Categorised | Columns, Lead Story

The Nut Graph stops publication

    The TNG team in July 2014 (from left): Cindy Tham, Gan Pei Ling, Nick Choo, Lainie Yeoh, Jacqueline Ann Surin, Deborah Loh and Ding Jo-Ann

The TNG team in July 2014 (from left): Cindy Tham, Gan Pei Ling, Nick Choo, Lainie Yeoh, Jacqueline Ann Surin, Deborah Loh and Ding Jo-Ann

AND so, it’s finally happening. After six years of publication, The Nut Graph will cease publishing from tomorrow onwards, making this column the last article.

We’ve had some really good years of independent and responsible journalism since the days of MalaysiaVotes, which Cindy Tham, Danny Lim and I started in February 2008. MalaysiaVotes was set up to cover the 8 March 2008 general election (GE12) and to help us prepare for a more fully operational news site.

MalaysiaVotes was the precursor to The Nut Graph, which was launched on 15 Aug 2008 in time to cover the Permatang Pauh by-election. That by-election was historic (as was GE12) because it witnessed the return of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim into Parliament. Since then, we’ve covered numerous by-elections and even managed to hang on long enough to cover the yet again historic 2013 general election.

Throughout the six years, we have attempted to fulfil our brand promise of making sense of politics and popular culture. Instead of competing with other news portals in terms of swift breaking news, we looked for the big picture, connecting the dots for readers so that they could better understand the forces behind the news events that were being reported.

It would have been ideal for us to keep The Nut Graph going in the interest of maintaining another Malaysian news site that is independent, accountable and responsible. But we have known for a while already that this would not be possible, because of the circumstances that The Nut Graph operated under.

What was needed

MalaysiaVotes and The Nut Graph were made possible because Tham and I were offered funding to start up an independent news portal in 2007. Our investors said they wanted to expand the democratic space in Malaysia because of the winds of change they were noticing before GE12. We were promised up to five years of funding.

The graphic for our public donation drive

The graphic for our public donation drive in 2010

Unfortunately, the investors had a change of heart, purportedly because of the 2008 financial crisis. Tham and I were told not long after we started publication that our seed funding would end in March 2010, hence providing us with only two years of funding. We were told we could wrap up operations months before the two years were up and retrench everyone. In return, we could use the balance of our two-year seed funding to pay everyone a handsome compensation.

Tham and I decided against doing that. It would have been unconscionable to shut down something that so many people had a part in building simply because they believed in an ideal or in Tham and me, so that a small group of us could gain financially from it.

That’s when we launched a public donation drive, which many readers generously contributed to in cash and kind. As it became public knowledge that we were financially in dire straits, one politician offered to financially sustain us. He said we could cover anything we wanted and only had to cover all of his political campaigns. I declined the offer, reminding him and myself of why I had started The Nut Graph in the first place – to be completely free to make sound editorial decisions without fear or favour.

And because we still didn’t have a sustainable business model in place, the money we raised from our donation drive wasn’t enough to keep us going as a fully operational news organisation. In order to stretch the money we had left to keep The Nut Graph going for as long as possible, I made the decision to shut the office.

By that time, Tham had left The Nut Graph already. Everyone else who had stayed on was retrenched in August 2010. And by September that year, a small and dedicated collective started maintaining The Nut Graph from home. We published once instead of five times a week. And we each got paid a small token for the work we did with what was left of the money we had. That was our Plan B.

The team in the TNG office in 2010 (from left): Deborah Loh, Gan Pei Ling, Lainie Yeoh, Jacqueline Ann Surin, Ding Jo-Ann and Nick Choo

On the last day at the TNG office in August 2010

And so, we managed to keep The Nut Graph going for four years more beyond the two years that we had money for from our investors. Presumably, we could carry on as a weekly publication in this way.

Unfortunately, even that is not sustainable. Like the legs of a stool, three things are needed to keep The Nut Graph’s Plan B going: funds to keep paying our editorial team; funds to pay for the company’s expenses, which include annual secretarial, accountant, auditor and web-hosting fees; and a team of intelligent and dedicated writers and editors.

We were fortunate to have loyal readers who gave us funding so that I could continue to pay the team for their editorial work. I will, however, run out of funds soon to sustain the company. Additionally, the dream team that I had has been moving off in different directions – a couple are pursuing their postgraduate degrees, one external columnist no longer wants to write, and one editor will be moving on to a full-time job.

My own dreams have also changed, and running a news site is no longer as compelling as it was six years ago. The truth is, it is no longer possible for me to pour in the energy required to maintain The Nut Graph while also pursuing my new dreams.

What we’ve achieved

And that’s just the way it is. Businesses don’t work out and people move on. I have no regrets, even if The Nut Graph is currently facing a defamation suit for a 2009 Bernama report which we carried as the news agency’s subscriber. And I believe none of the team – whether external contributors or the staff who remained on board – have any regrets in having worked for The Nut Graph.

We’ve achieved so much in the six years that we published. We were the only Malaysian news organisation that made public the ethical guidelines we would use when reporting and moderating comments. In fact, we were the only Malaysian news outlet that promised we would do a fact and quote check with the people we interviewed, in line with best journalistic practices.

TNGbooksWe covered two historic general elections, and made sense of the numerous issues plaguing our nation, most of which are a result of how Islam has been politicised in Malaysia. We published Found in Malaysia, a collection of stories for Malaysia by Malaysians about their ancestry, origins and hopes. These stories were eventually published as books in two volumes by ZI Publications.

With the support of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, we ran the MP Watch project to highlight the kind of parliamentarians we had in the 12th Malaysian Parliament. Subsequently, with analysis and support from the Bar Council, that project was published as Understanding the Dewan Rakyat to serve as a guide for voters, political parties and think tanks. We had hoped other media outlets would model MP Watch in their reporting of elections and elected representatives. That was not the case.

We also sustained intelligent and critical voices in the public sphere, including those of Shanon ShahWong Chin HuatKW Mak and Norhayati Kaprawi. And we developed and projected new critical voices including, among others, those of Ding Jo-AnnGan Pei LingHwa Yue-Yi, and Lainie Yeoh through her graphic illustrations.

Most certainly, The Nut Graph would not have been possible without numerous individuals who each wanted intelligent, independent and fearless media in Malaysia. They are too many to name. And by way of thanks for their support of an ideal and an idea, let me end by saying this: It has been the utmost privilege to have been able to work independently, freely and responsibly as a journalist and editor for the past six years. May others continue to do as you have done for the other media who persist in upholding these ideals. The Nut Graph


Jacqueline Ann Surin has had many proud moments as editor of The Nut Graph. One of her proudest was when journalist Koh Lay Chin delivered an exclusive and investigative story in 2010 about a two-page ad in the New York Times that featured the prime minister’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

The Nut Graph will continue to be available online as a resource.

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35 Responses to “The Nut Graph stops publication”

  1. KW Mak says:

    I will miss TNG. It was perhaps ahead of its time in Malaysia, but I do hope one day TNG would return with your dream team and that you somehow find the motivation to do this again (after you make your money, of course).

    On a more personal note, Jacq, you taught me lots as an editor and I thank you for that.

    • Not at all, Mak. I could not have done it without your enduring support. Thank you for writing for us, and I hope you will find another platform for your critiques of local council.

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ KW Mak

        Please update us here on where your next platform will be. I believe that this website will be up at least until the end of the month before it goes down.

        • Dear Kong Kek Kuat, if you read my column right to the end, it says “The Nut Graph will continue to be available online as a resource.” There are no plans to take it down. It just won’t be updated is all.

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        Maybe every content contributor here, who intends to continue writing somewhere else, will also update us here on their next platforms? Thank you.

        • I write a fortnightly column for The Heat weekly paper called “Connecting the Dots”.

        • KW Mak says:

          @ Kong Kek Kuat

          I write a fortnightly column for The Star (Metro Central). It appears on Wednesdays. If you don’t follow The Star for whatever reason, you can find the articles re-posted on my blog at makkhuinweng.wordpress.com.

          Regards.

  2. Jw says:

    Dear Jacqueline and The Nut Graph team,

    Thank you.

  3. Emmanuel says:

    Well, I guess all good things must come to an end. But it was a great run. And I enjoyed every bit of it as a reader.

    Also, thanks for providing an alternative to all the other rubbish out there.

    Unfortunately, not even the best of our online or print media can produce what you guys have done. Meaning, no more good local reads in the future.

    Sigh.

  4. Soros says:

    Ladies, sorry I had to stop the funding. There are some higher priority governments I need to subvert – yours seems to be doing fine without my help, there’s the new Star Wars trilogy to bank roll, plus your oil and gas reserves are dwindling. Must go, my bagel’s getting cold.

    Love,

    Georgie

  5. Dr. Patricia Martinez says:

    Dear TNG, Jacqueline Surin, Tham and team. Thank you for your super work, thank you for making Malaysians a tad different, and all the very, very best as you so richly deserve.

    P.S. Please don’t go work for the Pirates of the CariBNean… :D

  6. Shanon Shah says:

    I will always carry TNG with me – for the dreams it allowed me to dream, the questions it enabled me to ask, and the way it helped me connect the personal with the political. And of course, the friendships it blessed me with. I learnt lots as an individual and as part of a larger collective of doers, hopers and dreamers for a better Malaysia.

    Juga kerana TNG, saya lebih yakin ber-dwibahasa apabila berfikir, menulis dan berjenaka.

    Thank you and salam ikhlas,
    Shanon

  7. Tamir Moustafa says:

    Thank you for all you’ve done! I found The Nut Graph to be the single most important online resource for understanding core issues behind the daily headlines in Malaysia. Best of luck to all of you in your future endeavours!

  8. whyme says:

    Excellent reporting and writing throughout the years. Especially appreciate the reports comparing headlines from different mainstream print media. Very insightful!

    To the entire TNG team, thank you and all the best in your future endeavours!

  9. Asrul says:

    Hi Jac and team.

    Thanks. :)

  10. Kong Kek Kuat says:

    What will happen to the quality content of this website? You guys are not seriously going to let them be wiped off the server, are you?

    Please, please tell me you are going to put it up somewhere for people to read. This is your legacy to Malaysia. It would be great if someday I can tell my grandchildren to refer to The Nut Graph for a sampling of what could have been.

  11. Lee King Siong says:

    Sad that one favourite intelligent reading source has to end. This may bring down by several notches the perceived average IQ of Malaysians (judging from available local independent reading sources). Thank you for your bold, truthful, and insightful pieces. I hope there’ll be a revival of The Nut Graph someday. All the best to each of you on the team as you move on to new pursuits.

  12. Ah Soon says:

    Aiyo, ayam so sadding… no more new news to read liao.

    Hope all the best in your future endeavours.

  13. Reza says:

    Thank you Nut Graph! :-(

  14. Siew says:

    Thank you TNG & team. You will be missed.

  15. Xavier Sim says:

    Thanks for the great memories and the intelligent, well-researched articles and editorials. You’ve left a proud legacy online for Malaysian society. All the best in your future journalistic efforts.

  16. Anna Chew says:

    You have fought a good fight and stayed true to who you are. We have always rooted for those like you and your heart (hard) work has been appreciated. All the best in your next venture.

  17. Pratamad says:

    Thank you TNG and the great people behind it. Good luck on your next endeavour.

  18. Hi Jacq, this is truly a sad day for journalism and critical, intelligent writing, not just for Malaysia but Southeast Asia. You, Cindy and the rest of your team have truly been amazing. Only now will people realise what a great thing we had going with TNG.

    I really hope that you will one day (sooner rather than later) be able to revive TNG and become again the beacon of great journalism in Boleh-Land.

    Stay strong and keep the fire burning. It’s what makes you special!

  19. Andre Lai says:

    Been reading TNG since 2008. I have mixed feelings, but happy to see you guys (ex/soon-to-be-ex TNGs) did well, especially Wong Chin Huat.

    No time to sob sob. Let’s move on for Sarawak and GE14!!! :)

  20. PSTan says:

    It had been a habit for me to check for updates at TNG once in a while. I found it inspiring reading the published news, especially those by Jacqueline Ann Surin, Ding Jo-Ann, KW Mak and the interviews with Wong Chin Huat.

    Thanks and I will definitely miss it.

    • PSTan says:

      While I’m happy that you guys are finally moving on, but the selfish side of me actually hopes that there will still be such high-quality and critical news published, even if in a less frequent manner. -.-

  21. Adam says:

    Well, all good things must come to an end. I was hoping TNG would outlive me but it was not meant to be. I have really enjoyed reading and commenting on most of the articles of interest over the last few years.

    A big thank you to the TNG team and best of luck to one and all. God bless.

  22. Wave33 says:

    I am an occasional reader and commentator.

    It was nevertheless an interesting journey.

    Thank you.


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