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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Signals from Singapolitics

For some reason, The Straits Times hasn’t made a big hooha over its Singapolitics page on its website. If it did, I missed it…and I couldn’t have because I know how ST can really blow its own trumpet since I’ve done it so many times before for the paper. I can only guess at the reasons:
1. It doesn’t quite know how to introduce the page in its print edition. I mean, what you do online, you can do in print no? So how to say this? Or is it a space problem, like why some Forum letters go online?
2. It thinks it will be less constrained online than in print, in terms of allowing less politically acceptable but still reasonable views to surface. In other words, testing OB markers might be easier here.
3. It wants to try to move away from the view that it is a Government mouthpiece by using another platform that is not so identified with its conservative print self. (Think STOMP – not very ST-like at all).
4. It wants to take away the space from bloggers and netizens who looked intent on owning political discussion in Singapore.
5. Too much publicity will tempt rabid netizens from descending on the page and tearing it apart before it has a chance to take off. (Hey, sooner or later, people will know lah)
In other words, the print version will remain its old self but online, it will adopt a slightly different, slightly younger, persona. So you can have Tan Cheng Bock and Opposition politicians etc have their say in the space. And if something it thinks is worthwhile (in whatever sense) is written online, it can always be published in print for the readers who do not trawl the Internet everyday. I wonder if that’s why the Saturday Insight pages seem to be anchored by outside writers these past few weeks. The regular journalists are too busy I suppose updating the online page…
Anyway, I think the page is a good idea. The online world needs a platform for moderate voices that are more centrist yet willing to challenge the norms. There is a “moderator’’ who edits out the immoderate comments and I am sure some people will take issue with this and the usual charges of censorship will arise. I have no problems with this, so long as moderation is of the light touch variety. In any case, those who claim to have been “moderated out’’ can always re-post their full unvarnished comments on other sites. Likewise I am sure conspiracy theorists will allege that this is a ploy to keep dissent under control. Some kind of subtle, nefarious, far-sighted agenda to “convert’’ the online space. (You know, some people think the same way about my blog…and I am so tickled every time I read this!)
Now it has called for readers to say what kind of Singapore they want to the PM. Feels like an Ask Me Anything – Obama-style. Except that the media remains the channel, the middleman. This is critical methinks given that politicians are reaching out to the people via online tools. The mainstream media risks being bypassed in any kind of conversation, national or not.
In fact, on a related point, I have mixed feelings about the media picking up from politicians’ Facebook and blog postings. Sometimes the MSM picks up wholesale, nary adding a thing to their article. It’s like printing a better written press release (since politicians are likely to use their own words, rather than bureaucratese). There’s like some kind of race among the media to make sure very little bit is picked up – whether it’s news worthy or not. Even politicians’ FB postings should be assessed – and questioned. Is Law Minister K Shanmugam merely floating a kite when he talks about a legal framework to settle neighbour disputes? Or is this going to be policy? Did the MSM need Shanmugam to write about bad road manners first, before doing a piece? Is Lawrence Wong’s comments about Singapore needing a big heart and the anecdotes he cites really so newsworthy? Journalists can just go to any Meet-the-People session and talk to people there to find out first-hand what they are saying to their MPs, rather than publish second-hand comments from MPs who decide to post on FB etc.
Anyway, I digress. Go read the Singapolitics page. At least, got first-hand material.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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