Tuesday, May 17, 2005

In other news....

Talking down about journalistic standards

Bloggers being dissed again. Held up to the hallowed standards of the professional journalist, we don't quite match up. *Mr Fluffy sobs*

Honestly though, I don't begrudge them their training and their hard work etc. I'm pretty sure I would be upset if someone assumes that having taken one semester's worth of law that somehow he is as eminently qualified to comment about law as a Senior Counsel (SC).

But the truth is, should I be? I don't blindly worship SCs, and I recognise that even with all their experience, it is entirely conceivable that a law clerk (who are mostly 1st class honours law graduates from NUS :P) knows more about criminal law than an SC who has spent the last 30 years focusing on maritime law.

And this is even more true when the issue is not about law. After all, journalism doesn't automatically make you a doyen of every topic known to human kind. And considering that the ST still talks about manslaughter even though that particular crime does not exist in our Penal Code. Culpable Homicide Not Amounting to Murder does however. So really, elementary fact checking is now no longer an aspect of journalism?

But I think it goes beyond that. Check out Wannabe Lawyer's post for a detailed critique. As well as Pea's response.

My personal quibble with Pea is three-fold.

1. That her response did not adequately answer Han's. After all, what does the fact that the traditional press has different considerations got to do with how journalist are somehow automatically on a higher platform than us poor little bloggers. *Mr Fluffy sniffs again*

Note, the considerations that she lists are:

no editorial constraints
small number of people editing 1 piece
no word limits
no need for advertisers
limited audience (this is the database logic of the Internet - info only goes to pp who search for it)
self-satisfaction and to inform their readers

editorial constraints
word limits/ time contraints for broadcast
mass audience
nation-building tool

2. More importantly, the fact that they have different considerations should not have any impact on the manner in which we judge a piece or the content of the piece. After all why should a lawyer specialising in a particular field not be able to comment on a particular legal issue in that specialist field as adequately as a professional journalist?

In fact, unless the journalist were a lawyer as well, I would probably put more weight on the blogger's analysis than I would the journalist's.

But more pertinently, those very self same considerations could end up stiffling or killing perfectly legitimate stories. Certain magazines have gotten into trouble in our region before and have pulled articles that the powers-that-be have deemed unacceptable. ABC quashed a story about poor working conditions (as well as allegations of child abuse) at Walt Disney World because guess who the parent company was?

And let's not forget the reason why media competition is not seen to be a good thing in Singapore. The common line of argument goes that even where a diversity of views are created, the stories end up sensationalised.

So MAYBE just maybe, the fact that I am not beholdened to an editor or advertisers gives me a vested interest in writing what I think rather than what they tell me to? Or better still, I don't have a 500 word limit in which I have to cram my arguments into a letter to the forum on why Freedom of Speech or Democracy or the Casino is important to Singapore (and still have Today chop it up).

3. Truth and quality. Implicit within the criticisms made is that bloggers are more irresponsible than journalist are. Um....click the links above to see for yourself how true that is.

After all, so what if we are not objective and biased? The point is, we are forthright about it and furthermore since when were op-eds purely objective? The point of op-eds is that they are not. Fact is, I have a credibility to maintain, so I'm hardly going to put out lies consciously. And the blogosphere is probably more self-regulating than traditional media (can you say media consolidation?). I've made mistakes in my post before (see my claim about CZ's blog being hacked), I have been corrected (see comments), I have recanted (see post-script the next day).

Edit: Mr Fluffy takes this opportunity to remind the author that he is technically not a journalist. The author agrees. He has never taken the course in journalism or mass communication. He's more miffed by the fact that it is being insinuated that we don't hold what we write to the 'professional journalist standard' of quality and accuracy. Or simply that because we blog therefore we're on a lower runk.


Pea objects in the comments below to my placing words in her mouth, in particular that I think that she thinks that bloggers are on a lower runk than journalist (though that comment was in my latest post on Journalists' ethical codes and not ascribed to her per se).

Anyway, Mea culpa! That was not my intention *Mr Fluffy promises to chastise the author appropriately* Regardless the point made still stands, that A/P Ang's comment that we don't match up to the standards of the professional journalist implies that our work is more shoddy than a journalist and not simply that we do not have the professional qualifications. I do apologise for reading more into Pea's comment that "What Prof Ang Peng Hwa said was true: bloggers are not pro journalists..." than what she intended to say.



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