25 September 2008

Is engaging the mainstream media pointless? Part 1

I was quoted in the newspapers in three different places today. Were they accurate representations of my views? An example for evaluating if the media is fair. Full essay.


yuen said...

ST reporters are technically proficient and professionally well trained; however, they need to write about a person to fit a designated role - there are, for example, "good opposition" and "bad opposition", and material that might contradict the designations need to be handled with great care.

In an old article about Catherine Lim (next to one about Mr Brown)


I said this about her:

"Like such individuals as Janadas Devan, Philip Jeyaratnam, Cherian George, Elinor Wong... by virtue of her unique attributes, she occupies a niche as an alternative voice to be called upon now and then when such a voice is needed."

the issue of decriminalization of male homosexuality (and international notice of the subject) still fresh in our minds, Alex Au is currently another such "officially recognized alternative voice", and reporters strive to report accordingly; sometimes they hit, sometimes miss

Anders said...

Nice that you have been treated fairly at these occasions.

However, I think that a question like "Is mainstream media fair and unbiased", is basically the wrong question to ask. Any media will always be biased or slanted somehow, or articles would read like police reports and any kind of debate would be out of question. Everyone has an agenda and I see nothing wrong with that as long as you're not trying to deny it. The Straits Times is clearly biased and so is any Western publication (in one direction or another).

I think a more relevant question is whether or not you can find different views (or biases). Not necessarily in the same paper.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you about the general accuracy of MSM (English) in Singapore, maybe with the exception of election period and CSJ.

Anonymous said...

Anders, I hope by saying that Western papers are "biased" you are not trying to dismiss concerns about the Straits Times. Biased or not, at least the Western papers have control over their own content. Their agenda is their own. I would take the New York Times over the Straits Times any day!

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to get rid of purchasing the straits times, for many a year.

Unfortunately, my sisters treat it as an essential reading material.

For me, the only section, that might be useful might be the recruitment pages and teh digital life section.

I have seen too many cases, of letters published that are mangled being all recognition, mis quotes, and so much spin in the news reporting..

60% commuters will pay more. Gets published as 40% commuters pay less.

It is a good exercise to read, once in a long while just to identify the spin masters at work.

Other than that, its worthless.

For those in the industry, i really wonder, how the reporters mantain their self dignity daily.

A resounding yes, no point in engaging with the media.


yuen said...

>Western papers ... agenda is their own

SPH and Mediacorp are PR units of Singapore Inc; this is why people they report about have designated places in the Singapore Inc system, including "curretly fashionable alternative voices" like Alex Au

>take the New York Times over the Straits Times any day

NYTimes is much more expensive than ST, both in terms of cover price (US$1.50) and the operating cost of the organization; I believe advertising rates of NYTimes are higher but have not looked into the numbers

an average daily issue of NYTimes carries less advertising than ST - Singtel, Starhub and M1, all units of Singapore Inc, regularly take out full page ads offering mobile phones and internet access; financially SPH is in better shape than NYTimes Co (I am a SPH shareholder); it is among the few newspapers in the world that collects money for reading it on the web; NYTimes tried but it did not work

NYTimes's controlling shareholder is Jewish, as are most of its editorial staff; it shows a bias towards liberals, e.g., it chose to pursue a story about McCain's personal relationship with a female lobbyist based on very weak evidence, but ignored reports about John Edwards's illegitimate baby and Obama's past connections; its main difference from ST is a much wider range of commentaries - you can say Paul Krugman and William Safire (he is now retired) represent the left to right boundaries

I buy ST daily, read NYTimes occasionally without paying on the web

Anders said...


I couldn't agree more. What I was trying to say is that the degree of "neutrality" may not be the best measure of media quality. My argument is that diversity is probably more important, since neutrality is elusive and maybe not exactly what we need from media. Of course, diversity assumes that the media has control over its content...

By judging media in terms of neutrality I'm afraid we're only playing into the hands of those who advocate control and censorship, as free media is often not neutral and one would then draw the conclusion that neutrality must somehow be enforced.