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KOTA KINABALU, Dec 30 ― The New Sabah Times will print its final edition tomorrow (December 31), stopping the presses for good after more than six decades as one of the state’s oldest and reputable news sources.
The newspaper’s managing editor, Felix Gusti, said that a sharp drop in circulation and falling ad revenue were the main reasons for the closure.
It was earlier scheduled to close on December 20, but Gusti said the company wanted to finish its newsprint before closing tomorrow (December 31).
Amin Muin, the paper’s Bahasa Melayu editor, confirmed that the staff were offered three months’ pay without (any other) compensation.
Datuk Muguntan Vanar, 55, who was a journalist at the paper from 1988-1993, said he feels sad that the newspaper is closing because it was a training ground for many Sabah journalists.
“The stories in Sabah Times captured many of Sabah’s historical events, especially during the 1960s, 70s and even 1980s to the early 1990s,” said the Sabah Journalists Association (SJA) president.
Muguntan, who is presently The Star bureau chief for Sabah, said the name “Sabah Times” is synonymous with newspapers for many Sabahans.
“The problems faced by Sabah Times is a global problem facing many newspapers in the country and around the world due to the social media challenge,” he said.
The paper was founded in 1949 as Kinabalu Times, then renamed Sabah Times, by Tun Muhammad Fuad Stephens who worked as a reporter at the Sandakan-based weekly, North Borneo News, before becoming the first Sabah Chief Minister after the formation of Malaysia in 1963.
The Sabah Times first shut down on March 24, 1995 before it was revived on March 8, 1998 following a takeover by publishing company, Inna Kinabalu Sdn Bhd. Henceforth, it was known as New Sabah Times.
Another former staff member, Joseph Joswan Bingkasan, 65, said the Sabah Times was where he learned to be a newsman.
“I was a journalist with Sabah Times, under former chief editor, Hugh Mabbett, an Australian, in the late 70s. Publication of Sabah Times was suspended a few times, but it hit the streets again.
“Sabah Times is a household name. Sabahans, especially the elders, referred to all the newspapers as ‘Sabah Times’. When they say ‘read Sabah Time’, they are referring to newspapers, not necessarily Sabah Times.
“Sabah Times will be missed, but I’m optimistic that it will ― God willing ― be revived and go into publication again,” said Bingkasan, who went on to become News Editor at the New Straits Times.
Recalling some of his memorable experiences while working at the Sabah Times, Bingkasan said that due to a shortage of staff there were times when he had to do reporting assignments as well as edit stories for the English, Bahasa Melayu and Kadazan sections.
“At times it was too late to go home, so I slept on my table,” said Bingkasan, who was awarded the Tokoh Kewartawanan Sabah by the Sabah Press Club last year.
With the New Sabah Times closing, only English papers like the Daily Express and Borneo Post will be available in the state. ― Bernama
Editor’s note: The writer, Emin Madi, 70, a Sabah-based Bernama stringer, was Senior Journalist at the New Sabah Times from 1973-1993.