The Newspaper Man

Posted by M ws On Wednesday, March 28, 2012 0 comments
Mu husband buys The Sun on weekdays and the Star on weekends for his breakfast routine. Since February 2008, I seldom read the newspaper but still have a very good relationship with my newspaper vendor.

I remember the first newspaper vendor who delivered The Star to my house way back in 1972. My dad subscribed The Star from him and then I continued the tradition when I got married in 1983. That elderly gentleman later sold his business to the father of my current newspaper vendor who was a teenager when his dad took over the business. When his dad became old and frail, the current vendor took over his business.

Muru is most reliable for whenever his delivery boy fails to deliver, he would come round to my place by noon to give me a copy of the paper and if he could not, he would let me know so that I could get a copy for myself. Being an honest man, he would then deduct the cost for that issue from the month's dues.

To give you an idea of how long I have known my newspaper vendor, I attended his wedding at the Penang Chinese Town Hall seven years ago. Each time he comes to collect the monthly dues, I would ask him when the pitter patter of tiny feet could be heard. Last month, he shared the good news and my family rejoiced with him.

Now why am I talking about newspaper vendors?

Have you read the latest on their plight? Some of these vendors have been in this business for generations! What will they do if the tide goes against them?

According to Malaysiakini:

A number of readers of The Star in Kuala Lumpur did not get their daily at home today, and neither could they find it at several outlets.

This was the result of a boycott launched by several vendors in Kuala Lumpur over the daily's move to promote its direct subscription drive.

It is learnt that The Star wanted to impose this plan in a bid to boost its circulation further last year, but backed down after protests.

However, in a surprise move, one of the top executives of The Star decided to implement the policy without consulting the vendors, who see this as affecting their livelihood.

Sources familiar with today's boycott of the newspaper said a team of vendors tried to hand a memorandum to The Star's chief executive officer Ho Kay Tat yesterday, but he did not want to receive it.

This prompted some 200 vendors gathered at the iconic Central Market early this morning to refuse to accept the MCA-backed newspaper for distribution.

It is learnt that some 30,000 copies were returned by the vendors protesting what they claimed to be an unfavourable policy imposed on them.

Sources said the boycott may expand to other places in the Klang Valley tomorrow and further cripple the daily's distribution.

The Star sells about 250,000 copies daily nationwide, the bulk of it in the Klang Valley.

Some outlets in Bangsar affected

Malaysiakini also checked four premises in the Bangsar Utama locality and found the daily available in three places.

Even at 11am a staff member at the 7-Eleven outlet on Jalan Bangsar was puzzled as to why the newspaper had not arrived yet at the convenience store, which normally gets it by 4am.

Malaysiakini had yet to receive its copy this afternoon when the vendor recounted the boycott, and claims he did not receive any copies.

Another vendor who declined to be named told Malaysiakini that the protest stemmed from the refusal of the management of The Star to discuss its direct subscription proposal with them, especially since this would affects their livelihood.

"They are asking new readers to subscribe directly with the newspaper office, to eliminate the role of the independent vendors. Some of the vendors have been distributing and selling newspapers for 40 years... this is the only trade they know, it is their livelihood.

"The direct subscription scheme will affect our earnings. The Star gives a small amount of commission despite the paper being heavy, which limits us from carrying a lot of copies as we distribute house-to-house.

"As a result of this, some of the vendors have to use a van for the distribution, instead of a motorcycle, and this means added costs," the vendor said.

The situation with The Star worsened, he added, when its management refused to meet the vendors and accept their memorandum yesterday.

In a related development, a member of The Star’s circulation staff confirmed that the paper was facing some distribution problems today but said the matter has already been resolved.

The employee, who declined to be identified, said if readers face problems they should call the circulation department and give their vendor’s name for a copy to be delivered.

I know many of us don't buy newspapers these days but I do pity the plight of vendors. I remember how Muru was very sad when I told him that I would stop buying The Star from february 2008. It was actually out of sympathy for him and to maintain our ties that we continued with The Sun subscription.

Hopefully, as they approach the sunset days of their industry, something good will happen and that those in positions of authority will accede to their request for dialogue.

The Star's CEO Ho Kay Tat and I were course mates at USM in the Mass Comm faculty together with Subahdra Devan and Santha Oorjitham of NST, Dorothy Teo of The Edge, Ho Hwa Moi of TV3 and Taufik Dahlan et al. I hope something positive will develop from here. Surely after 40 years, they should have some compassion for newspaper vendors. Or am I a dreamer?

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