25 Apr 2005

Dearth of the practice of good journalism ethics

Below is an email I received after the post regarding the large number ofinfantile blogs in Singapore. It is quoted in full with name and email address removed.

Dear Mr. McDermott

I think you have touched a raw nerve with your post / rant, which garnered the attention it did and did not deserve. I have been following the entries on your site for a while and to give you all the credit, Singabloodypore stands as one of my must-visit blog of the day. At the same time and rate, I visit Mr. Brown's much lauded site just to get my dose of mild political satire and the personal anecdotes. I have an unhealthy disregard for Miss Xiaxue's site and to me, it is the epitome of all things associated with Singapore's future.

No, this is not an useless email to tell you about my like or dislike with regards to arguably Singapore's most popular blogs (their readerships are in the thousands). My email is simply an almost knee-jerk reaction to the comments you spewed about my country's blogosphere as well as the intellectual and not-so-intellectual discussions that came out of it.

I would have thrown in my two cents' worth on this. In fact, if not for restrictions or my paranoia, I would have set up a blog dedicated to the media howlers from Singapore's national rags, and the many about-turns spewed by our political masters in the media. Back in 2001, when blogs were not embraced by masses here, I lamented the lack of mature blogs which aimed to bring about stimulating intellectual discussions on the state of affairs on this island. However, as the local blogosphere was still in its infancy and that there were so many possibilities for growth, I thought patience was the key in waiting for the local scene to develop or mature.

Four years on and many blog awards handed out later, the popularity of superficial blogs (I prefer the word "superficial" to "infantile" to describe majority of blogs by Singaporeans) is there for all to see. The blog scene just has not grown or matured during these four years. While there is a time and place for superficiality, the serious and intellectual aspect of blogging just has not grown. Throughout the
four years I have been around (on the peripheral, I must say), I see many serious bloggers, who wanted to make a difference, die off because of the lack of readership (which stands as a form of support, like it or not). It is very disheartening to see one's efforts at improving the local blogosphere go down the drain as more flock to sites which promises senseless humour and superficial observations on things all around. So, they shake their heads, close their blogs and go the way of the dodo.

I was trained in journalism in Australia during my undergraduate days.\ I was lectured about how journalists had to follow a code of ethics. I was drilled in on the important tenets of being objective. One of the biggest reasons why I have constantly refused to join the local media industry is the dearth of the practice of good journalism ethics. When I have enjoyed all those investigative reporting I did
during those days, why would I want to subject myself to censoring things that I believe I should say and people must know just to please my masters? Then again, the need to earn a living on this island where I feel more like a third-class citizen than a born-and-bred bona fide Singaporean, landed me a job which I hated and effectively denied me the opportunity to be more critical of how the local media scene has made a mockery of what pure journalism is about.

In all, I just want to say that you have done a good job in digging out interesting news stories which possibly would never have made it into the mainstream media. Perhaps this post of yours will draw enough attention for less informed Singaporeans who have been subjected to the shoddy journalism practised by most mainstream reporters and give them more than one perspective on how things are in this little nation.

There must be a need for people to be more well-informed.

Keep up the good work, mate.

Yours sincerely

(Name removed)

14 comments:

The Rational Neurotic said...

I disagree. Although it is extremely "good" to have mature thinking blogs in the Singapore Cyber World, the point of a blog is just its name: a web log. Who are we to be critics of the content?

There is a wide range of Singaporeans blogging, ranging from the young (it is not uncommon for teens to blog) to the elderly. Surely one would blog about what is relevant to their lives! If they do not see politics nor the World's current affairs as their business, it shouldn't be up to us to "tsk tsk tsk".

Once, a Minister told me that if you're 20 and not a leftist, you have no heart. I agree in a certain way that Singaporeans, especially youths, are bred into indifference.

To that reader, I have this to say.. make good use of the education you have, and stop complaining. If you think there are a lack of good blogs, put up one, rather than complain. That's one of the most irritating things people can do without improving themselves. If you can't, then stop judging. Although the readership is important, one of the main reasons of blogging must be the need to express oneself.

To Mr Dermott, your blog is one of the few blogs I visit quite frequently and I must admit I look forward to reading a new post everytime. God Bless.

dks said...

one must differentiate between a personal log (that's plog, not blog) and journalism.

a journalist relies on a different skill set. any idiot can put a website up and start blogging; that's not journalism, not even amateur journalism.

the journalistic ethic of (say it with me) "fair and balanced" reportage is sorely lacking, even in "professional" broadsheets and televised news.

lets turn away from our little island state for a moment and take a peek at our big brother; the USA.

NWC(FOX) v. Akre, 2003.

in brief, a US court of appeal ruled that "the FCC's news distortion policy is not a 'law, rule, or regulation'".

what this means, broadly, is that the while the Federal Communications Commission, which protects the consumers of media messages (otherwise known as the news) by upholding certain standards (like "thou shalt not bear false witness" or "thou shalt not distort the truth") does not have the authority of Law.

it is therefore, perfectly legal to omit, edit or otherwise falsify news.

journalism, even in the free speaking west, is rather a bit of a drag.

with such role models, i have little to say that disparages our media here in singapore.

if our news is slanted or edited to allow our government to come out on top; if our news downplays our government's weaknesses and waxes lyrical on it's successes...

well, i'm glad it's the government that does it, instead of big business.

because at the end of the day, regardless of how much we as singaporeans may loath our stifling political atmosphere, our government has done a reasonable job of putting singaporeans first, and their personal wallets second.

not by much, but at least they try.

so, journalism is a joke all the world over.

bloggers are NOT journalists. they are NOT fair, nor are they required to be balanced.

take this site as an example. mr whatshisface has taken some effort to republish "letters of commendation".

he's certainly neither fair nor balanced. little of what he writes is supported by hard fact.

in fact, one might say he is experessing only opinions... HIS opinions.

pretty much just like every other blogger out there in the murky half-truth of the internet.

so please, if you must hold the singaporean blogger to standards of maturity and a journalistic ethic (which, by the way, is like driving a cart driven by three pigs, a duck and four geese along a himalayan goat path), you might want to first look at how mature and ethical your own reportage has been.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you previously attributed the biased reporting on your blog to the fact that the ST already paints a rosy picture of singapore, hence you are justified in only selecting articles (which are written in a highly biased manner, by the way). You don't present a balanced perspective of arguments, as this person who emailed you lists as a characteristic of good journalism. You present only one perspective, just that it's a different one.

Anonymous said...

Correction: "hence you are justified in only selecting articles (which are written in a highly biased manner, by the way)which talk about the negative aspects of Singapore.

The Rational Neurotic said...

since bloggers are NOT journalists, and not ALL blogs are journals, and yes, most are plogs.. so why should one complain about the "superficial"ness of it all? If the blog was meant to be a journal, then it'll be alright.

I just wanted to point out that blogs are meant for expressing oneself, in whichever topic we deem fit (and legal, of course)

Gilbert Koh said...

I think you people are distracting yourselves. You should try to bear in mind what exactly it is that has caused the recent excitement on Singabloodypore.

If Steve had merely said:

"I think that bloggers' standards in Singapore are rather low. There are very few serious, mature blogs that really discuss important issues. Perhaps this even reflects Singaporeans' thinking in general."

... then no one would have gotten very excited.

However, the recent excitement is caused by Steve's use of the word "infantilism".

He isn't merely saying that you are "superficial", or "shallow" or "not very clever".

He is saying that you are "infantile".

That is what is upsetting people. Some people, at least.

By the way, it's interesting to note that in the email which Steve has proudly reproduced, the writer, while praising Singabloodypore in general, does also comment:

"I prefer the word "superficial" to "infantile" to describe majority of blogs by Singaporeans"

So I don't think that the writer is actually endorsing Steven's view about the infantilism of Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

It's the postmodern waning of affect, people. :)

Molly Meek

Stef said...

Steve, whats the point of posting this "fan mail" of yours? To support your own biased views?

Anonymous said...

"I lamented the lack of mature blogs which aimed to bring about stimulating intellectual discussions on the state of affairs on this island. However, as the local blogosphere was still in its infancy and that there were so many possibilities for growth,...........The blog scene just has not grown or matured during these four years. While there is a time and place for superficiality, the serious and intellectual aspect of blogging just has not grown......"

Don't this point to "infantilism" - the lack of "maturity, serious and intellectual aspect", "infancy"?

I don't think it's a matter of "support" but it's just pure, honest and sincere "facts" and comments the writer has.

"Infantile" but honest Singaporean

dks said...

gilbert said;

If Steve had merely said:

"I think that bloggers' standards in Singapore are rather low. There are very few serious, mature blogs that really discuss important issues. Perhaps this even reflects Singaporeans' thinking in general."


i'd still have objected. is he implying that bloggers ought to have a certain standard? is he implying that blogs that deal with deeply cerebal topics are of a higher standard than blogs that are deeply concerned with the number, and exact location of zits on any given day?

at least the zit-blog, while utterly vapid, is potentially factual in it's entirety (factual, as opposed to pulling hypotheses out of ones arse, like blog-standardization on the maturity-o-meter).

i don't object to the labelling. hell, some blogs ARE infantile, not merely "not that bright"; and not just in singapore either.

but that's the internet for you. that's blogger, and bloggers, and blogging.

i object to the half-arsed notion that simply because we "publish" something on the internet, it should automatically be something worth mr mcdermott's time.

worse, the attempts to associate the state of the local "blogosphere" (who came up with that i wonder), to our political climate.

while that's a perfectly valid observation, he's seen fit to add a value to that observation; it is now a judgement, one made from the point of view of the conservative faux-liberal west (he's a tad left of the right so to speak).

when columbus first set foot on the americas, he bloddy well thought he found india.

the moral of the story is while brown and xiaxue may write in some semi-professional level in our local publications, their blogs remain entirely THEIR blogs, not some extension of journalistic practice.

Canopy said...

Just curious, what do you think of "serious" blogs that don't deal with political issues? E.g. those that deal with literature or art

soci said...

serious or mature does not refer exclusively to politics.

lee hsien tau said...

I rarely make comments on such a topic.

The people who frequent Xiaxue's blog are probably hoping that if they wait long enough, she'll eventually disrobe. I don't think she has the face or height. SarongPartyGirl has disrobed, but her prolific discourse seems rooted to her defence of the lifestyle she has chosen. Well and good, but I find it utterly boring. If you look at porno sites, they just cut the crap and justification and do what they want to do and show what they want to show. Period. End of story.

But one man's meat is another man's poison. There is a malaysian's blog about 'missing toilet paper' and I found it arcane that it should contain comments praising the story. (One Malay commented that he should just use water.)

Then there is a RSS feed that has someone post a question about whether the moon rises at the same place every night. Some intellectuals were offering very interesting arguments about the 'wobble' in the moon's orbit around the earth, that is, until a preacher entered the discussion, and, as was the case with Gaileleo, the discussion turned hilarious.

But I'd rather spend time reading blogs than watch TV. There's been a noticeable spike in propaganda content during ad-time since LHL took over that's nauseating and present in every channel. Nowhere to take cover.

SexualEnhance said...

Interesting blog you have here, I landed here on accident. I like the blog. I was searching for something else and came across your site. I found it pretty interesting and entertaining. I got you book marked.

I will pop back in from time to time to see what you have new here. Feel free to check mine out also zits