Tuesday, August 29, 2006

missing the heart of the problem

After 3 years of studying in the School of Communication and Information, I have lost my idealism in the line of work which I have been preparing myself academically for. It may have been because I had a rather ridiculous self-imposed ideal of journalism, objectivity and the search for truth – that here was something more than a trade – but rather a profession whose primary duty was to bind the human conscience and make us accountable for ourselves – from the most noble to the most depraved of deeds ever done with human hands.

But is my work truly making a difference? Are the business needs of pandering to the audience as espoused in the news values of proximity, relevance, human interest pushing aside the things that we ought to cover? And timeliness – that everything ought to be taken merely as a fleeting glance in the public eye – that people grow bored and tired of focusing on the same things and seek solace in finding some new distraction… is modern society’s greatest evil and we help to maintain it.

We come, we film the carnage or the disaster, we show it to the world, they get a knee-jerk reaction, they send help, it dies down and things go back to the way they were.

We failed to address the root of the problem.

Corrupt governments remain. Regimes that suppress human rights stay propped up. Economic poverty stays. Curtails on freedom continue.

We need political intervention and change of policy!

When we select our representatives in government we always ask: what’s in it for us?

Few ‘modern first-world’ governments dare risk the political capital and potential economic drawbacks of giving up their hold and positions of privilege in order to pursue principles of ensuring the well-being of their fellows around them. Can we blame them? They hold the values we hold.

I’m not saying advocacy journalism is futile. It is noble and has produced much fruit and those who believe whole-heartedly in a duty to document and record events ought to carry on their good work. Its immediacy and impact to shock the public conscience is unprecedented in our modern age. I’m just saying that, while it has a potential and does make a difference – the human conscience can still be numbed, distracted, and swayed and selfishness can still prevail and when that happens we ourselves risk being voyeuristic spectators to inhumanity and the newsmen and news companies exploiters of our fellow man’s misery.

Friday, August 25, 2006

entertainment license needed at government events?

The case of the missing cockles

where got 'hum' ?

I had so much respect for PM I found myself actually asking people if they really did serve mee siam with cockles in places I'd never been before...

1 person actually told me yes... (it was dz)

Most said PM was trying to be sarcastic in responding to Bak Chor Mee... but... Bak Chor Mee really IS served with liver... but to reply.... mee siam mai hum... an ingredient that doesn't exist in the dish in the first place.... is rather... inconsistent rather than sarcastic right?.... Just sounds... ridiculous... like dog without wings.

Unless he wanted us to laugh at his mistake rather than his rebuttal at mr brown...

First peanuts. Then Mee Siam Mai Hum. Could there be some other reality out there?

The case of the newspaper that transformed cockles into chilli

I got wind of this one from my dad who's working overseas... apparently the ST publishes PM's speech the next day and "mai hum" transforms into "mai hiam" (no chilli)

Did we all hear the PM wrongly? Those who have missed the important part please check it for yourself at mr brown's location...

Is the ST helping to cover-up for that rather illogical boo-boo on the PM's part? Why are they doing this? I mean, there's no threat to be had from publishing that the PM made a rather weird but nevertheless innocent mistake... and they still wanna help him pre-empt any possible loss of face for him.... Why can't they just publish facts and simply NOT publish things which are 'contrary to public order and stability'.... why change the facts... and pretend half of Singaporeans had their ears clogged up...

Why ST Why?

and after some ppl complain about why ST didn't report things as they had happened, the PMO comes out into the open: He meant... LAKSA... mai..... (ok nobody really cares anymore) ......

why don't I read ST anymore?


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

thinking aloud - the tudung thing

Are the charges of facism brought up by Berita Harian Malaysia tenable? It's hardly facism... but it got me thinking about the whole headdress thing... Shouldn't people have freedom of dress over themselves?

note: I agree that to expect OTHERS to dress according to your standards is wrong... like the demand for ALL female students at a Malaysian University not to wear sleeveless etc etc...

uniformed services are a different matter... its part of the job... but anyway, even in the ARMY Sikhs are allowed not to wear their beret (which is a standard part of the uniform) and Sikh motorcyclists don't wear helmets that are required by law... and yet female Muslims will be refused state-sponsored education because they are not allowed to wear their religious head-dress... is this a double standard I'm seeing?? Or a lack of political clout on the part of the Malay-Muslim community? Equality ought to be a matter of principle... not just who manages to muscle in...

don't be thrown off by the red-herring that the Muslim girls in question during the case had not reached puberty yet... this no-headdress policy is in force in all government schools including secondary level as well where puberty begins... it appears that there are cases where they are actually allowed to wear headdress but its typically done on the quiet... official stance is no headdress allowed as far as I know. It's too overt and not part of the school uniform.

I understand that the headdress requirement is not compulsory in all interpertations of Islam but then again its not really the state's business to go about standardising any particular religion right? Apparently the wearing of headscarf is at least preferred... so don't people with such convictions have their right too?

isn't freedom of religious expression guaranteed? (and wearing a headdress could hardly be construed to be a threat to public order to any reasonable person - a matter in which then the state according to its role would need to prevent)

How are we going to achieve mutual understanding and harmony if we alienate our fellow citizens in such a manner?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Truth according to pz: Truth is something you refuse to see and hear

Take us Father by Thy hand
and lead us to that fair land
Where joy shall not pass away

From danger keep us free
and our Comforter be
Lest we stray from the narrow way

Sojourning on and on
You're all we lean upon
For God He never shall fail

Take us Father by Thy hand
and lead us to that fair land
That place just beyond the vale.

That hope in Christ... so precious for us helpless souls... Keep Him in your thoughts always

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

freedom of expression?

What is freedom of expression?

Let's just engage in a theoretical discussion about what that would mean. 'Free' is a term to be used in a manner that you have to be 'free' of 'something'. It is not an attribute or state in and of itself like one says an apple is 'red'.

An apple could be 'red' but expression needs to be 'free' of 'something'

Some of you may see what this is leading to - even if we can be 'free' in our expression from government, as we have so far discussed - we are still not 'free' of many other factors - like money (money being more or less equated with power in modern society - airtime and services of media professionals aint cheap) and agendas (as Alexis pointed out). Newspaper reporters and news selection criteria themselves suffer from biases - as we already know.

Sidetrack - As journalists we ourselves have to grapple with these all the time as we select and present information. To be fair we ought to have disclaimers (eg for ST: You guys know who our shareholders are, so take what we say with a pinch of salt) but more often than not, sometimes mainstream press tends to pretend, and the rest of the population just believes, that they're presenting the objective viewpoint from nowhere and in a totally neutral manner.

So its hard to see how expression could be free of everything.

Even if - for argument's sake - all these market distortions were removed and all information and possible viewpoints were presented to the public equally, apart from suffering a bad dose of information overload, could the public freely judge for itself and sift through all this information? (Let's not talk about the standards against which people make these judgements for now - that's a matter of personal worldviews, values and personal ethics)

First of all, the members of the public would not be able to judge freely because they would still not be free of ignorance.

For instance, is it worthwhile for a layman to be exposed to the different medical positions on how HIV is transmitted? It would at best cause confusion, or worse, result in the adoption of activities that may increase the possibility of infection as empirical scientific medical research may have statistically proven. This is why journalists seek expert opinions on matters requiring in-depth knowledge and understanding and present the most reliable information.

Secondly, the public would still not be free of their own personal biases and social conditioning.
People will always have prejudices and stereotypes about anything deemed alien or unknown to them. Someone who hasn't studied much of Middle Eastern history, politics and sociology probably isn't going to be able to make a good decision on whether to send soldiers there and if so on which side.

And as history has shown, many people, even journalists ourselves, are guilty of being presumptious, jumping to conclusions, following the herd mentality and just not being critical enough about the things we see and yet pretending we already know all that there is to know.

So, people too can't freely discern for themselves what's true or not...

I'm sorry if this sounds very long-winded and sidetracked... but my point is that unless we define 'freedom' to be 'freedom from government' only... we risk deluding ourselves that we can be free from everything and hence espouse that mythical 'view from nowhere'....(objectivity?)

Of course, if you think the more viewpoints espoused means we get closer to the truth then every view from everywhere (omniscience) would be required.

(article till this point reproduced from CS401 media ethics discussion on freedom of expression)
God is the ultimate journalist. That's why He's able to pass judgement!


My 2cents - hope you enjoyed it.