|The staff of Crime Journal.
WHENEVER the chief executive officer of Myanmar Consolidated Media (MCM), Mr Ross Dunkley, decides to do something, he usually thinks about it strategically but makes it happen dramatically.
This was evident from the moment Mr Dunkley arrived in Myanmar 10 years ago and started planning the launch of the English edition of The Myanmar Times. It seemed like a crazy idea, but he made it happen in a surprisingly short time.
The same pattern was repeated with the launch of Crime Journal. In 2006 I was assigned to play in key role in the project, and I was instructed to make the necessary preparations and arrangements with two senior staff members at MCM. The aim was to launch the journal within two months.
It was a challenging and exciting time for me. When Mr Dunkley came up with the strange dream of publishing a crime journal, I thought his idea was interesting but I worried about the market potential. But we went ahead with the project, and the first issue hit the newsstands on December 17, 2006.
The newsstands in Myanmar are filled with publications focusing on news and sports, but the appearance of a private journal dedicated to covering crime was quite unusual for media industry.
Crime Journal was not fully appreciated by readers and advertisers because many of them thought that subscribing or putting ads in a journal about crime was taboo. But there’s really nothing about Crime Journal to justify such misconceptions. In fact, Crime Journal can play a very positive role in Myanmar culture, educating the public by disseminating legal knowledge and promoting awareness about ways to prevent crime.
While most of the local news stories in The Myanmar Times are written by staff reporters, for Crime Journal we decided to rely on freelancers with different opinions and attitudes to contribute crime news and articles from various parts of the country.
This has created additional challenges. Some freelancers, for example, write their crime news stories like love letters and our editorial team must rewrite the stories to fit our journal’s style. This made me realize that many people want to be journalists but they don’t know how to write a news story. Proper training is required to become a good journalist.
Most readers who are interested in crime news and legal articles are older, so to attract younger readers we started holding a weekly translation contest in which the texts are jokes. Many young people, and even older readers, have shown their appreciation of the new idea by taking part in the contest every week. Among more than 80 weekly participants, we select the best entry. The winner gets a three-month subscription to the journal.
Although publishing a journal is a business venture, I believe our organisation should contribute to society. In October 2008 we initiated a news translation internship program, offered free of charge to selected applicants who have intermediate English skills. The aim is to improve the students’ translation skills and expose them to journalism.
So far 35 people have completed the course. Five of the graduates are now studying news writing at Crime Journal, three are working as reporters at The Myanmar Times and two are working as freelance writers for “Wheels,” a new section in Crime Journal aimed at automobile lovers.
“Wheels” – launched last August – includes articles on the auto industry and legal issues related to the industry. It’s useful not only for those seeking information about the auto industry but also for advertisers looking for new customers for their cars and car accessories.
My message to readers is that subscribing to Crime Journal is not an ill omen, but rather a means to learn how to avoid trouble.
On December 17 we will mark our third anniversary. We have come a long way in a short time, but we will surely face new challenges that we will overcome using innovative means.
Innovative thinking is nothing new for me and my staff. Working as an editor, I have faced many challenges that have required creative thought, not least of all when it comes to facing my wife, Aye Aye Maw, when my work requires that I come home late from the office.
In an attempt to reduce my wife’s anger over my late arrivals and to convince her that I love her tenderly, I have used a special penname for my weekly contribution to the journal. The name is Maw Maw Maung, which means “loving husband of Maw Maw”.
Well, that worked like a charm for about a month before the amusement wore off. Now I must think of new and satisfying reasons whenever I arrive home late. I now accept this as part of the art of married life. Meanwhile, working at Crime Journal continues to hone my strategic thinking.