It’s an open secret to most (at least, most of the cynical and critical online crowd) that the news in The Straits Times, the main English-language newspaper in Singapore, can’t really be trusted 100%. Over the years you hear stories here and there from others as well as your own experiences and these little (and not so little) anecdotes add up to an overall impression which is hard to shake, even if I couldn’t list and detail all my reasons for you as evidence.
However, here’s a recent piece of evidence that seems really, really low to me: ST misrepresenting part-time models.
The Straits Times article paints the girls in a terribly trashy light, like slutty attention whores. That’s completely different from what the girls were expecting– they were explicitly told the article would be about “the dangers of doing free-lance shoots and tips on how to protect yourself” and definitely not about how they like to “show off their sexy side”, which was the title of the article. How ironic, then, as the article has brought them loads of negative attention and online flak. So much for protection. (Screencaps of the conversation between the reporter and the girls and their photographer in the article linked above.)
Recently, there’s been a petition to shut down STOMP, a branch of The Straits Times which features ‘citizen journalism’. More accurately, it’s usually used as a platform where people post videos and pictures of others doing what they deem to be bad behaviour, kind of like a public shaming platform. “Eh better don’t lah, later kenna STOMP” (Better not do it, in case you get posted on STOMP) is a common, half-joking refrain.
There are many things that could potentially bug you about STOMP; the voyeuristic quality of filming others and watching such videos; the petty complaints that get posted as ‘news’ just because this is ‘citizen journalism’; the infringement of privacy with the sometimes secret act of filming or snapping a shot and posting it online; the judging from the sidelines mentality it encourages, where you publicly shame others while remaining anonymous yourself; the mentality of whipping out your camera instead of confronting the individual directly or stepping forward to help.
If all that is not enough to phase you, there’s still the occasional fabricated story and the xenophobia, negativity and cyber bullying it encourages, reasons mentioned by the petition starter. Although the petition has garnered almost 23, 000 signatures to date, MDA (Media Development Authority) gave only a dismissive reply:
“Should you believe that Stomp, together with other class-licensed and individually licensed sites merit stronger regulation, we invite you to propose how the standards should be tightened. Let’s build a healthy online environment together.”
We should propose how the standards should be tightened? You mean, do your job for you? Funny how this is in sharp contrast to how quickly alternative online news sources or political blogs or other independent individuals are taken to task. We certainly weren’t asked for our opinion on how strict the monitoring should be then.
In 2013, Singapore fell 14 places to a record 149th position in terms of press freedom, according to an annual report by non-governmental, international organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB), placing us between Russia and Iraq. In the Freedom of the Press report by Freedom House, Singapore’s press was rated as ‘Not Free’, tied at the 153rd place with Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar. This is what our Prime Minister has to say:
“I have given up that (Reporters Without Borders’ ranking)… I do not take them seriously.”
He pointed out that information flows freely on the Internet and newspapers report the news freely, but also responsibly.
Well done, great example set; when someone gives you feedback you don’t like, simply dismiss and ignore it (that is, if it’s beyond your power to shut it down). Sticking your head in the sand is something certain people seem to be very good at.