Mainstream media and especially traditional print media have been getting quite a fair bit of flak recently. Detractors termed them “government mouthpiece”, while those more hard-hitting would say “government stooge”. Straits Times’ Chief Editor, Warren Fernandez, did the paper no favours when he recently decided that one way to fund the supply of newspapers to 1000 underprivileged families was to auction off a donated Volkswagen car. Sounds good until everyone pointed out to him and say, hey u print tens if not hundreds of thousands of copies everyday so what’s the big deal about helping out folks with free subscriptions?! Others were more devious when they accused him spreading government propaganda! Hahaha!
ST is like a 30 years old car, in fact, it is older than that. It needs a renewal and an overhaul. Its market strategy as a nation-building tool faces strong headwind as it continues to lose young readers to online news both local and foreign. Imagine a young Singaporean not reading local news at all, he could read all the USA dailies, participate in their cyberspace discussion and pretend to be living in California while influencing his friends to vote for Obama this November. Or a youth only reading Temasek Times and Tremeritus. Wonder how would they turn out?
Not that ST, TNP or TODAY is inaccurate, but because of the variety of views that Singaporeans now have, SPH and Mediacorp with its (government) baggage can no longer claim to be representative of the majority of the views out there. Hence, we have a situation where online news and opinions are flourishing because there is no offline newspaper to represent these views. Traditional print media in Singapore can only be so diverse (not much) due to its symbiotic relationship with the government, its ownership, and history. In fact, ironically, mainstream media can be argued to divide Singaporeans with its (narrow) views and epistemology as it pursue its goal of nation-building.
Recently, newly minted MP for Hougang, Mr Png Eng Huat, took a swipe at My Paper and Zaobao for reporting that he had closed 8 companies insinuating that he was a dishonest businessman. Several weeks after the elections, Mr Png disclosed that out of these 8 companies, 4 were registered during the course his work at NTUC where he was made director of these companies. Another company had no links to him. He made good restitution to the remaining 3 companies that he closed.
I couldn’t help but to wonder why he would not disclose these during the campaign period when he had adequate time to do so? He did not trust mainstream media with this information or he did not want to argue down this path with mainstream media as Workers’ Party do not have links to a traditional print newspapers that could echo his views? But on the other hand, the mainstream media does have its fare share of fans like Melanie Ong despite all the brickbats it gets online.
Anti-ISA event That We May Dream Again
Honestly, not that many Singaporeans care about the ISA. Like me, Singaporeans are mostly concerned with bread and butter issues like housing, transport and education. So I was quite surprised when ST actually carried the news that the event has been postponed from 19th May to 2nd June due to the Hougang By-Election. I thought this was the most fantastic publicity that the event could get no matter how active it was online. ST is after all has a higher readership as compared to TOC, Publichouse and Teo Soh Lung’s FB.
And I was equally surprised when ST gave a decent sized article covering the event on its 3rd June edition. Of course, it is not as comprehensive as this or this, but hey the crowd at any condo launch and at an esplanade concert was definitely more larger than the event. And this would go a long way in bringing awareness to the the Marxist Conspiracy and the efforts of the various groups. Much more people read the ST than attend the event.
But as they say, you can’t please everyone. Prominent local blogger Andrew Loh of Publichouse.sg argued that it was wrong of ST to use Marxist Conspiracy without quotation marks (“marxist conspiracy”) as those arrested were never charged in court. He was also unhappy with use of the word ‘suspected’ rather than ‘alleged’. Finding bones in eggs? I personally thought that the article was quite balanced as one could easily read and understand there are differences between the govt and the former detainees and activists. Considering how pro-govt ST can be, I think the coverage was actually pretty decent. Anyway, shall leave it to the readers to judge.
So there, the verdict is out. No matter what ST does or reports, it is increasingly not being seen as a representative of citizens as we become more diverse (and divisive?). Maybe some ex-journalists with the dough should come out and start a more left-leaning (not leftist) socialist newspaper. Or maybe some local tycoon would sponsor such a meaningful project. It would go a long way in helping build social capital and kick start the process of meaningful public debate. And if that day comes, I hope the govt would approve the license. But if this would to happen, it might also mean that alternative online views would lose some of their appeal.
postscript: I was quite surprised when TNP gave a huge space to report how Mr Brown lost and found her daughter, Faith. No offense to Mr Brown, many people lose their kids (normal and special) everyday for a few hours. But then again, it’s TNP.