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Can bloggers be journalists? Leslie Fong: “Emphatically not!”

Posted by theonlinecitizen on September 24, 2007

The following quote is by Leslie Fong (picture, right), taken from the Singapore Press Club website here. Fong’s quote is in reply to the question posed : “Are bloggers journalists?”

TOC is highlighting this so that our readers, and fellow bloggers, can share their views and opinion on what Mr Fong said:

“No! Emphatically not! Whether in writing news stories or features, properly trained journalists check and double-check their facts, set these in context, work in relevant background information, insist on objectivity and balance, organise their material so their account flows smoothly and logically, and use temperate language unless there is a powerful reason to resort to strong words. Even in offering views, they ensure that the opinions expressed are based on fact, failing which, as any libel lawyer would tell you, what they write cannot be defended as fair comment.

Bloggers, on the other hand, just sound off as they please. They are not bound by professional standards and ethics, and are responsible to no one but themselves. So you read them at your own risk, or peril. Newspaper editors who give bloggers space, or even prominence, in their pages, in the hope that this will attract younger readers, are doing damage to their calling.”

Leslie Fong was the editor of the Straits Times for 15 years, until 2002 when Han Fook Kwang took over the reins. He is also the president of the Singapore Press Club Management Committee and Exective Vice-President, Marketing, Singapore Press Holdings. (link)

You can read the answers of Cherian George and others on the Singapore Press Club website as well. (link)

Read also : Are bloggers journalists? A critical look at the idea of “professionalism” by Journalism.sg

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24 Responses to “Can bloggers be journalists? Leslie Fong: “Emphatically not!””

  1. vote of no confidence said

    singing the pappy tune

  2. RaymondChua said

    Why not ? Isn’t Singapore the city of possibilities ? And isn’t it Uniquely Singapore ? So why not ?

    Even the strait times is merely loudspeaker of PAP, so how credible is strait times ?

  3. RH:

    1. I quote from an old article I wrote in Singaporeans For Democracy [now deleted] :

    “When I was a junior sub-editor in The Straits Times, (the job lasted just 3 months but the consequences, a lifetime), my boss was Chief Sub, Roger Yu. Leslie Fong was an Editor. One night, Leslie came over to Roger and casually told him that he had a call “from Upstairs, not to overplay or underplay” the visit of a China Delegation (that was end 1975 or beginning 1976). Yu instantly knew what to do. This is all very normal and not worth commenting in the workings of the local media. Another time, we were sitting around when someone ventured that the Business Times (the Business broadsheet then in its early years) might have to close because of poor reception). Someone, Editor Seah Chiang Nee, I think, obviously much better informed than us, retorted that “the Government would never let it go”. The reason? The Government was trying to make Singapore a financial centre and no financial centre worth its name was without a ‘business paper’. Which was why most of the business news then carried in The Straits Times was ‘moved’ to the Business Times to fill its pages.”

    2. In other words, Leslie Fong was part of the propaganda organs in The Straits Times, often receiving phone calls “from upstairs” on how to treat sensitive news stories. This pretty much explains his objectivity and honesty as a ‘journalist’.

    3. The Today newspaper is far better than the Straits Times because it often carry articles written by relevant experts, often like law academics when an issue pertains to law. Who do you think is better placed to write an intelligent and insightful article on a complex legal issue like the Odex case? A law academic or a Straits Times ‘journalist’ who has no legal training? Can he or she perform as well as Leslie states in his dishonest blurb?

    4. Leslie is lying and propagandising when he says that bloggers are ‘unprofessional’. The better bloggers do more research than ST writers do. They write better. More insightfully. And THEY CAN BE TRUSTED BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT PAID TO LIE OR DISSEMBLE OR TO PUSH THE PAP LINES. They are also more truthful because they can be sued if they lie or are wrong whereas nobody dare sue the ST due to kangaroo courts who will always take the side of PAP institutions. Hence, bloggers are more credible. In short, we are not paid to lie for the PAP and this gives us credibility. The proof is the immense popularity of blogs compared with the shrinking readership of the ST. Enough said.

  4. Ace said

    Of course NOT, bloggers who have the analytical & reasoning ability like the people on this site, yawning bread, Mr Wang etc, must never be journalists.

    If these views are published, then the mainstream journalists would be unemployed.

    Leslie Fong is obviously living in another parallel universe, what facts checking with regards to Singapore issues? The official factsheet handed to them which may or may not contain some “honest mistakes”? The cartoons and comic strip to advertise why something which will again cost the citizens to pay more money is good for them…

    Come on, the reality is that mainstream journalists cannot write and publish many things which appears on the blogs as they would run foul of their management. By virtue of this fact, bloggers are not good enough to be journalists?

    If it were not for the blogsphere, many things would have just been covered up by the 157th ranked, things like the AG report, the Halimah “Ministers don’t get pensions” interview, the WP cycling event vs YPAP cycling event, and the many other things that came about….

    Would the ST publish any of the above?

    I would like to think responsible and analytical bloggers are NOT journalists. God, if they were indeed journalists then they would have to pander and publish meaningless commentary with no critical thought.

    Come on Leslie, get off the moral high horse and think for once, bloggers who analyse and report issues without getting paid are in fact upholding the true integrity of the purpose and foundation of the Fourth Estate, much more than some one receiving stock options on their once again Singapore is the best country style reporting.

    I would definitely agree with Leslie, bloggers are not journalists, but social commentators who report beyond the official facts and figures, with critical thinking and analysis.

    So pls Leslie, pls dun blog cause we have enough supermarket coupons from the ST already…virtual coupons not needed.

  5. Andrew Loh said

    Leslie Fong said:

    “Whether in writing news stories or features, properly trained journalists check and double-check their facts..”

    Lets take a very simple and very recent example:

    In yesterday’s TODAY report (24th Sept 2007) on the ASEAN Human Rights Forum, its reporter Ansley Ng said:

    “Mr Ravi… was speaking to about 50 civil society activists and members of the public..”

    Anyone who was there at the forum would know that “50” is a woefully inaccurate number. There was almost double that number of people there. In fact, the hotel staff had to bring in extra chairs for the participants.

    And from pictures taken (which are not published by the MSM), one would see that there were more people there than what Mr Ng reported.

    Now, this is just one simple example.

    And so, Mr Fong talks about “checking and re-checking facts”.

    The ST, when it was helmed by Mr Fong for 15 years, had one of its worst period of biased and one-sided reporting in the paper’s history.

  6. RaymondChua said

    Imagine a PAP-controlled Strait Time can say straight in your face that it present an honest view and only credible source of information and news. I believe it Because if they report things wrong and mislead informaiton, they can just say it is just an ‘honest mistake’ and boom, everything will be forgotten. Only the gov can make honest mistake and get away with it.

    When minister tell you that there is ‘check and balance’, the whole world will laugh with us.

  7. Pui Yee said

    Thank you for pointing out to us yet another sycophantic, lying-through-his-teeth journalist devoid of any self-integrity. I will most certainly skip all his articles in the future, assuming if I would even bother to read the 157th in the first place.

    If anything, what this PAP running dog has affirmed is the totally unreliable and biased nature of the 157th.

  8. […] journalists? A critical look at the idea of ‘professionalism’ – The Online Citizen: Can bloggers be journalists? Leslie Fong: “Emphatically no!” – nofearSingapore: Myanmar’s brave Buddhist clergy and personal thoughts on peaceful […]

  9. Miss Manners said

    Hello,

    A few years ago there was this ST journalist by the name of Tracy Quek who linked a porno site to an article she wrote. I believe a similar incident was briefly mentioned here:

    http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2007/04/dun_anyhow_send.html

    I was surfing with my 5 yr old and I thought that it would be good idea to just type in the link. You can imagine the rest. I rather not elaborate.

    I wrote formally to ST requesting for more information how such a mistake could have occured. What happened to professional due diligence?

    So forgive me when I really dont take this statement very seriously. I cannot see how its even possible to consider it seriously without laughing.

    “they ensure that the opinions expressed are based on fact, failing which, as any libel lawyer would tell you, what they write cannot be defended as fair comment.”

    You can all check this out, that’s a fact. I think this says it all for the moral majority in Singapore. We are not amused.

  10. RaymondChua said

    Is this the Picture of Lesile Fong
    http://images.google.com.sg/imgres?imgurl=http://www.pressclub.org.sg/images/photos/t_leslie_fong.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.pressclub.org.sg/contact.htm&h=80&w=80&sz=3&hl=en&start=7&um=1&tbnid=3q-p6hQh92CXBM:&tbnh=74&tbnw=74&prev=/images%3Fq%3DLeslie%2BFong%26svnum%3D10%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN

    Does this guy has any digity, pride and professional in his job ?
    We need no ‘bootlickers’ in gov, we need honest and capable people who willing to serve the nation as a whole, not someone to serve to a regime’s agenda, especially for a gov that is so intransparent and secretive in their dealing.

    Let’s the world decide whether he is in fact credible at all. It is because of all these bad sheeps that ST get rank to 157th. Has he really no shame ?

  11. Charles said

    Come on, for once some one from the Straits Times in saying something not completely false, so you have to give him credit.

    Nowhere in the reply does he say that the Straits Times employees are journalists (just like Mediacorps employee are not “Mediacorsp Stars” and not “actors”).

    So “Most bloggers are not doing journalist level articles and no journalist actually work at the Straits Times” seems to be a rather correct statement.

  12. Anonymous said

    Can Bloggers Be Journalists?

    Hah!!! Why would I even want to be a journalist in singapore? To work for the one and only media outlet in singapore so that I can write stuff that other people wants me to write? To shamelessly praise the government and the men in whites to the skies …

  13. Non-ST Rreader said

    For heaven’s sake, Mr Fong, ST should stop quoting blog content in the newspapers. Every week, in Digital Life, there is a section that always use blog content as their news content. If the blog content is not of journalistic quality, then do not ever use blog content at all or else, Mr Fong, you are slapping yourself. Tell all your editors to stop it NOW.

    Does he know that his “reporters” scan forums and blogs for “news”? These “reporters” announced their actual ST status and used their direct email accounts to contact forumers for leads.

  14. otak69 said

    Can S’porean journalists be trusted? S’poreans: “Emphatically no!”

  15. Gerald said

    Fong is falling in the trap of lumping ALL bloggers as one kind. Sure, the majority of us are writing direct from heart to keyboard. But there are others — for example my colleagues at TOC — who check and recheck facts before publishing. Fong’s sweeping statement does injustice to us.

    I for one take an incredibly long time to write my articles precisely because of all the fact-checking, even to the details regarding whether someone is “Mr” or “Dr” — something some of the MSM reporters frequently overlook (e.g. “Mr Ng Eng Hen” or “Ms Condoleezza Rice”.)

  16. darkness said

    miss manners, ppl make mistakes all the time, including u and me.

  17. Ponnifer said

    How can Leslie Fong say that when ST is guilty of misreporting certain things (let’s just say the amount of people in an Opposition meeting or rally). It took the bloggers to spread the word on how many attended and shamefully even the Malaysian reporters got it right.

    Bloggers who do their homework, ensure their sources are correct, blog in a sensible manner can be journalist as well.

  18. David said

    Why are we forced to pay for such a propaganda material ?

    The ruling party and ‘their top orders’ to high senior in ST really give journalism in Singapore ‘ a very bad name’.

    Where is their moral authority ?

    *Comments edited by moderator.

  19. Thought I’d include this comment from Mr Wang’s blog. The comment is by Denzuko:

    Denzuko1 said…

    Funny comment from the SPH editor. If professional journalists from SPH claimed by him have indeed the integrity to check and double check their sources, then they won’t have this arguement on whether it is laksa, mee siam, mai hum or mai hiam.

  20. This has got to be the lowest form of journalistic discourse that has ever come out from that generation of “editors”.

  21. properly trained journalists check and double-check their facts

    properly trained journalists check and double-check their facts, set these in context, work in relevant background information – these are the words by Leslie Foong, editor-at-large at The Straits Times in response to a question are bloggers journalist…

  22. bloggers, on the other hand, just sound off as they please

    bloggers, on the other hand, just sound off as they please – these are the words by Leslie Fong, editor-at-large at The Straits Times in response to a question are bloggers journalists?. He was disagreeing with the suggestion that bloggers

  23. […] I take a sweep of events, only to register the caustic statements made by Miss Ong Sor Fern and Mr Leslie Fong concerning blogging and bloggers? Are these just minority views with the print establishment? Or, […]

  24. […] “No! Emphatically not! Whether in writing news stories or features, properly trained journalists check and double-check their facts, set these in context, work in relevant background information, insist on objectivity and balance, organise their material so their account flows smoothly and logically, and use temperate language unless there is a powerful reason to resort to strong words. Even in offering views, they ensure that the opinions expressed are based on fact, failing which, as any libel lawyer would tell you, what they write cannot be defended as fair comment.” – Leslie Fong (no relation to Nickson Fong), editor of Straits times for 15 years until 2002- when ask…. […]

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