It’s that time of the year when the media does a look back and a look forward. On everything from photographs to entertainment to politics – accompanied by predictions of what is to come. On everything, except on themselves or what is expected of them in 2013. At the risk of being accused of pious preaching, here is one news reader’s wishlist for the mainstream media in 2013. Most very do-able. Some already being done some of the time. Here’s to a higher level of journalism!
1. Reject one source stories. By that, I don’t mean merely adding another “voice’’ to the story which says he/she welcomes this or that. I would like to see someone else confirming the news or giving an intelligent facet to the news. By one source stories, I also mean all voices coming from one agency/company/ministry – who are just likely to parrot the same line – or FB and blog postings from individuals that are simply reported without any value added.
2. Expand the list of usual suspects. Aren’t you tired of seeing the same ole people/experts giving comments on issues? Surely there are more academics, economists and political observers around to give a point of view?
3. Reject anonymous comments. You know, recently, there was an article in ST in which a PAP MP who declined to be named (!) gave his views on who could be the next Speaker of Parliament after Palmergate. I can’t believe this! An MP who wants to be anonymous and won’t put his name to what he’s said! Anyways, there are too many “declined to be named” people in the news – and it’s not as though their views (sometimes very innocuous ones) will cost them their jobs or their lives.
4. Get the core story right. I say this because some articles pounce quickly to obtaining reactions or putting in the big picture context without getting the core story right in the first place. You know what I mean, some thing happens and the story morphs quickly into who is at fault or what it might have been instead of just making the news CLEAR in the first place.
5. Bring back explanatory graphics. Nice to have flora and fauna infographics but what about news infographics that explain changes? BT today had a nice graphic on what the US fiscal cliff is all about. Also, what about more charts etc that makes it easier to read numbers? This also means text can be devoted to explaining the implications of the statistics rather than a recital of numbers.
6. Get the corporate hand OUT of the news. I know media companies want to make money and there is always tension between editorial and corporate arms. It’s disconcerting to see pages sponsored by businesses which accompanying editorial that trumpets the business. For some time now, even front pages are being “bought’’. I wonder what Today will do when the hammer comes down on exec condos. For some time now, CityLife@Tampines has been boasting about being the first luxury-hotel style EC on the cover. I hope editorial can keep the advertiser at bay…
7. Steer clear of commentary in the news. Most times, this is adhered to. A news story is a news story and while there might be legitimate analysis or interpretation, there is no outright comment made on the news by the journalist. The thing is, analysis or interpretation should be attributed – unless it’s such a no-brainer that readers would have reached the same conclusion themselves. If not, it will be the news media which is doing the validating or re-affirming – and I don’t think that’s on.
8. Cut down on self-indulgent columns. Unless they are witty, entertaining, make me laugh or cry or offer me an insight I didn’t have, I really don’t know why anyone would want to read about the private lives/habits/quirks/woes etc of a mere 20something, 30something or even 40something journalist. Go blog!
9. Help the reader with “running stories’’. Not everyone follows the news every day and an article really has to be written in its entirety for the fellow who just landed in Singapore. This is true especially for court cases. A “case so far’’ which details what had gone on before would really help the “new’’ reader follow developments.
10. Stop using acronyms in the text of the story. By saying Silver Housing Bonus (SHB) at first mention and then assume readers will remember what SHB stands for when the acronym is used later is really too much to assume. Most times, the readers have to re-read to remember what SHB stands for. Just say bonus plan. Likewise if it’s a company or organisation or association that is unknown, don’t fling acronyms at the reader. The company, the organisation or the association would do. Longer. But clearer.