Need something?

Monday, 2 August 2010


Hello, minions!

This is a generic post so it will stay on top forever (I hope)!

Anyway, welcome to this God-forsaken place. This is where you can find my opinion pieces on aspects of Journalism and let it be known that this is one of those "OH-MY-GOD-I-AM-FORCED-TO-BLOG-AS-AN-ASSIGNMENT-YET-AGAIN-NO-WAY" blogs.

Now you know,
Nurul Huda

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Week 8: In the Public Interest: Public V Private

The topic in brief
This topic highlights arguments in justifying the media's reporting on issues of public interest. It is about drawing the line between what is right for the public and what is right for the private individual/organisation. Perhaps the media has a duty in "telling it how it is" because the media act as a mirror of social reality. It is up to the public to interpret what has been given to them. Journalists must therefore be very careful with their choice of words when reporting sensitive issues because interpretation is shaped by language. An interesting question for discussion brought up in this week's reading is: Should media reports be modified to minimise any possible harm to those who are the subjects of those reports? Sometimes it is inevitable for subjects to be harmed when journalists tell it how it is. The best voice is thus the neutral voice. Journalists should not instigate matters despite the strong social resentment towards a crime for example. Therefore, by staying neutral, posible harm can be minimised without making a conscious effort to do so.

In this week's seminar by Anthony, Edward, and Julius
I think Anthony's stance on individual choice shows the extent of power journalists have and too often that power is misused or exploited for financial gains. There is also the self-delusion of personal interest being public interest. Even the code of ethics is ambiguous, allowing room for journalists to go around the laws. Then again, ethics is intangible and intrinsic. Ethics cannot be painted black and white but takes the form of shades of grey.

Edward revealed the possible shades of grey as three ethical philosophies: deontological ethics or absolutism, teleological ethics whereby ends justify means, and situation ethics where it all depends. I think the three ethical philosophies can be ranked into levels. The simplest way to justify oneself is by adopting situation ethics. We do what we do by looking at the possibilities and the opportunities we can make use of. I think journalists need to go beyond situation ethics and adopt teleological ethics with ends that correlate with public interest and protection of privacy, of course.

Julius used Archard's (1995) thought-provoking definition of privacy in his presentation which is "a person's control over oneself and to one's personal information". It implies that the breach of privacy is equivalent to the person's loss of control over himself and his personal data. So if that happens, the person's life is practically over. Unfortunately, the weight of my words is that of a feather to journalists who are forced to or keen on breaching privacy to report in the public's interest because if they do not do so, then their careers are over. For some, their careers are their life as well.

This is why we love Spider-Man -- he and the villains after him are the epitomy of the struggle between good and evil within oneself.

Week 7: Truth and Objectivity: Post-Modern Casualties or Victims of PR Piracy?

The topic in brief
"Examining truth in journalism is an exercise in what social scientists call boundary work rhetoric" (Winch 1997, p. 3 cited in Tickle 2001, p. 89).
Just how are parameters set to differentiate journalists from other media practitioners? Why is it important to do so? Such questions should be asked in understanding the effects of post-modernism and public relations (PR) on journalism. Death of true journalism seems imminent as news get mixed with entertainment and arise out of favours. The defence for infotainment is that the audience demands for it. While meeting the audience's wants boost ratings, meeting the audience's needs ensures quality in journalism. In order to do so, the news-gathering process should comprise of three levels of reporting -- reactive, analytic, and reflective (Bowman & McIlwaine 2001). This is probably a solution to the problem of "churnalism" whereby journalists feed off newswire agencies and not challenging press releases for their news value, putting in little effort to check the credibility of the stories they intended to publish (Davies 2008). Journalists are making it easier for PR practitioners and marketers to gain control of news media and turn them into promotional platforms. Where will that put news then?

In this week's seminar by Joachim, Aashajeet Kaur, and Se Young
With regards to the three levels of reporting and investigative journalism, Joachim highlighted the importance of enquiry. Enquiry allows journalist to report on a story logically despite the emotional quality of the story. A possibility for the lack of enquiry in journalistic process nowadays can be attributed to the shortage of time. Enquiry is time-consuming thus unfavourable for journalists rushing to beat the others in updating the public first.

Aashajeet Kaur then used the hierarchy of credibility by Becker (1967) to explain the shift in reliance of sources for journalists -- wire agencies are seen to have the highest availability of information. This has brought many implications on journalism itelf. Among those include the falsehood of a story's news value. It brings unnecessary pressure on journalists in reporting on the story despite its insignificance.

Se Young focused on the perversion of the notion of truth-telling as a result of lack of enquiry and credibility checking of news stories taken from wire and PR agencies. The lack of emphasis on truth-telling in journalism can possibly lead to the diminishing of  news. News are supposed to reflect social reality and by failing to report truthfully, the reality becomes misrepresented. Altogether, a new preferred reality is created. One which indulges in entertainment and things people love to hate like violence.

From what I have gathered from their presentations, I realise the burden of journalists has increased in this twentieth century. It used to be about safeguarding oneself against sub-judice and defamation. Now, journalists have become more restricted to making employers happy and delivering what audiences want thus downplaying the real reason journalists become who they are. What was once a superhero outfit has turned into a puppet handled by strings.

This world exists in duality. In order to have truth and objectivity, deception and subjectivity need to co-exist. It is only practical to try and curb the lies and this is only possible in the journalism industry if journalists make a conscious effort to remain true and objective.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Week 6: Online: a New Journalism, Content and the Rule of the Search Engine

The topic in brief
The past few weeks have been about the the evolution of and shifts made by journalism. This week is about examining the position of journalism in its "new" abode online. The internet has provided a platform for journalists to equip themselves with tools and skills for online journalism. One of the tools which is the rage of online journalism is blogs. Blogs can be a newsgathering and reporting tool. They represent "unfiltered news available to a global audience" (Quinn & Lamble 2007). This means that journalists can monitor blogs to know what the global news readers are interested in knowing. Journalists can also find different angles to the stories in order to convey to the global news readers what they do not already know from those blogs.

The rapid updating of news online has made journalists realise that they have to be competitively skilled in online journalism and the pressure to differentiate themselves professionally from bloggers has increased. As a result, journalists cannot avoid multi-tasking today. Sales (1998 cited in Tapsall 2001, p. 251) foresees a future in which television journalists are equipped with many skills and where, within fifteen or twenty years, "journalists will be shooting and cutting their own stories".

In this week's seminar by Melissa, Gena, Amanda, and I
Since there were many presentations made for this week, the following are the highlights of what were shared:
Melissa talked about the question of "are blogs a threat to online journalism?" of which the reasons for its importance has already been discussed above. The most interesting point she made was "individual needs journalistic common sense". This works both ways for journalists and the audience. Journalists themselves have to ensure the credibility of information they have gathered from blogs or websites and whether the information is true or bogus. The audience is responsible for filtering the news soaked in from blogs and websites and the onus of finding the balance in views is on themselves. Blogs do not necessarily impose a threat on online journalism when they help to stimulate and retain interest on the issues pursued by online journalists.

Gena's take on online journalism is regarding its boundaries or lack thereof. She raised the concern of "overwhelming" freedom where too much freedom for both journalists and news consumers have often led to uncertainty in accuracy and credibility of news and information.

Amanda made us rethink whether online journalism is just another form of journalism by drawing our attention to the advantages and disadvantages offered by the different journalistic forms. Online journalism must be paid attention to because of the positive and negative effects it has to journalism on the whole. One of the concerns she raised was the desensitised citizens who have become addicted to rapid updating which mostly occured because of their fellow bloggers instead of the professional journalists. It is problematic if credibility is shifted from professional journalists to citizen journalists.

As for my presentation, I explored the wonders and shortcomings of the search engine which in my opinion is an important tool for newsgathering. Journalists need to know how news consumers search for information if they want to stay competitive online. By knowing how to search for information in both the mindset of a professional journalist and of a news consumer, online journalists will be able to achieve high accuracy and interest in their stories.

It is interesting to see non-journalists going through the same journalistic process as professional journalists when posting news online. It is even more interesting to see people "getting their news without really trying" (Quinn & Lamble 2007). What can be learnt from the two interesting points is that journalists might be robbed of their profession if they do not equip themselves with online journalistic skills which citizen journalists/bloggers possess.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Week 5: Globalisation VS Localisation

The topic in brief
The hype now is about globalisation because it is affecting many fields. Journalism is one of those areas which feel the direct impact of the collision between globalisation and localisation. Journalists are not the only people in question here. Once again, news consumers are in the picture and they can be held responsible for contributing to the negative effects of the collision. Plus, the collision has brought journalism's relation to other fields, especially law, into light. The bottom line for the concerns over globalisation is that there is increased uncertainty for journalists in the global environment (Breit 2001). Interestingly enough, whatever positive effects that can be gathered from globalisation may actually turn negative. For example, globalisation spurred the developments of affordable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which "break[s] down borders to create a global media audience" (Breit 2001, p. 214). However, the developments of ICT has led to the rise of "super corporations" which have the desirable freedom to dominate the global media. As a result of high concentration of media ownership, it is highly likely that there would be less diversed opinions. Often, those opinions reflect the owner's opinion. For example, the FOX News Channel reflects Rupert Murdoch's support for the Republicans. On the other hand, it is also possible that there might be positive effects brought by high concentration of media ownership:
"Diversity of ownership and diversity of source has never guaranteed diversity of opinion, and ... independent ownership has never guaranteed quality, just as group ownership does not guarantee the absence of quality" (Harris n.d. cited in Grattan 1998, p.9)
However, the above optimistic view is idealistic in this global village because it is up to those "super corporations" to impose ethical values on itself to ensure the diversity of opinions and information. Naturally, where power is involved, "super corporations" are more likely to exploit their position to profit than to uphold its coporate social responsibility.

In this week's seminar by Cheryl, Nora, and Thaza
Their presentation basically covers what I have summarised above. The following are my personal responses to their discussion questions:

Is the Internet a reliable source of information? Does it provide a platform for diverse opinion?
I think the Internet does contain reliable sources of information but I would not call it a solely call it a reliable database. The Internet operates in a web-like manner where users are channelled to sources of information and it is up to users to verify the credibility of those sources. It does provide a platform for diverse opinion and in fact it allows more freedom to do so but where the Internet is regulated like in China, for example, it might not be so.
Do you think the “super corporations” and their influence will penetrate the Asian markets?

I think the "super corporations" have the capabilities to do so because countries like Japan and Korea have lucrative entertainment industries which make good business. Japan and Korea also offer high-end media technology which will allow "super corporations" to operate conducively.
Additional comments by Mr Jimmy Yap
"What's the problem with globalisation for journalists?"

Nora: Standardisation of news -- news are shaped in a cause-and-effect manner.
  • Media has agendas -- shape worldviews
  • Media ownership laws
  • Attempts to create alternative channels for he state to counter global voices -- Al-Jazeera VS Fox
  • Murdoch's use of newspapers to influence
  • TNCs operate across jurisdiction thus are able to undermine local jurisdictions -- what's defamatory in Singapore is not defamatory in US
  • We tend to congregate around people who are like-minded -- people are aware of the biases and consume news that reinforces their worldview.
  • TNCs might dominate views but do not own them.

In conclusion, while technology provides the media a global audience and corporate partnerships provide the media power, there is no global voice (Breit 2001). The standardisation of news is exemplary of the homogeneity of information.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Week 4: Who will Pay for Journalism?

The topic in brief
The future of journalism has been much worried about especially by traditional journalists. The future of newspapers is smothered by so much pessimism that death seems imminent:
Popular newspapers, the mass newspapers, are dying and will die. They have no future whatsoever. I’m sad to see newspapers go. I worked on them for 40 years” (Greenslade 2008).
The logic behind it seems simple enough to work out -- hello internet, goodbye newspapers. The internet offers news for free and instantaneously while newspapers are usually bought and contain reports on the previous day's events. There are instances where free newspapers are made available to the public and where newspapers come in morning and afternoon editions like the Today newspaper in Singapore. The question to be asked is how necessary is it then for news consumers to pay for journalism if it can be attained for free? It is only reasonable for news consumers to ask why they should pay for the exact news stories which are available for free online. It is partly the journalist's fault for thinking content syndication eases the burden of having to scope out for the latest news stories. While content syndication helps news publications to stay competitive by means of being in the know, it also puts them at a disadvantage by means of replicating a story from the same angle as many other publications. On the surface, competition between paid and unpaid newspapers/news looks like a good start to the investigation of a dying newspaper readership. Actually, it is the age old issue that needs to be reviewed again --  the quality of journalism.

In this week's seminar by Benjamin, Kelvin, and Wei Meng
"We expect the newspaper to serve us with truth however unprofitable the truth may be... He will pay a normal price when it suits him, will stop paying whenever it suits him, will turn to another paper when that suits him" (Lippman 1992).
The quote above was used to open the presentation. It depicts the behaviour of the news audience which is necessary to understand in order to tackle the question of who will pay for journalism. Where money is involved, it becomes a business. The business model for news was examined to look at the key players -- Media, Advertisers, and Audience. It operates in a dual mode: Media sells news to Audience and sells Audience to Advertisers. From there, they talked about how circulation affects revenue from advertising. There was a period of time in the USA where low newspaper circulation did not affect revenue adversely. It was interesting to see the increase in revenue during that time but from 2007 onwards, both circulation and revenue went into a decline. A speculation: Newspapers started to give more space to advertisements so they could sustain financially -- newspapers get thinner in content and thicker in advertisements. That seems to be true. Worse, newspapers now cost more than before, ironically with lesser news content. The conclusion drawn from the presentation is that there is a change in the way we consume news. Plus, journalism did not die out but moved onto the Internet domain.

"The present model - meaning print - isn't going to work" (Buffet n.d. cited in Gunther 2007).

Additional comments by Mr Jimmy Yap
"Newspapers came out post-industrial revolution. The logic suggests that the model that subsides predominates. Take a 50 cents newspaper against $10 newspaper. People would naturally buy the cheaper one despite the quality of the journalism.

"Newspapers online are trading analogue dollars for digital dimes."

The economics of journalism -- "The amount of money from subscribers will not replace amount of money from advertisers."

One of the possible ways for newspapers to survive is by having more focused and valuable demographics. This is easily achieved through a niche. After all, we willingly pay for what we read, especially what we want to read.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Week 3: Citizen Journalism/Journalism as a Public Conversation in the 21st Century

The topic in brief
Journalism in the past was seen as a way to communicate to the public about news from all over the world. There was minimal allowance for past news consumers to show concerns for the journalistic practices thus making newspapers deemed highly credible. Today, news consumers can also become news producers with the improvement in Information and Comunication Technologies (ICT). They are able to capture auditary and visual proofs to support their stories and even conduct extensive research over the internet to qualify their statements. Advocates of citizen journalism such as Chisholm (2006, p. 22 cited in Quinn & Lamble 2007) believe "the need to listen is greater than ever before". This can be attributed to the ability of news consumers to search for different perspectives on a certain issue using ICT in quick time instead of having to rationalise each article in their state newspapers for long periods of time. With the Internet providing free news, the role of newspapers is becoming desolate so if a newspaper wishes to survive, it needs to cater to the demands of its readers somewhat. However, critics of citizen journalism also point out that citizen journalism techniques do not necessarily help the public to understand the issues reported and the quality of engagement needed to render citizen journalism better than traditional journalism (McMasters 1997 cited in Romano & Hippocrates n.d.). Therefore, it is important to look at the educational and literacy level of a population and ascertain the level of public understanding of the media before lobbying for citizen journalism. When journalism is seen as a cultural practice, it will be easier to accommodate citizen journalists in mainstream media for their fellow citizens (Meadows n.d.).

In this week's seminar by Elisa and Joyce
Elisa and Joyce talked about a "Democratic Era Public" which describes the present state of Singaporeans whereby Singaporeans have become more interested in news media to the extent that some have embarked on satirical humour on Singapore politics. Given the literacy level in Singapore, it is not surprising to have increased interest in citizen journalism. There is room for creativity and flexibility in citizen journalism which traditional journalism do not often practice due to professional standards. However, the creativity and flexibility offered by citizen journalism questions the quality of journalism put across. Not everyone is rational enough to discern what is right or wrong especially when they lack the particular background knowledge. Plus, it is easier to trust the words of a fellow citizen without asking for evidences. This pits mainstream media against alternative ones. In comparing and contrasting those two types of news sources, there is a need to look at how differently each source carries out its responsibilities and role as a news provider. Elisa and Joyce proposed delivery as a main factor to look at in analysing them. They believe the way a news story is delivered depend on the relationships the source has with the government and publics. For example, a citizen journalist tend to deliver in a manner which relates to his fellow citizens through language and informality while the state newspaper journalist would have to be formal in conveying the government's message to the masses. Elisa and Joyce welcomed the idea of converging citizen journalism with mainstream journalism because it would promote a healthy public sphere according to the Habermas Structural Transformation. In my opinion, this ideal may not hold true for Singapore. What if the citizen journalists act as a front to make the Singapore government look good in terms of maintaining a democratic society?

There was a bit of confusion when Elisa and Joyce said the convergence can be made possible because players mentioned (the government, the alternative media, and the mainstream media) can have the same goals. Many people thought alternative media would have a different goal compared to the government. However, I think what they meant was both forms of media would want a healthy political environment for example. It is just the way they deliver and the perspectives they have are different.

Traditionally, the media acts as a gateway with its practitioners as gatekeepers. However, with the increasing popularity of alternative/citizen journalism, the traditional role of the media is challenged. This makes us reassess the definition of citizen journalism and the objectives and impact of agenda-setting.