[编辑 Editor 吕大人 英译 Translator 刘大人 摄影 Photographer 刘大人]
Going after the latest craze over real taste, or generally picking popularity over credibility? We have been presented with this dilemma ever since we started writing about things we like. Our “blogging” journey was full of its ups and downs, but the past 10 months have taken us to places we thought we would never go. There’s a lot more to our media life than what we earn, or don’t earn. After all, it’s not our possessions or paychecks that make for a fulfilled life, but those moments we choose to step into the unknown and unexpected, that our stories begin to be interesting.
Finally, after nearly a year of preparation, the Find Dining with Johor Kaki guide to Johor’s heritage and street food is ready. This is far more than a guide book, but a collective mission and passion for digging deep into the food scene that is a huge part of our culture and heritage. We have teamed up with an equally passionate Tony Johor Kaki and UMLand to bring a very special touch to this publication. It is not just the quality of the writing and photography that makes this work excel, but our way to help preserve, document and promote our unique and rich street food heritage. It is through their generous support that we now have Johor’s very own foodie guide in our hands, a hundred and fifty full-colour pages celebrating 100 Johor hawkers and heritage food.
The response on both sides of the causeway was overwhelming, way beyond our wildest imagination. Many braved the elements and patiently took their place in the queue from Jalan Tan Hiok Nee to Bandar Seri Alam, Seri Austin and finally Sutera Mall to offer kind words of encouragement and appreciation for Tony. In fact, we ran out of books before the scheduled closing time during the last book signing at UMLand Gallery (Anson House) in Singapore two weeks ago, and we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused for those who came especially for the occasion. As promised, UMLand is supporting another book signing event this coming Sunday (20 November) in Singapore. Not forgetting our home fans, plans are also underway to make more copies available later this month. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for everything!
Amidst the euphoria, we could still vividly recall the scenes during the Write; Post; Share. As part curtain raiser to the JB Writers & Readers Festival back in May 2016, some of JB’s authors and personalities (including yours truly) were invited to share and explore ways of navigating and adapting to an age where information surrounds us everywhere we go. Sadly, in this era where word of mouth can go viral at the speed of thought by simply clicking the LIKE and SHARE button, many self-proclaimed Johor or JB-inspired media are more interested in competing for the attention-grabbing headlines, or the bragging rights of being the first or the most-shared post in an already crowded online space nowadays. Every so often, as more and more such sites churning out torrents of viral “top 5 or top 10 xxx” lists come on the scene, we will stumble upon these FB fan pages or websites using our photos and text without our knowledge and no credit was given to the source in any way, whatsoever. It was posted as if they were the original content creator without ever stepping into these establishments, let alone tried and tested. If you have encountered similar, there is a formal process to lodge an Intellectual Property Notification Complaint with Facebook, and karma will do the rest.
As a group of passionate “local officials” that advocates a more ethical social media culture, MAGistrate will continue to serve up the sights and sounds JB has to offer, even if we would only appeal to 0.001% of the entire Johor population. It is heartening to know that our perseverance had paid off when we received an email request by the organiser of Iskarnival 2016 to hear our side of the story. Here’s our brief interview with Sama-Sama magazine in conjunction with their year-end festivity held at Puteri Harbour from 12-13 November 2016.
When did MAGistrate start, and is it an independent media company?
Starting in December 2015 with a bold vision to re-inject fresh life into a long-stagnant mediascape, MAGistrate began as an online media dedicated to the wonderful people of Johor. We pride ourselves to be “local officials” who pay personal visits to every happening scene before delivering unbiased verdicts to what’s hot and what’s not in town, in a fun and interesting way. MAGistrate is the brainchild of Interesthink, an independent homegrown creative company made up of four “Anak Johor”!
Can you give us an idea of the profile of your readers? Who do you reach out to, and how many people do you reach?
MAGistrate is a community of consumers who look for the best experiences, products and services to complement their lives and who turn to us as a trusted guide. We offer articles of depth and substance written from first-hand experiences. Together with modern, stylish design and stunning photography, our bilingual and content-rich website at magistrate.my now reaches over 50,000 unique visitors monthly. In addition, our Facebook page has over 30,000 followers, the majority of whom resides in Johor, including Singaporeans.
Your stories are written in both English and Chinese. What made you decide on this format instead of having separate language pages?
The best way to learn about JB is not just by visiting our landmarks. To really feel and get to know our city, you must meet our people, see how we live, speak with us, try our traditional food, go where we locals hang out. In tune with a new generation of Johoreans and visitors educated in both English and Chinese and who are culturally at ease with both Western and Oriental values, MAGistrate made it possible for people to connect with us, to interact and to share what we like about our city. As you can see, MAGIstrate is not just about bringing the world to JB – it is also about bringing JB to the world.
Looking at your website – there is a strong pride in local Chinese culture in Johor, but most outsiders may not be as aware. What should outsiders look forward to when they come to Johor? How can they get a real introduction to all the people and culture that the city has to offer?
For the past 10 months, MAGIstrate has not only been part of our readers’ life but also represents the voice which encapsulates the new-age Johoreans, constantly strives in moving forward with the trend, while bringing our readers on a journey of self-improvement. We maintain our formula of sharing practical lifestyle advice and informative features covering every aspect of leading a “balanced” life, ranging from fine dining to fine arts. However, we also keep them in touch with JB’s rich history and cultural heritage, reaching the affluent, educated and culturally active who are interested in our historic architecture, preservation, decorative arts and our age-old customs.
We have seen a lot of renewed interest in towns like George Town and Ipoh. Do you think JB has been overlooked? Do young people find a lot of opportunities in JB or do many of them tend to move to KL/SG.
The lure of a strong Singapore Dollar and the convenience of being easily connected to Singapore by the Causeway and Second Link are driving many people (including Singaporeans) to work in Singapore and sleep in JB. The situation might worsen with the completion of the JB-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) and Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR). If we look on the bright side, JB would have actually benefited from this rapid urbanisation and population growth, with a rising number of Malaysians and Singaporeans now calling JB home, as well as tourists from China and more industries setting up operations here. There is also a growing number of returning talents and expats who have gained experience from overseas to help contribute to the success of our city. The time has come for us living and working in JB to lead aesthetic tastes and design trends rather than cater to the whims of the market, and to develop something unique that not many people can have the chance to do, like MAGIstrate LOL!
There has been a lot of interest in Johor with the mega investments and developments in Iskandar. Do you see this as a positive step in developing more lifestyle and culture for locals?
As one of the five ‘economic zones’ of Iskandar Malaysia, JB is in for more than a makeover and the mega projects will radically change southern Malaysia over the next decade. After years of being criticised as a chaotic border town, JB is suddenly a lively, appealing place to hang out. There’s a real urban buzz and some surprisingly cosmopolitan corners to explore, with bustling food hawkers, impressive old architecture and landscaped sidewalks. Through MAGistrate, we hope everyone can develop awareness and affections, and gradually fall in love with our city, our people and our culture too.
Tell us a bit more about what MAGistrate does, and some plans for the future.
Rethinking MAGistrate as a unified “idea bank” of value is a nice starting point for brainstorming new ways for us to create pleasure and value for Johoreans across different media. In the hands of a strong design and editorial team, we are in the process of building multiple platforms to offer more ways of packing that idea bank with endless goodies.
One of the best parts of our job is when we help local businesses and organisations embrace change for meaningful outcomes, both commercial and social. We also work across all industries and the formats and channels in which we deliver our work are unlimited. Expect more crossover collaboration such as our latest “Find Dining with Johor Kaki” and UMLAND, as we team up with organisations to tailor-made events and campaigns that reach out to our readers in unique and memorable ways, and we will continue to support local arts and culture, social enterprise, entrepreneurship and more.