Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir has been a columnist with The Star for over two decades with her 'Musings by Marina Mahathir' column that is published fortnightly on Thursdays.
Star2 columnist Marina Mahathir takes time out to talk about what it's like writing for us.
MUSINGS by MARINA MAHATHIR
IN her inaugural column in what was then Star Two on Jan 2 in 1991, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir wrote “this column will come to you courtesy of The Star’s Woman page, once a fortnight. Within its borders, hopefully, we will get to know one another and perhaps share some views.”
It’s been two decades since Marina became our columnist and have we gotten to know her.
“Late 1990 I was invited to lunch by Datuk Ng (former GCE of The Star Datuk Ng Poh Tip), June (Group Chief Editor June H.L. Wong), and Sharifah (former deputy executive editor Sharifah Intan) and over lunch they enquired if I would like having my own column, giving me carte blanche on issues I wish to write about,” says Marina at a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.
“Writing a fortnightly column by meeting deadlines with a specific number of words is a discipline that I enjoy. To start with I was a journalist and we are taught all these disciplines,” she explains.
“Once I get an idea I basically write it in my head already so I take one to two hours to complete it. Well, after 20 years of doing this it just flows!” says Marina who reads voraciously and keeps up with current news for ideas. At the beginning of 2007, Musings was repositioned to appear in the main paper.
“My earlier columns had a gentle tone, and one of my first topics was about feminism which related to the climate at that time.
Since then things have gotten worse, so I just got angrier. I have been angry too often but it’s really hard to be cheerful when you see a lot of wrongdoing and injustice in the country,” she says.
“At that time, there was no social media so The Star would forward readers’ letters to me (they still do but it’s emails today!). With Facebook and Twitter, response is more instantaneous, and I get to see which columns get re-tweeted,” says Marina, who tweets her columns and highlights them in Facebook.
“You walk the talk first” was a column she wrote in 2008 about the fuel price hike and the Government’s exhortations for Malaysians to change their lifestyles to face the economic crisis in order to cope.
“I came up with a list of suggestions of what the Government should do and I received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from readers,” she says.
This column has been repeatedly shared until today.
But it’s not all compliments, Marina says.
She wrote about someone who was implicated in wrong doing. That person wrote back saying he was cleared of the wrong doing, so Marina apologised.
“Another young female reader was upset when I warned parents about American rapper Eminem, whose song lyrics are sexist and violent. Being a huge Eminem fan she wrote back admonishing me,” Marina recalls.
Whether it’s brickbats or compliments, Marina says what she enjoys most is getting feedback from readers. “I didn’t set out to write what I think people think, I just write what I think. The most common feedback I hear is I say what they think. It’s really gratifying and makes me feel I am not alone,” she says.
Marina commented that The Star has held back some of her articles, usually related to religion or politics and a lot of people ask her why she keeps writing for The Star when she gets censored.
“Well, I have to say I have a sense of loyalty and it must be said that they gave me my column in the first place. I am very grateful for that and to be fair, out of 20 years of writing for The Star they have not cut my articles, but when they remove words, they inform me,” she explains.
“Also, a lot of people still read The Star in print and if I abandoned my column I would lose that audience. With such encouraging feedback I feel a sense of responsibility to these readers,” Marina says.
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