Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

That $400,000 fine

In News Reports, Writing on May 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm

The number $400,000 stood out in today’s papers, for being the record fine slapped ON SingTel. (I am so pleased that no paper wrote that SingTel was slapped WITH a $400,000 fine! Yay!) A big deal was made about it being a record. But numbers mean nothing without a context. It’s a record but is it high? The maximum is $1m. One possible indication is what had been slapped ON M1 for its outage last May – $300,000 – which it is appealing against. But the reader doesn’t have enough points of comparison. How long did that M1 outage last? Affecting how many people? I suppose if I wanted to, I could dig up the old stories to get a better idea. But hey, I am a reader. I have no time to do these background checks! So in comparison to M1, was SingTel heavily penalised or not?

On numbers again, the Home page on SMS use declining. Thing is, I have read this story before. It’s not new. Unless you want to grab hold of a new (I think) number and make a song and dance of it. IDA’s March figure for SMS is 2.2 billion, down from 2.3 billion in December, and 2.46 billion in September. Sets me thinking – just chart the figures. There’s definitely space on the page for it.

Maybe the article should have been more forward looking and deal with the telcos’ plans to counter the trend, especially what they are doing on the mobile data front which took up the bottom bit of the story.

On numbers again or maybe not quite – about Singapore slipping down the competitive slope. Last few pars in the ST story talks about how “open and positive attitudes” ranked near the bottom among executives here. What’s this? What are they referring to? Business culture? Unquestioning subordinates? Bad bosses? Resistance to change? I would so love to know…

Loaded headlines

In News Reports, Writing on May 30, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Now now…there’s really no need for ST to make such a point about a listening G…. I am referring to the Page 1 headline on Government answers call to ease COE crunch. If there’s a need for intepretation, stick it in the body of the story and have someone say it. But in the headline? I think readers would rather have the news of WHAT was going to be done to increase the supply. Stick to the news – can’t go wrong that way.

BT did it better going with COE cuts pushed back to ease crunch. Straight news headline. And frankly, in the telling of the story, I thought TNP did it best with its More COEs as LTA makes three changes. Readers were helpfully told in the deck above that all this will take place from August. The three changes were highlighted and each tagged with a “What it means”. Idiot-proof! I like it!

Another loaded headline in ST was New MP hits the ground running in Hougang. I mean, should he hit the ground walking? Why not just say what Png is doing than subject readers to a loaded cliche? Another loaded cliche headline in the Home pages about 700 jobs “up for grabs”. I certainly hope the jobs were “grabbed” at the end of the fair or will employers still be faced with a long list of vacancies?

Cemetery Section 3

In News Reports, Writing on May 30, 2012 at 8:10 am

I realised there were a couple more things I missed out in Sections 1 and 2. So here they are. More to do with behaviour than anything else. Of the “irate” kind. ..I mean, As usual, my disclaimer, nothing wrong with using them. But man, oh man, can we see more originality?

Raised eyebrows.

I raise my eyebrows every time I read about people raising their eyebrows. So useful the phrase…Can mean anything from “Ohhh. What a surprise…” to “What in heaven’s name is happening here?!” But too many people seem to be raising eyebrows that they’re apt to remain permanently stuck like a bad face lift.


Nobody gets fazed by anything this days. So he is “unfazed”. This does not “faze” him. I guess its a substitute for worry? Upset? Rankled? Irritated? Take your pick.

Pop the champagne

Usually used in the negative sense as in…it is not time to pop the champagne. I always imagine the HDB heartlander on reading about some goodish (can be quite bad)  news going to his non-existent cellar and bringing out his Dom Perignon. Enough to make me drown in my beer

Scheming away…

In News Reports, Writing on May 30, 2012 at 12:13 am

I am scheming to get the word scheme excised from ST. It appeared so often in today’s Page 1 that I wonder if some inside joke is being perpetuated. After all, the SCHEME was to get more foreign LAWYERS into Singapore. (It’s okay if you don’t get it) And the SCHEME, by the way, stemmed from some high-level committee’s report. I can just imagine a bunch of shadowy people in a dark room conspiring to import others who will come up with yet more schemes ….!

And while I am at it, what’s with the use of the present tense in the Page 2 story on Hiring crunch easing? More importantly, I wasn’t sure what the story was about. Is it easing or not? One survey says so but others poured cold water over it – not enough job creation, outsourcing and there’s even a fellow who said he turned to foreigners to fill jobs. So is it a good picture of employment? A credible survey? What’s the bottomline?

Media bias

In News Reports, Politics on May 29, 2012 at 11:58 pm

I am glad that The Straits Times editorial yesterday has prompted Low Thia Khiang to elaborate on his charges of media bias during the coverage of the Hougang by-election. I have never like unsubstantiated allegations – and actually wondered why ST would even print pot shots. I suppose if it didn’t, then the charge would again be of prejudice…But people who throw stones should be clear at what they are aiming at. So Mr Low Thia Khiang now elaborates. It had to do with a picture of himself, Sylvia Lim and Png Eng Huat looking grim, with the headline WP faces allegations of dishonesty.

Pictures and headlines have always been biggest complaints of newsmakers. They and their fans will of course prefer that a flattering picture was published. I guess a better picture in their view would be of the three sharing a light-hearted moment? If so, the reader will be asking if the WP is taking the allegations seriously. And it definitely WAS. Then it comes to whether the headline was accurate. It could have gone the other way I suppose with WP clarifies Png’s NCMP remarks, as Mr Low seems to suggest? I think the brickbats would be hurled from the other side as the complaint would be that it wasn’t really a clarification. Which is why headline writing is such a skill and the safest route for a sub-editor to take is to write what is known as a “label” headline – unfocused, ambiguous. So maybe a headline like : PAP and WP lock horns on Png’s NCMP comments…or WP responds to PAP charges.

Lest people think that only the opposition complains about headlines, well, the PAP does too but maybe not as publicly. I don’t know about this by-election or even the last general election, but I’ve had to face the ire of PAP heavyweights who complain about unflattering pictures or supposedly misleading headlines during past polls or the amount of acreage given to the opposition. Yes, the PAP complains too about media bias.

It’s no fun being in the traditional media especially during election time. (Some coffeeshops won’t even serve you when the laoban hears that you’re a journalist; you get sworn at; you take notes at rallies next to some policemen…) I sometimes tell the younger journalists distressed at how their profession is being taken down that we must be doing something right if BOTH sides complain.

I maintain that the mainstream media did a pretty job of covering the elections fairly. You can see that pages are split down the middle between PAP and WP, and reporting is so carefully calibrated so as to give each side equal space. Its a by-election, only two parties – it’s the right thing to do.

Thank you Mr Low for expanding on your charge and ST for its reply. As Mr Low said, let’s leave it to the readers to judge.

Set-top setback

In News Reports, Writing on May 29, 2012 at 11:35 am

Frankly, I thought the biggest news of the day was the demise of the universal set-top box that had been so so hyped. Today and BT had the story on Page 1 but ST went instead with Bidadari turning into a housing estate. I guess the attraction is an ex-cemetery for the dead turned into homes for the living? Then again, as ST said, Bishan had led the way.

A pity I think since ST did a good job on the set-top box fiasco (which is not even a lead and put on Page 6!) – if it is read together with the Opinion piece by its Technology correspondent. (now why wasn’t this packaged together coz it had looked as tho ST intended P2 and 3 to look like one package of stories in its revamp/refresh…or given up?) In any case, Irene Tham was pretty good at backgrounding the proposal, and more importantly, catalogueing Government-led efforts to get one standard set of hardware for banking and payment by cellphones. Now I wait with bated breath to see if the cellphone payment platform will come through – supposed to be mid this year. SOON. She made a good point: maybe the private sector should lead the way technology-wise than by Government fiat.

Also, she was the only journalist who referred to the cross-carriage regulations – which compels pay-TV operators to carry some of each other’s content – and how this might really render the one set-top system moot. What I wish I had more of was the one Japanese success at this set-top box. BT had some reference to it.

Had a look at how Today ran the story – and again, I was disappointed. So much fodder for a real edgy story and it turned out bland, bland, bland.

Yesterday’s revamped Today

In News Reports, Writing on May 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm

I’m glad Today had a re-design. You don’t need Roger Black to update that old, old drab look. Gosh! How much was he paid??? Well, Today looks more elegant, very clean, nice typography. I liked those small break-out boxes. Today looks younger.

But as Walter himself said content is king, and on this front, I am disappointed. Today reads…..omigawd, like The Straits Times! I guess it was the choice of stories – commodity news. And that much vaunted Today edge in its writing doesn’t appear to be in evidence. Where’s the scoop? I saw one – NBA eyeing Singapore that was blurbed on Page 1. But nothing else that made me sit up nor set me thinking.

Newspapers have an uphill task, yes. A small newspaper (and whatever Today might say, it IS a smaller paper serviced by a smaller newsroom than ST) has to distinguish itself in some way from the rest. Whether by choice of stories, scoops, a clear approach to how it would angle its stories, writing style, a definite editorial slant on how it sees news.

But its Day 1 content gives no indication.

It is pretty weak – the Hougang election day-after, the Bishan NIMBY issue, the Ferrari-Lexus accident…I had hoped to see more original content fronting the sections like Technology, Management – but they are wire pick ups. The Comment and Analysis pages were from NYT, FT and Daily Telegraph. Nothing wrong with that. People won’t have the time to turn to foreign papers and a free paper doing the job for them is a good thing. A lot would then depend on the choice of stories – here, its the Facebook IPO (everybody’s saying something about it), Didier Drogba and the US elections. Wish there was a guest columnist writing a piece on something in Singapore….

Its Business pages have never been much to look at. And Today might do better to decide on scoping it even smaller. You can’t possibly do company news, macro-economics, property etc from both local and front in two pages! I was interested to see the new page Management – because I don’t think any newspaper here serves the working person and his workplace issues well enough….It was a piece on productivity from Harvard and syndicated by NYT. But nevertheless, foreign copy.

Maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe Today wants a “global” approach. So I shouldn’t be looking for local, original content. One sign is how China and India have their own pages…and our backyard Malaysia etc is now grouped under World. So China and India are more important to Singapore than its neighbours? Interesting…

I’m hoping that Today will do an ST. ST’s first day revamp wasn’t much as well…but its Saturday issue was glorious! Maybe today’s Today will be much better.

Go buy TNP

In News Reports, Society on May 27, 2012 at 11:56 pm

If you haven’t got a copy of today’s TNP, go buy quickly before it runs out. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve seen a sexy barely-there news picture on the front cover that isn’t posed. I’m not showing it here because I’m hoping you go raise TNP’s circulation…

But that poor woman and her wardrobe malfunction a la Janet Jackson! In front of a crowd somemore. The TNP photographer must have had his lens trained on her for some time, to get a sequence of pictures of the trouble she was in before her top slipped off! . The poor woman must be really devastated to have herself captured on film. I wonder at the fellows at MCS who dressed her though. That top should have been better secured, taped to the skin or something…

I’m glad she wasn’t named and that her face was pixellated. It’s the right thing to do. But I’m wondering at the un-named people in this story about investors crying foul over $10million start-up

Nobody was named, not a single investor “because they were embarassed”, not the Singapore stockbroker who brokered the deal or the Hong kong guy behind it. Not even the company. Yet police reports were made. A picture had the name of the company blanked out…I guess ST was trying to protect itself? If it’s not a scam then it risks being sued? But isn’t it enough to confirm that Commercial Affairs Department is investigating this XX company on allegations of some kind of fraud. I mean, that’s the truth isn’t it? As for those investors, which included a former MP, put your name to your case….or it just seems you are using the media to “lobby” your cause.

Fuzzy about GSS buzz

In Money, News Reports on May 27, 2012 at 12:43 am

I was in town on Thursday afternoon and wondering why I was fighting my way through Takashimaya. Then it dawned on me that it was the day before the launch of the Great Singapore Sale. Early birds had landed to catch the worm, except that there weren’t many worms to be caught.

So ST was right in saying that many retailers were giving the event a miss in its Saturday edition. The question is why? There were two reasons cited – insufficient inventory and directions from parent company on timing of sales etc. Some rather more fundamental questions should be asked: What does the Singapore Retailers Association, which organised the event, say about this lack of numbers? We have a lame response of how the role is simply to generate a marketing buzz and it can’t be helped if other retailers have their own sales times.

Here are more questions.

How many stores participated last year, and are doing so this year? While there were figures on how many stores out of a total taking part, there was no year-on-year comparison. For all you know, there could be even fewer last year…

Which stores took part last year and decided not to this year? Why? Not much money brought in?

What is the SRA doing differently this year that could account for the (presumably)  smaller number? Later start to the organisation of the sale? Does it levy some kind of joining fee? What are the incentives for stores to take part?

Where is the Singapore Tourism Board in all this? Terrible to say there is a sale and have disappointed foreigners who come down expecting a big deal.

And how come SRA’s president, Jannie Chan, didn’t even list her own Hour Glass as a participant? She has no faith in her own event? How can others follow when the SRA does not lead?

In fact, that would be how I would have started the story – that even the president of the Singapore Retailers’ Association, which organises the current GSS, did not have her store take part in the sale.

Hougang’s choice Part 2

In News Reports, Politics on May 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I was interested to read my ex-colleague Chua Mui Hoong’s piece on how Hougang’s choice is not reflective of general voter sentiment. Hougang is “special”. Then again, the same was said about Potong Pasir. As is always the case, numerous political commentators are at the fore, dissecting the results of the by-election, and speculating at what the WP/PAP did right/wrong over the past nine days.

I’ve given up trying to make sense of voter sentiment. I know of people who have made up their minds before any election and people who change their minds in the voting booth. Contending political parties will read the vote their own way. They will say in public what would be in the party interest; behind closed doors ..who knows? Some kind of post-mortem is likely to get underway and while Low Thia Khiang won’t say much about investigating the Secret Squirrel leaks (he said he had no resources to do so!) or Poh Lee Guan’s stunt before Nomination Day, I can bet any amount that the WP will be tightening discipline and closing party loopholes.

Because if the WP doesn’t, the PAP can simply play the waiting game. Its patience appeared to have won over Potong Pasir voters. That, as well as Mr Chiam See Tong’s inability to build up a party infrastructure for the future. So when Mr Low gets much older and more tired, will Hougang still remain in Hougang’s hands? Seems like the WP will have to be more than a one-man show or Hougang will go the way of Potong Pasir.

In any case, I congratulate WP for winning the Png Pong match in Hougang. As for the PAP, there’s always a next time.