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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Back to Blogging

Hello! I’m back. So what should I talk about? The news – or the lack thereof?

I suppose I can continue writing the way I used to write for The Middle Ground – temperate, moderate and with a disinclination (most times) to emote. It’s a disciplined process of fact-gathering, checking and rational analysis. Now I’m back to blogging…which gives me leeway to rant (!) and rave (!) since I don’t have to worry about bringing the entity (and other people) into trouble! So fun!

Okay, I’m joking, more or less. Some habits die hard. This space is not going to be that much different from TMG, except that I’ll probably get frillier and fluffier. I have learnt to my great dismay that people prefer the sort of stuff which takes me five minutes to write. And you can even make money off them!

In TMG, we were worried about image and personality. We didn’t want to be seen as schizophrenic, writing clickbait stuff, listicles as well as pontifications and sermons.

But this is MY blog, and I seriously don’t much care about my image. Just know that it’s from me, I and myself. Take it or leave it! There!

Now that my arrogant acclamation is over, what WILL I write about?

It will still be about the news and what I think needs greater dissemination. I am thinking of packaging a morning round-up, much like I do now on my Facebook page. I want to do this because I am aghast at how people don’t think it necessary to keep up with important developments. I wrote dozens of columns over several months, for example, on the implications of a reserved elected presidency, but too many people only woke up to the fact that they will have only a choice of Malay candidates when the poll was called. In the end, there was just one choice. Or, no choice.

It looks to me like I should have written those columns with a view to making it a meme. Or it should be absolutely one-sided, like websites which shall not be named

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Something with headlines like this…

a. Are you happy that you will be voting for a Malay (and only a Malay) for president? (Oh dear! I am stirring up trouble…)
b. Did you know that OTC is NOT Singapore’s first elected president? (How dare I suggest that our sovereign parliament was not right to pick Wee Kim Wee!)
c. How can Tan Cheng Bock lose his court case to have OTC as Singapore’s first elected president? (I think I have steered clear of contempt of court)
d. Yeah! It’s Halimah! (That should be safe…)

It’s unfortunate that people prefer extreme ideological positions articulated emotionally – and in short order. Conspiracy theories are much easier to grapple with than contextualization. Yet a method must be found to shake citizens out of apathetic inertia and to think deeper about what affects us now and in the future. (The irony is that some people will say this line applies to that 70 per cent, while the 70 per cent will go hear! Hear!)

If a 10-things-you-should-ask/know will do the trick, then why not? It will, however, take supreme journalistic skills to condense a weighty issue into 10 short and, hopefully funny, points. That’s why most posts add hyper-links for the full story – which most people don’t read.

I will, nevertheless, try here under 5Ws and 1 H.

So let’s say this is about the SMRT trains which came into contact with each other.

What happened: One train kissed another train which wasn’t moving. Driver no time to elak. So, 38 passengers got injured. (No one died)

Where: At Joo Koon station along East-West line. (Get your own map)

When: On Nov 15, about one month after “flooding’’ incident and two days after Transport Minister said in Parliament everyone will do better. (Yes, very suay)

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Who: You mean blame who? Thales, engineering company, said sorry because “contact’’ had to do with the new signaling system it was installing.

Why: Complicated process. Trains have a protective bubble. This bubble disappeared and then second one appeared – but also disappeared later. Something to do with train moving from old to new signaling system. Or maybe the other way around.

How(?) : You mean “how come’’? Dunno. Still investigating specific problem. First time for Thales.

How (??): You mean “how can”? Donno. Old and new signaling system on the same line somehow.

How (???): You mean “how liddat’’? So part of East-West line, between Joo Koon and Gul Circle, (get your own map!) shutting down until June to get problem fixed. Passengers got to take bus in-between (LTA and SMRT paying)

That took me 10 minutes to write. If you’re happy enough with such reporting, then I have not much to worry about. I wouldn’t have to go into signaling issues, rail reliability, deep-seated cultural issues and who foots the bill for what, much less what or who else should get the blame. In fact, most people would probably jump from this short post to draw their own (uninformed) conclusions.

If I sound sour here, it’s because I am. Its obvious that most people don’t want to think too much or even care enough about the whys and wherefores of anything. They prefer short summaries and entertainment, probably both at the same time.

The attitude is to trust the powers-that-be and complain when anything goes wrong. Our brains only work once every four or five years. In-between, we delegate our thinking to someone else.

That’s why I get upset when I see obfuscation and lack of transparency in what I read in the news media. Legitimate questions not asked (and now they can even come under the Official Secrets Act!) and information gaps not plugged really bug me no end. I am also tired of seeing G statements to media queries which say nothing but the obvious.

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That’s why I worry about the transformation of the media industry into an assembly line serving out of a central kitchen, like Singapore Press Holdings. Methinks that non-competition leads to mediocrity.

I’ve said before that we deserve the media we get because we won’t pay for professional standards. But I still don’t think the answer is more online journalism, although it’s a cheaper platform. The answer is to have a reading public that demands more from the media and stands behind the media in its quest for information.

I wouldn’t consider myself part of the “media’’ now since I’m just blogging. In fact, I can tell off people who presume to tell me to report this or that! (Hey! You’re not paying for my hobby!) But I will promise to enlighten where I can, ask questions that aren’t asked (and try, in my limited way, to get answers) and even raise a laugh or three.

Welcome to Bertha Harian.

Written By

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

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