Singapore Media Watch

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In focus: Objective journalism and its role in society

In a private email exchange with Mr Seah Chiang Nee, a veteran journalist and writer of the renowned Littlespeck political website, Mr Seah shared us the importance of adopting an objective, balanced line of reporting in journalism.

The objective of our blog is not to "bash" SPH or the government blindly. We understand the need to be circumspective and to give credit to the government when it is due.

It is precisely because the mainstream media is largely slanted towards the government that we see the need to provide a counter to balance things.

The media may not espouse support for the government openly and directly, but through the clever and selective use of certain words and sentences and via innuendoes, they help influence perceptions subtlely.

Most Singaporeans will simply browse through the papers with little thorough analysis. Our hectic schedules do not permit us to read carefully in between the lines and this causes us to sway under the influence of the media if we are not mindful enough.

Our aim is to correct this inherent bias by revealing the hidden meaning and agenda behind the news reports.

Take for example the report in Sunday Times on 15 October 2006 of Mr Yaacob's comments on Ms Sylvia Lim's being "opportunistic" in her call for the government to do more to solve the haze problem.

Many of our readers were initially led to believe that the Workers' Party is indeed "opportunistic" till they read our review.

Is "objective journalism" possible in reality and in Singapore? Subjectivity is an innate failing of human beings, an ubiquitous trait of human nature.

No matter how hard we try, the way we think and write is largely influenced by pre-conceived ideas, thoughts and impressions.

Objectivity can best be achieved through having a plurality of diversive views from various writers so that their inherent prejudices will cancel each other out.

Are Singaporeans ready for "objective journalism?" After years of "programming" by the state media, a majority of Singaporeans have become so accustomed to what was reported in local news that they do not question it anymore.

To them, the pro-government stance of the mainstream media is the yardstick they hold for "objectivity" and therefore any diversive views will naturally be interpreted as anti-government, biased and without an iota of truth.

A second group which is growing fast in recent years comprise mainly of young educated internet-savvy Singaporeans who no longer finds any credibility in the mainstream media. They are sceptical about whatever is reported even if it is true.

To quote an example the daily updates of PSI indexes. Most Singaporeans on internet forums believe that the actual PSI is higher than that reported by ST and CNA even though they have no proof to support their hypothesis.

These Singaporeans will always be critical of the government regardless of what you write and are unlikely to accept any pro-government news as true.

In view of the above 2 scenarios, how much an impact will "objective journalism" in providing balanced views from both sides of the story have on Singaporeans?

The objective truth may ironically be interpreted as untrue by Singaporeans with different mindsets and beliefs. What are your views on objective journalism? Which group of Singaporeans do you belong to?

Should we from the EDITORIAL TEAM be more vocal or circumspect?

Please share with us your views here.

4 Comments:

  • you are polite..very understandable given your chosen role you want to play....nothing wrong with that...but our society frown on those..and many such frustrated working class out there who couldn't express in that kind of politically correct expressions under frustrating circumstances because when they do...SLAM!...defamation suit and what have you.. or...services will be compromised as punishment for what?

    FUCKING BEING HUMAN?

    that is the kind of society singapore is...

    FUCKING TOTALLY REPRESS! and why?

    so the authorities can go on with their hypocrisy of fucking services to the public?

    we have tested the system...and it fucking does not work - speaking for many others also but of course..you can cite many others that worked too i am sure.

    the people need to fucking beg or kowtow to be served

    the minute you legitimately complaint....that's it...your case may not be heard unless you take it to the bloody court which gives them the legitimacy to FUCK WITH COMMONERS somemore!

    can you deal with the fucking truth of the great hypocrisy in our society?

    i think..you better go back to your kind of hypocritical society because..i dont think you can stand when the commonman speak the fucking truth to your face!

    how that's for appreciating feedback huh?

    you real or not?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:10 PM  

  • be vocal and circumspect?The devil is in the details..;) and the biasness of our mainstream media is an open secret...everyone knows that,except the mainstream media itself..just see how they trumpeted that they are still the no.1 broadsheet in Singapore recently.
    "In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king"

    By Blogger sei-ji rakugaki, at 9:42 PM  

  • As a managing editor of a new student press that espouse objective journalism, I can completely identify with your words.

    Our little experiment with creating an editorially independent press in NUS gave us a harsh dose of reality on the the difficulties of practising objective journalism. I chronicled some of the paper's experience in this blog entry of mine.

    It seriously scares me that even student leaders behave like some politicians.

    By Blogger Aaron, at 10:44 PM  

  • Balanced views.

    What is critically lacking in the mainstream media is balanced reporting. I.e. give both sides of the story.

    Imagine, the Straits Times can do a 3 page expose on Li Jiawei and Ronald Susilo's love life and doesn't have sufficient space to present balanced and sometimes opposing views on issues?

    Oppss.. I made a mistake, that's assuming the editors allow the "issue" to be surfaced as a headline.

    Please carry on this blog as it helps younger Singaporeans develop a better sense of what's possibly real, what's bullshit, and how we can develop the critical analysis to help differentiate the bulls*** and facts from opinions.

    Lunatic Fringe

    By Blogger *The Lunatic Fringe*, at 9:57 AM  

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