreams of the green ones.

I have achieved everything I ever set out to do. And have come to terms with not fucking Scarlett Johansson. My belief system is now one of peace and acceptance.

What lies ahead for me, is retirement. I need to plan and execute now because there is little time left. I have a few tricks, a few plans, and that is it. I shall eventually withdraw back into the swamps from which I came, a forgotten old man, just like my father and grandfather.

And in the darkness, I shall close my eyes. And masturbate.