Something big happened in Singapore yesterday and it was on the front page of….the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. The kindest thing I can say about MSM here is that they don’t track events as thoroughly as the foreign media. But I know that’s a lie. So we have to read foreign versions of what happened in Singapore, filed by wire agencies and other publications. Or you get bits and pieces of what happened through social media and YouTube clips. I would have liked a comprehensive report on what the speakers said done by professionals who have a stake in this country’s future.
But I, a Singapore citizen, didn’t get it.
I suppose MSM found themselves in a tough position. There’s some OB marker somewhere they can’t cross, or won’t cross. So there was a piece in the Sunday Times which summed up the event. Bare bones. Not even a Page 1 picture. The organisers of the Say No to Population White Paper said 5,000 people attended, reported ST, which also cited AFP’s 1,000 to 1,500. The police, whom the MSM usually relies on for the definitive crowd size, said they didn’t monitor the crowd size yesterday. Unbelievable! Anyway, if ST could have quoted AFP, then it could well have come up with its estimate of crowd size – which it didn’t.
But why quibble about crowd size? It’s enough that it’s sizeable, and filled Hong Lim Park on a rainy day. And it was about a political issue. Finally, Hong Lim Park seems to be living up to purpose it was set up for a long, long time ago. Not just a forlorn place with a speaker every couple of months or so talking to a couple of people, but a place for civilised discussion and civil action.
That so many people turned up (who says Singaporeans are apathetic) over something so close to people’s hearts that even Parliament had tried to resolve makes this big news. Yet I see a constrained/restrained MSM. It is as disheartening as the label that the MSM did NOT attach to those Chinese SMRT bus drivers – that they were on strike, whether legal or illegal. It is as befuddling as the way MSM handled Professor Wolfgang Lutz’s assertions earlier this week that we got the ideal TFR all wrong. While it was still top news in ST, it was stuck at the bottom of the page.
What would have made my Sunday reading experience even worse is if they had ignored the Financial Times article on the mysterious death of American Shane Todd. A friend actually said it would not see the light of day in MSM because the incident crossed national boundaries and indicated sloppy police work. I replied that MSM would have no choice but to “recover’’ the story given that it’s gone viral.This wasn’t just a blog post that can be dismissed; it looked like investigative reporting done by the much respected FT. MSM did, with a police statement calling for evidence to be turned over, although I wonder what MSM would have done if the police declined comment…
Go buy my ex-boss’ book, OB Markers, if you want to know more about the relationship between The Straits Times and the Government. Mr Cheong Yip Seng gave away a lot of secrets, ending his book on a bright note – that things can only get better with more information forthcoming in the light of a better-educated audience and the internet.
I’m beginning to think he might be wrong.
You know, it’s popular online to rant about the inadequacies of the MSM, a pity since on most news fronts that do not involve the G, they do a decent enough job. It doesn’t help that newspapers’ premium news articles are behind a paywall, because those who have a bias against the MSM will simply NOT subscribe. While there are business considerations for the paywall, I firmly believe that restricting access is not good for any messenger. While the MSM might make more money, they are not going to be able to raise their profile or reputation for good reporting and writing behind a wall. Interesting conundrum.
I know from reading Nielson reports that most people still rely on MSM for their news. The trust level is high.
This is a sacred trust.
It shouldn’t be eroded by downplaying news that runs against the so-called national narrative.
It would be a pity would be if more and more people treat MSM the way the G is increasingly being treated – that they can’t be trusted. So you don’t just have one institution in trouble, but two.
You wouldn’t read about this though in the MSM.