Mar 112014

YANGON (March 11, 2014) – Journalism executives and educators discussed how to sustain media businesses in the U.S. and Asia during a keynote luncheon today the East-West Center’s international media conference.

U Ko Ko, Pana Janviroj, Zafar Abbas

Zafar Abbas, Pana Janviroj, U Ko Ko

Randall Smith, business journalism professor from the Missouri School of Journalism, moderated the discussion.

“What the media has to do these days, in my opinion, is go back to business school,” Smith said. He said media organizations should align their content with what their customers want. In the U.S., niche markets are key to successful media businesses. The danger lies in those businesses with only one or two revenue streams, Smith said.

“The good news is the world still is flat,” Smith said. “It will always be flat, and good ideas are coming from everywhere.”

Pana Janviroj, executive director of Asia News Network based in Bangkok, Thailand, said the primary issue for young journalists of Myanmar is the expectations of quick development, not a lack of money.

“The journalists, they make mistakes,” Janviroj said. “The newspapers sometimes sensationalize, but it is one in one thousand stories.”

Janviroj said the mistakes and biases in the reporting result from the the poor education system in Myanmar for the last 50 years, as well as the youth of most reporters here.

U Ko Ko, chairman of Yangon Media Group, said the lack of skilled journalists is one of the biggest challenges the Myanmar media face. Referencing Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech on March 9, he said local journalists need training and learn how to balance the new press freedoms with responsibility.

Randall Smith

Randall Smith

Zaffar Abbas, Editor-In-Chief of Dawn in Karachi, Pakistan, said hearing many emphasize “responsible journalism” during the conference had disturbed him. That phrase implies that “somebody is trying to control your way of doing journalism, your way of reporting,” he said.

Facing increasing production costs and decreasing advertising revenue, he said credible, ethical journalism is the best business model to increase circulation.

U Ko Ko said the media environment in Myanmar faces tight competition. Ten privately owned newspapers divide up the market into smaller portions of profit. He acknowledged that the introduction of two new telecommunication companies in Myanmar by the end of the year should allow people to connect to those far away. Some solutions U Ko Ko said the most important steps he sees for Myanmar media are to develop mobile platforms and work with foreign partners.

“I don’t have a solution,” U Ko Ko said. “I am asking for a solution from all of my friends.”

– Reporting by Cara McClain & photos by Ninh Pham, Missouri School of Journalism

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