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Gutter journalism masquerading as citizen journalism: Racist rhetoric stoked over irresponsible reporting

Posted by theonlinecitizen on November 18, 2007

Choo Zheng Xi
Editor-in-Chief
On behalf of TOC

“Ang moh and friend attack Star Blogger Michelle and friend” screamed the headline on STOMP, the Straits Times’ online media portal.

TOC would like to highlight the irresponsible and lopsided way this story was written.

One of the basic rules of journalism is to get both sides of the story before running a report. If you can’t get both sides, at least qualify the information received from the only source you have with the word ‘ALLEGED’.

In running the Michelle Quek’s story the way they did, STOMP failed to do any of the above, preferring rather to publish a highly sensational, lop-sided report that exploits the ugliest fears and prejudices of Singaporeans. Apart from the affront to citizen journalism, the piece they have negligently published has the unfortunate tendency to incite violence.

Background

One of STOMP’s celebrity bloggers Michelle Quek recently published an account on her blog of being assaulted by a foreigner and his girlfriend. It was prefaced by the following:

“First, we have 3 UK brits bullying our fellow Singaporean elderly, then now, some angmoh from unknown country starts bullying hitting students!”

In her account, she alleges the following:

1) She was hit, unprovoked, by the woman with an umbrella. (she initially claimed the blow hit her bag, but later she said she wasn’t sure if the umbrella hit her back instead. She also subsequently published a photo of a red mark on her back.)

2) The woman threatened to call the police.

3) The woman’s Caucasian boyfriend appeared at the scene, picked her friend up, and threw her to the floor.

4) He then proceeded to punch Michelle “slightly on the nose” but she managed to “block the other two punches from him” with both her arms.

The post was put up with an accompanying video of the aftermath of the incident. The video shows a crowd of onlookers surrounding the couple. One man in a chequered shirt loudly harangues the couple for the alleged ‘beating’ of the students. It is not known if the man in the chequered shirt was actually an eyewitness to the beating.

Inconsistent facts published with little qualification

Several inconsistencies in Michelle’s narrative were also not highlighted by STOMP, whose editor’s should have checked the basic reliability of their story before running it.

1) In a follow-up post on her blog, Michelle claims she was ‘attacked’ by the woman from behind. A picture on her blog shows a faint red mark on her back. However, in her initial post, she expressed relief that she was not hit: “So instead of my back, she got my schoolbag!”.

2) There is no photo of the punch Michelle is alleged to have received on her nose.

3) The pictures on STOMP are said to show “the scratch marks on her friend’s arms”, whereas the caption to her blog refers to ‘blood stains’.

Further, the following claims are made and seem improbable:

“He grabbed both my friend’s arms from the back, then lifted her up off the floor and threw her hard onto the floor!

“And that caused her arms to bleed! And before I could even react, I saw his fist flying towards my face!

“I moved back a little but I still got punched slightly in the nose and I managed to block the other two punches from him with both my arms.

“Next, he kicked my right leg and he attempted to run. Just when he was about to run, my friend tripped him and he fell straight onto the floor.”

These seem to have been copied wholesale off Michelle’s blog. This would imply no interview was done with Michelle to get the facts straight, or if there was, it was a grossly uncritical interview. All STOMP would say on its website was that Michelle had sent them an email relating the story.

Until we can speak to witnesses at the scene, or get a comment from the police, we will not know the veracity of these claims. And until then, they remain mere allegations.

Sensational angle encourages violent racist comments

Let’s do a little thought experiment: re-read the report on STOMP without any reference to the ‘ang moh’, or foreigners. I suspect you will think the writer of the piece is exaggerating at best, and feel slightly puzzled as to why any news site would put up such a one-sided account.

Therein lies the sad truth of the matter: many Singaporeans lap up this information uncritically because they want to believe it so badly. They want to believe that the “White Man” that has already taken their jobs is here to beat up their schoolgirls too. If the unfortunate, balding Caucasian man (described by Michelle as six feet tall) had been Chinese, I can bet my bottom dollar STOMP would not have run the piece.

Take the thought experiment one step further: what if the man had been Malay or Indian? And Michelle’s comments had been directed at Malays and Indians in general, the same way her blog post seems to tar all foreigners with the same brush. Take this a step further and imagine STOMP running the article ‘Ah Neh and friend attack Star blogger Michelle and friend”.

I suspect our STOMP editors would have been hauled up under the Sedition Act.

Although there’s no reason why they aren’t liable as things stand: Section 3 (1) (e) of the Sedition Act defines a seditious tendency as one that seeks to ‘promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore’.

If, indeed, this Caucasian man is a Singaporean, would the police consider pressing charges against STOMP? Do our Caucasian friends not deserve protection from racists and those who would encourage them simply because they are better off?

It is one thing to be critical of the government’s foreign talent policy, it is quite another to pin the personal blame for it on anyone who happens to be blond, brown, or speaks Chinese with a mainland Chinese accent.

Crass, blatant, repulsive racism needs to be called by its name regardless of who it is practised on. TOC decries the gutter journalism of STOMP, and calls upon it to stop giving citizen journalists a bad name.

The result of STOMP’s sloppy reporting? Here are some comments posted on STOMP’s website following the article (emphasis TOC’s):

air39 said on 17 Nov, 2007

It is getting very clear that the angmo whacked the girls and later tried to run away…. if he wasnt in the wrong, why bother to run? And they did not produce their IC when questioned by polis. Are they illegal? We will KILL any Angmos who try to create trouble in peaceful Singapore.


GaryNgSW said on
16 Nov, 2007

Oh a piece of WHITE TRASH creating trouble again in our homeland… Get lost WHITE TRASH~! GET A LIFE~!


keuriseudo said on
17 Nov, 2007

yup! this is Singapore. and as long as we Singaporeans are in Singapore, WE ARE KINGS AND MASTERS OVER FOREIGNERS!
THIS IS A WARNING TO ALL FOREIGNERS:
NO ONE… AND I MEAN NO ONE, WOULD EVER TRY TO BE FUNNY WITH THE LOCALS. OTHERWISE, YOU WILL ALL LOSE YOUR PATHETIC FOREIGN ASSESS.
THIS GOES OUT ESPECIALLY TO ALL WHITE TRASH.

http://singaporeseen.stomp.com.sg/viewPost6646.aspx

 

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47 Responses to “Gutter journalism masquerading as citizen journalism: Racist rhetoric stoked over irresponsible reporting”

  1. Grand Chief Wizard said

    kekeke attacking Stomp blogger or attacking Stomp?

  2. Well done. But why did you guys run the trashy article on your own site before this commentary was uploaded (when I last checked a few hours ago)?

  3. Zheng Xi said

    Hi Yi Sheng,

    The piece was reproduced with caveats about it’s veracity.

  4. Well, its a good example of how the mob mentality can grow as well.

  5. SeeHwa said

    If Singaporeans are bitter with the foreigners taking away their jobs and compromising on their standard of living, they ought to be more constructive and proactive in their approach.
    As they cannot criticize on the government’s policy, they turn to such biased blogging. This is like hitting somebody below the belt.
    What celebrity blogger is this anyway? She is hungry for self-promotion, from the way she takes her own photo. She sure dressed like a sexy kitten in that photo, but her blog was written in such poor English. It was filled with hatred and aimed to provoke, like a young child.

  6. at82 said

    http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/news/story/0,4136,148062,00.html

  7. eyed said

    sooooo……does this mean the general population do not deserve greater freedom? clearly, there was no regard for responsibility in the piece. From the reaction of the crowd( “mob” to strong a word?) are Singaporeans still to infantile to be rewarded with proper free speech?
    seriously though the conduct of the dude in checkered shirt was seriously deplorable. Thank god the majority of the crowd were just apathetic zombies looking for a free show, imagine a few more of this bugger, I shudder to think of the consequences and worse still the resulting reaction of the authorities. Perhaps the elites are right, we do not deserve more freedoms….

  8. sarek_home said

    Hi Eyed,

    Even at the heat of the saga when the lady was arguing with the man in checkered shirt, they never got into violence. One or two other persons were around helping to detain the couple while other concerned people kept a watchful eye. I believe people would have taken action if either side tried to turn violence.

    I think you would find similar reaction by the members of public under similar situation. The fact that it did not turn ugly speak well for the Singaporeans and show some minister’s concern about freedom of expression and public political activities will result in troubles or riots unfounded.

    The only thing that is disturbing is:

    Where were the security guards? Can we trust we are secured?

    Regards.

  9. Ever wondered if the reason why there is little security at rallies is just that they will let any trouble escalate and act as an automatic false-flag ops to justify further limitation of freedoms.

  10. aygee said

    Zheng Xi, when i first read the report, you did not have any caveats or disclaimers. you merely reprinted her post. But anyway, i have commented at length on your previous post. I’m only summarising myself here.

    Whats sad is that STOMP sensationalised this. STOMP, being read by the young, and seeing all the anti-foreigner comments, should rethink about their role as a responsible media.

    I wonder how come we dont hear more about cheating that happens to the western foreigner at Sim Lim or Newton or Lucky Plaza?

    Clearly, this was a “star blogger” who’s very attractive, cute, oh-so-fragile, looking for sympathy via an anti-foreigner theme, linking it to the trishaw uncle incident. until we hear the story from the police, or from the “crazy” couple themselves, i cannot be sympathetic to this sweet, oh-so-fragile blogger.

    They look like they’re educated people – for them to react in the way they did, something MUST have happened for them to snap.

    Eyed has got something when he/she says that maybe we’re not ready for more freedoms and more open blogging. Celluloidreality noted that we’re no angels when we’re overseas and i agree.

    one day, when you travel or go on business overseas, you feel like you’re hard-done-by, and you wonder why people dont like singaporeans, think again about what we blog and how we react and comment to small incidents like this. you’re telling the world you’re a foreigner-hating people.

  11. Zheng Xi said

    Hi Aygee,

    Yes, an unfortunate oversight we corrected within two hours of the posting.
    To be honest, I was quite taken in by the initial story, it took the team awhile to realize what was missing in it.

  12. Jack said

    If you believe the NewPaper report “A police spokesman said a call was received at 1.15pm on Thursday informing them of a dispute between two pairs of people at Toa Payoh Central.”
    Now, if the Ang Moh was a Singaporean, he would be charged with assault on the spot, and his laying hands on the young girl would constitute manhandling with attempt to molest.
    But thanks to the Pinkerton complex, the white trash gets away clean. There’s this white guy who insists on playing badminton on the road in our estate, when just about everyone is driving home after a hard day at the office. Since glares do not seem to affect his thick hide, one car decided to drive over his shuttle cock. We all honked in appreciation.

  13. Daniel said

    I hate the way Singaporeans always call us ang mohs, white trash. When people speak kindly they always use the word Caucasian. It’s just not nice. And I never behaved unkind toward any Singaporean 😦 This is just not a welcoming place at all. After I read these comments I feel like maybe someone will want to beat me up just for being white…

  14. aygee said

    well, Daniel, its a sad fact of a few bad apples.

    Little do some of these posters know about how the world views us Singaporeans.

    What i’ve asked for is a litte more levelheadedness in posting – and not to equate personal incidents with foreigner-hating posts…but…

    well good luck to these chaps, that is all i have to say. i’m done posting on this track.

  15. Gerald said

    Daniel – “ang moh” could be taken as a term of familiarity and even endearment. It’s not an epithet. I have white friends who happily refer to themselves as ang mohs. “White trash” is different – that’s bad.

    Don’t worry, yours is the last race that Singaporeans will want to beat up. For every Singaporean who wants to beat u up for being white, there are 100 who will worship the ground you walk on (figuratively, of course). Just notice how people change their accent when they speak to you. If you are foreign talent, notice how they treat you so nice compared to other foreign talent from India, Philippines or China. And let’s not even get started about the SPGs.

  16. Ace said

    The fact is that with the FT policy, more and more people are feeling that their space are being taken up and their importance as a citizen is greatly eroded. Like every race, it is not helped by some white people behaving like colonial times still.

    Of course not all whites are like that, but people remember poor impressions more vividly.

    The reality is that when being a citizen in this country means that you are treated like tools for the Govt to exploit while, the FTs are thought to be like God’s gift and PRs and citizenship with no NS and other liabilities given like freebies.

    Any one will feel angry. Just look back into news archives of the same thing happening in Europe, US where welfare is being sucked by immigrants.

    In Singapore the reverse is happening as the ones truly getting wealthier are the immigrants and not the citizens. Things cost more due to the wealth effect. People do not know how to go about venting. They cannot go and beat up a MP, they cannot protest on the streets, they cannot go and kill someone….So the slightest spark like this will invoke such emotions is hardly surprising.

    This outburst will be just 1 of the many I see happening going forward. It may or may not be racism, anger or whatever. But if the US vs Them scenario is expanding everyday then it is but a matter of time, political parties will use this as a political leverage and things will become worst.

  17. eyed said

    to sarek_home, u seem to have hope for the general population, i recall several instances where helpless individuals were left to their own in times of needs. Recall soemtime back that it was published in the papers that a man was beaten up in a MRT cabin in full view of passengers yet no one took action. I applaud you for having faith in you fellow countryman, but i fear that your hope might be misplaced.

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  19. jolly said

    First world country, third world citizens. What can I say?

  20. Singaporeans are made up of and built by various races, for me, both the differences and homogeneities is what makes Singapore such a great place to live in.

    Most Singaporeans who have traveled or lived overseas probably faced and been hurt by some sort of racial prejudices at some point, thus, we should be even more careful not to become racists. So what if some foreigner angmohs act like lords in Singapore, this happens everywhere in the world in different contexts.

    In this case, the Caucasian shouldn’t have hit the girls irregardless of the verbal provocations. However, like many others, I don’t understand why the Caucasian would assault the girls without any reason. He seems contrite and in shock in the video. Feel sorry for him mainly because he’s a lone white guy in the midst of an angry group of non-whites intent on restraining and perhaps even mauling him about. If he is local, the locals will probably just restrain him for the police without additional confrontational gambits.

  21. Zhang said

    Dear Zheng Xi:

    Your current write-up is not much better, I hope you take no offense from this feedback of mine. In fact, it borders on
    exaggeration.

    First and foremost, if you want to preach about getting two sides of the story for a journalist, then put your words into action. However, from what I have read, I didn’t think you approach Michelle. Rather you devoted one section to casting aspersions on her story.

    Neither did you approach the Caucasian man and his girlfriend. Or did you approach any of the eye-witnesses as far as I can see from your article.

    The part where you exaggerated was in your “thought experiment”. I read Michelle’s blog, and no way did she insult a racial group as a whole. “Ang moh” is a common lingo to describe caucasians, that is already entrenched within our local lingua franca. Even talkingcock.com does that. You went on to wax lyrical on the Sedition Act. You might as well say that Michelle made seditious remarks on the Hokkien dialect group since she was lambasting the hokkien-speaking female friend of the Caucasian.

    The best I can describe the STOMP article is one done with sensational reporting, not unlike the ones you can find in tabloids like The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, etc. However, you are not faring better with your exaggeration. From a simple skirmish involving a foreigner to Malays and Indians, that’s a hyperbolic exaggeration.

    Take it from someone who has three years of journalistic experience, and have writing and editorial experience at Pearson and Marshall Cavendish, both of whom are publishing companies.

    If you think that STOMP’s quality of journalism (I don’t think that STOMP operates on an explicit citizen journalism platform) is not up to scratch, you are indirectly promoting it by giving it undue attention in this artice. I am saying this from the standpoint of media communication. Simply put, trashy articles not worth reporting do not deserve the light of the day. Don’t give the article the attention it craves.

    I hope you would be able to take my ostensibly frank remark in good stead. I too was a newbie when I started out on my journey as a journalist, but I was fortunate to have patient mentors who went the extra mile to show me the way.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  22. Zheng Xi said

    Hi Zhang,

    Thanks for the advice, I stand by my piece though.

    For the record, I did attempt to contact Michelle via email before running this article. She didn’t reply.

    But really, that’s not the point. I wasn’t doing a report about the incident, I was running an editorial piece on how the incident was handled. I thought that was pretty obvious.

    My point was that no one should run any pieces on this, much less emotionally charged assertion based pieces like the one STOMP ran, without more facts on the table. I wasn’t claiming to do it either.

    I am of the opinion that I was calling racism for what it was, and I stand by that.

    Of course I don’t think colloquialistic characterisations of racial stereoptypes is bad, in certain instances, as you’ve pointed out, it’s even funny.

    But come on, don’t tell me you didn’t think this piece was meant to be racist? How else can you describe the 350+ comments it engendered, most of which are vilely anti-caucasian? Chummy, humorous colloquialisms? Context matters you should realize.

    Yes, there is a perennial tension between reporting on something harmful and giving it air time to thrive.

    However, I don’t think the solution is as simplistic as you make it out to be: if you think it’s bad, don’t write about it. Your “any publicity is bad publicity” is really rather reductivist.

    In writing about what my site feels about the incident, I’m attempting to change the tone of the discourse. I’m putting out an alternative viewpoint for the public to consider. If you equate debate with carte blanche publicity, I’d respectfully tell you you’re wrong.

    In fact, there was an important social issue to explore here: our attitude to foreigners. If I had followed your well meaning but respectfully incorrect advice, this dimension of the issue would not have come to light. It would have remained at lopsided racist invective with a few weak attempts to defend the caucasian man.

    My point wasn’t about who was in the right. My point was that this story should have been more critically written, and that there is a double standard in our definition of racism. I would have thought your journalistic experience would have helped you look beyond the trashy news and identify the real issues.

    I’m really happy about your editorial writing experience, but I don’t think it makes everything you say gospel.

    In fact, I’d respectfully tell you I think you’re wrong.

  23. Zhang said

    Dear Zheng Xi:

    Based on what Michelle wrote, I don’t think what she wrote constitutes racism. And if you are ajudging the so-called racist nature of the STOMP article because of the subsequent racist comments, then you are not really addressing the correct issue, if you really want to call a spade a spade. You may want to be addressing the commentators at STOMP instead. Maybe the question you may ask is,”what’s up with those commentators?” Perhaps, those fellows want to link such an incident to their racist agenda?

    Secondly, I can understand why the commentators acted that way. It’s called xenophobia. It has existed in every society. The Jews can testify to that, since they were prosecuted everywhere they go. Especially at this time when foreigners with lower wage demands displacing locals from their jobs, the tension regarding local-foreigner relationship can only worsen. What’s even worse is that the locals perceive that they are doing National Service, but to protect who? Not their rice bowls, especially for those who lost their jobs to foreigners who demand lower wages.

    Seriously, I can see the real issue here, and of course it would be good to discuss it. I have wrote opinion pieces regarding the foreign talent/labour policy myself countless of times. However, the tone of your article is more towards sliming STOMP (Don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of STOMP either) rather than discussing a real issue. Look at the title of your piece – “Gutter journalism masquerading…..” If you claim that you want to discuss real issues, good on you. However, I don’t get that impression. In fact, you can hardly blame the readers if they don’t get the impression that you want to really talk about social issues like local-foreigner relationship.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  24. Zheng Xi said

    Hi Zhang,

    I’m sure you’d get the right impression after reading the full piece through, which I’m sure you’ve taken the effort to do. An article’s about much more than the headline, yes? Again, you need to put things in context.

    On racism, I think you’re being rather simplistic again. Like I previously said, it all boils down to context.

    Think about this:
    During the last Swiss election, the right wing SVP ran an election poster showing a group of white sheep kicking a black sheep out of their group. The message was clear: immigrants get out. Thousands rallied against this perceived racism.

    Ask any dark skinned Swiss immigrant. It was racist. Or as you’d prefer, xenophobic.

    And therein perhaps lies the answer: ask the people affected what they think. Have you tried doing that? Because I have and the answers i get seem to support the conclusion I drew: it’s racist.

    I’m sure you’ve worked with many foreigners in the course of your lengthy three year journalism career in Pearson or Marshall Cavendish. Ask them what they think, I have a good idea what their reply will be.

    Again, let me remind you about context: she wrote this post choosing to begin with the completely unrelated Bo Davies incident.

    Who’s doing the racist agenda linkage?

    You’re splitting hairs by making the distinction between xenophobia and racism. Let’s both agree that this: “We will KILL any Angmos who try to create trouble in peaceful Singapore” is completely unwarranted, repulsive, and has got no place in civilized discourse.

    Your explaining away these sentiments as “I lost my job because of an ang mor” is weak on causality and economics (but that’s another debate for another day), but this invective is vile, however you try to rationalize it.

    I understand where these people’s anger comes from (I’ve written about the flawed foreign talent policy before), but really this invective is just racist.

    I didn’t explicitly point out the other issue to you because I thought someone with your journalistic training would have seen it. In fact, as you highlighted, it’s in my headline. This is about journalistic ethics in citizen journalism.

    And if you think STOMP isn’t running on an explicit citizen journalism platform I think you need to start reading the local press.

  25. LifesLikeThat said

    Zhang,

    Your statement: “I don’t think that STOMP operates on an explicit citizen journalism platform” is flawed. I am not sure if you are in Singapore but anyone reading the Straits Times will know that stomp’s advertisements – daily, weekly – promotes itself as “citizen journalism”.

    Which, to me, is giving real citizen journalism a bad name. If you ask me.

  26. Zhang said

    Dear Zheng Xi:

    I understand the article is more than a headline. However, again when I spoke of the impression I get, specifically it refers to your intentions. I am sorry, but it looks like you intended to slime STOMP here more than trying to discuss some social issue so to speak.

    What context are you referring to? If anyone say speaks of a bad encounter with a particular race, you are alleging that is racism? Now, that’s a hyperbole.

    As for xenophobia and racism, if you have read carefully, I was trying to say that both overlap. Maybe, you can clarify what you mean when you say I was trying to make a distinction. Maybe you can access the link below.

    http://portal.unesco.org/shs/en/ev.php-URL_ID=3026&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

    What’s wrong with commenting on talent policy and its flaws? You are now alleging that this is an invective. Why don’t you show why it’s an invective? Do you know the reality of the ground in Singapore? Firstly, no policies are perfect, there is bound to be some flaws. In Singapore’s case, locals are displaced by a foreigner with a similar talent, but whp requires a lower wage. . I also find that you are making an exaggeration, that making a stand that our current foreign policy is flawed constitutes racism. This despite the fact that I did not specifically mention anything about the race of foreigners.

    Why I said about STOMP is not really on an explicit citizen journalism platform is that their editorial staff, if they really had one, are not trained as yours at TOC. That you should be proud of. Actually, I was told some time back that STOMP was looking for some editorial staff. I am not sure if they found some, but judging from the kind of articles they produce, probably they might be short of trained manpower, i.e. people trained in editorial work. Also, if you see the style of contributing articles, it looks more like a blog depository, whereby posters post snippets of accounts of their personal lives. Even, that posting by Michelle, it’s more a blog account than journalism, and she did post her accounts in her blog. There is a difference between journalism and blogging, with the former requiring more intensive research, and a higher level of integrity expected in the facts produced.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  27. Zhang said

    Dear Lifeslikethat:

    Refer to my reply to Zheng Xi.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  28. Zhang said

    Dear Zheng Xi:

    When I spoke of the impression, I was referring to your intention. Obviously, it appears that you are trying to slime STOMP.

    When we speak of xenophobia and racism, both actually overlap. You may refer to this link. This was what I was alluding to. http://portal.unesco.org/shs/en/ev.php-URL_ID=3026&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

    And you are again exaggerating to call an act of calling our foreign policy flawed an invective. First and foremost, all policies would have their flaws. Secondly, I was referring the the reality of employment situation, that a similarly talented foreigner would demand lower wages than a Singaporean, hence companies save on production costs. I am not too sure if you are aware of the ground realities of the employment situation given that you are a student.

    Why I said that STOMP doesn’t function like an explicit citizen journalism platform is one, the nature of logistics there, and two the way they function. I was actually told some time ago, they were looking for trained manpower to main the editorial aspects. However, from the type of articles they produce, sad to say perhaps their manpower was missing. You should be proud that at least at TOC, editors and writers here have some training. Secondly, STOMP is more of a blog repository, whereby people there produce snippets of their lives’ accounts. Even that article posted by Michelle was eventually posted in her own blog. There’s a difference between blogging and journalism, with the later requiring more intensive research, and a high level of integrity and honesty. There’s a difference between a repository for real works of journalism and one that just accepts mini-blogs of one’s life. That’s why I don’t think that STOMP is able to function on a real citizen journalism platform. Perhaps, the creators of STOMP thought that having a blog repository platform would be more appealing given the popularity of blogs? Maybe, they thought it would appeal to a wider market of writers (that includes trashy ones) out there?

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  29. Zhang said

    Let me address your points one by one in separate replies. I pushed the submit button but my article couldn’t go through.

    Let’s get this clear, when I said the impression you gave on sliming STOMP, I was referring to your intention. In fact, it’s not difficult to see that you spent a majority of the article on Sedition Act, casting aspersions on Michelle, etc. I know that an article of such a magnitude has social implication, but suffice to say, the impression I get is that you wanted to merely slam STOMP.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  30. Zhang said

    Dear Zheng Xi:

    You associated my writing of the flaws in foreign talent policy with the word “racist invective”. Let’s get this clear. There is no such thing as a perfect policy and all policies have their flaws. And if you call yourself a real journalist, why don’t you consult your colleague, Leong Sze Hian. He may tell you a little bit on the employment situation in Singapore. Yes, I stand by my point that as a result of similarly talented foreigners demanding lower wages, the latter tend to be hired as compared to locals. It’s not the case of foreigners being really more talented in that sense.

    Lastly, if you want to say that what I did constitutes racism, please show where have I targeted a particular racial group of foreigner. Foreigners in Singapore are made up of chinese, Indians, Jews, etc, many races.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  31. Zhang said

    Dear Zheng Xi:

    Let me clarify a bit on my stand on the nature of “citizen journalism” as far as STOMP is concerned.

    Simply put, STOMP does not have the capability to act as on a “citizen jounalism” platform. One, it doesn’t have a quality control as far as article submission is concerned. Two, STOMP if you observe carefully works more on a Citizenship blogging platform as opposed to “citizen journalism”. This goes back to my earlier point on quality control. It more or less acts as a repository for citizens to blog accounts on their lives. I am sure you know that there is a difference between journalism and blogging, with the former requiring more research, investigation, together with a high level of integrity and honesty. Third, if you want me to speculate, the reason why STOMP functions on a citizenship blogging platform is to appeal to a large market of bloggers and writers. Perhaps, the apparent lack of quality control for writers (resulting in more trash writing) might be a deliberate bid to cast a wider net to attract writers out there, and the trash goes along. This is unlike TOC, where you have writers with some training in journalism. You even require writers to submit their written works right?

    Sincerely yours
    Zhang

  32. Zheng Xi said

    Hi Zhang,

    I think we agree with what STOMP can’t do and is doing wrong. However, you’re wrong about what it’s holding itself out to be.

    I mean, there were four page feature writeups in Saturday Insight when STOMP first came out touting it to be the next big thing in citizen journalism. How did you miss that?

    But yes, as you’ve pointed out, it’s not really citizen ‘journalism’ in any meaningful sense.

    To answer your questions about TOC, we have one Editor (Toon Joo) with extensive editorial writing experience.

    The rest of us are really part time writers who aren’t holding ourselves out to be journalists. I have no formal journalistic training. However, we realize that there are certain standards our readers expect from us, and we constantly try to meet these. So naturally we do vet for a minimum standard of readability.

    I think your comparison’s slightly off point though: reagardless of editorial structure or submission policy we just deal with different content.

    Can’t really compare The Economist with GQ.

  33. Zhang said

    Dear Zheng Xi:

    With regards to STOMP, frankly, I am not bothered with what ST wrote about STOMP or what it’s being advertised as in the local media. They can devote an entire Sunday Times to it for all I care. I don’t base my criteria on a particular gospel piece (if you are referring to ST). Like how you critically evaluated STOMP, the same set of critical evaluation should be applied to ST to see if the picture they paint of STOMP is true.

    Yes, maybe the media has painted STOMP to be having a citizen journalism form, but suffice to say, I always look at substance. Sometimes, I think we cannot always judge a book by its cover. I am calling a spade a spade. If something doesn’t have a substance of citizen journalism, then it doesn’t have it. No use being attached to its form.

    Even if the creators of STOMP intend it to be a “showpiece” of citizen journalism, I guess it’s not possible for them to achieve this. STOMP merely wants to increase its readership. Suffice to say, they are walking the route of “controversy creates cash” like how some of those tabloids function. Just look at the type of readers you have there. They are your mundane uncles, aunties, ah laos, ah beng, ah seng, school kids, youths, teenagers and some working adults engaging in some form of mundane banter. It’s like any other gossip corner where you find all sorts of trash, hyperbole, sensationalism and what-not. Definitely, TOC is a different kettle of fish from STOMP.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  34. Zheng Xi said

    Zhang,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. You should come on board my kettle of fish and help make it grow =) Could do with someone of your experience on board. If you think there’re blind spots in what we’re trying to do with TOC now, I’ll be the first to tell you you’re right. Help us plug them. Drop us an email.

    Zheng Xi

  35. Zhang said

    Dear Zheng Xi:

    Thanks for your kind remarks and invitation. Actually, I would be interested in a project involving a “LIVE” form of alternative media, i.e. something along the lines of Internet radio and TV. Don’t get me wrong, I believe what you guys are doing at TOC are commendable. However, there is only this much people who are readers of Internet content who would bother to pore through written texts.

    mrbrown.com is a step in this direction, however, he does the occasional podcast that pokes fun at certain government policies. Still, it’s a small step. Definitely, there is a larger population out there who likes an interactive sort of media. This is why mrbrown.com is immensely popular.

    Frankly, I have been involved in print media all my life, and I thought that it would be good to go on to new challenges like radio and video editing. I have a friend who is trained in this area, and I think it will be good for me to learn from him. Thus, I would see myself more as working with the likes of mrbrown rather than with a print media (which I do a living already).

    I think the way for an alternative media to go in competing with the likes of SPH/STOMP is to go straight for the jugular, and that means going beyond the usual print and venture into alternative video and radio. That is the beauty of the Internet.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  36. Andrew Loh said

    Hi Zhang,

    I am always a little wary of the comparison which some people make between TOC and the mainstream media. Personally, I do not see TOC challenging or being able to challenge the MSM. Although I, and my colleagues, are flattered at the comparison somewhat, the truth is that there is a vast gap between TOC and SPH and Mediacorp.

    I think we have to keep in mind a few things:

    1. TOC is run by volunteers who have full time occupation elsewhere.

    2. TOC is just a blog where a few singaporeans come together to write as and when they feel they have something to say.

    3. The resources we have at TOC is miniscule.

    Written articles take up less time than video or audio, most of the time. While I do not discount TOC doing the latter in the future, it is at present not very viable.

    Unless and until we – or anyone else – have a full-time team, I do not think any blog will be able to even begin to challenge the MSM, which by the way, gets delivered to each and every home through many many channels.

    It really would be a David and Goliath scenario. In fact, it is.

    Regards,
    Andrew Loh

  37. Zhang said

    Dear Andrew Loh:

    Nowhere have I stated that TOC should compete with the likes of SPH. I understand that it’s a big task. In fact, what you guys are doing at TOC is already commendable, so keep up the good work. All I am saying is that to compete with mainstream media, you need radio and video elements. I see mrbrown.com as a tiny step in this direction.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  38. Zhang said

    Dear Andrew Loh

    Interesting that you mentioned two things.

    1) TOC is just a blog where a few singaporeans come together to write as and when they feel they have something to say.

    2) Unless and until we – or anyone else – have a full-time team, I do not think any blog will be able to even begin to challenge the MSM, which by the way, gets delivered to each and every home through many many channels.

    I am curious about one thing. To you, is there a distinction between “blogging” and “journalism” or those two to you are pretty much “interchangeable”?

    Frankly, to me blogging and journalism are not quite the same as the latter requires more indepth research, investigation, honesty and integrity. Secondly, the tone of writing in a blog is more personalised, i.e. the user adopts his own defacto style of writing, since it is his own online diary, albeit on an exhibitionist platform. For a journalist, this is not the case, as articles are written with the audience in consideration, and due care is taken in the usage of language in such a way to prevent public fallout and misunderstanding from occurring.

    Sincerely yours,
    Zhang

  39. Andrew Loh said

    hi Zhang,

    Thanks for the compliment and the encouragement. We will continue to do our best. 🙂

    To your question. The debate over journalism and blogging and which is which and whether can be the other is somewhat a futile one, in my opinion.

    This is for the simple reason that elements of journalism are in blogging as well. The oft-cited reason that blogging is not journalism because journalism requires more indepth research, consideration for society’s wider concerns (racial, religious, for example) and so on does not convince me.

    I think blogging/blogs/bloggers and indepth research, etc are not mutually exclusive. Indepth research, for example, is not the exclusive domain of journalism.

    I think there are enough bloggers out there, even singaporean ones, to show that bloggers can, do and have done quite impressive work – at times even surpassing their professional journalist counterparts.

    Anyway, as I said, my personal view is that the question of whether bloggers can be or are journalists is a futile one. It does not matter, anyway.

    Regards,
    Andrew Loh

  40. Kei said

    i believe the comments u quoted does not and cannot sustain whatever u did.

    people comment with their own views apparently and there will be biasness without any doubt.

    so what are u trying to imply with the comments?

  41. Dex Lee said

    Well said! I totally agree that the Stomp article is very one-sided and baseless. I don’t understand why they kept referring to the man as “Ang Moh”, as if to bring out the fact that he is a foreigner, a minority, and an outsider. It seems to lead readers to think that this is yet another case of foreigners creating trouble in Singapore; especially, feeding the stereotype of rich white expats/tourists thinking they can do what they like in Sg. The hate comments posted on Stomp is evidence of this.

    Also, the video of the aftermath does not show evidence of the alleged assault. In fact, a big part of it shows the accused couple being humiliated and ridiculed. At least 2 uncles were scolding the man with words such as “This is Singapore! You think your country ah!” These are very discriminatory remarks in my opinion. If they had witnessed the alleged assault and were sure he was guilty, it may be acceptable that they scold him, but only pertaining to the incident, and not judging him based on his skin colour. By posting the video, Stomp seems to be condoning such behaviour, and by doing so, incite anti feelings towards foreigners amongst the public.

    By referring to Michelle as a “Star” in the headlines, it seems to lead readers to think that she is of a higher status. Just because she is quite well-known in the blogging community and possibly has links to Stomp and media people (see 3rd video of saga at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02qZ_RJ6ejQ where she apparently calls Stomp people), doesn’t mean that Stomp has to write the article in her favour.

    To sum it up, poor piece of journalism from Stomp. In fact, this is not the first article on Stomp which I find to be substandard. In general, I have the impression that many stories on Stomp are poorly researched, one-sided and overly-sensationalized, many of which are blatant invasions of people’s privacy. This does not reflect well on SPH’s reputation, especially in its mainstream newspapers. One can argue that this is only the Internet, not to be taken too seriously, but this is flawed thinking, as the articles here receive high readership and there are many advertisements on the printed papers that refer readers to the exact substandard stories on Stomp…

    (BTW, I am a Chinese Singaporean and I love Ah Lians… ooops!)

  42. Mathilde C. said

    Look. I am a caucasion girl, and I have been quite fascinated with this case. From my point of view, I think the so called “ang moh” did something to those 2 singaporean girls but it wasnt what they said it was. What I mean is that, they exagerrated wayy too much on the attack. One white person does something and A BUNCH OF PEOPLE take it as a huge thing and get all worked up for that. One thing that (excuse my words) pissed me off is the following:
    GaryNgSW said on 16 Nov, 2007

    Oh a piece of WHITE TRASH creating trouble again in our homeland… Get lost WHITE TRASH~! GET A LIFE~!

    keuriseudo said on 17 Nov, 2007

    yup! this is Singapore. and as long as we Singaporeans are in Singapore, WE ARE KINGS AND MASTERS OVER FOREIGNERS!
    THIS IS A WARNING TO ALL FOREIGNERS:
    NO ONE… AND I MEAN NO ONE, WOULD EVER TRY TO BE FUNNY WITH THE LOCALS. OTHERWISE, YOU WILL ALL LOSE YOUR PATHETIC FOREIGN ASSESS.
    THIS GOES OUT ESPECIALLY TO ALL WHITE TRASH

    ____________________________________________________
    What the hell is with this? That’s way too far.
    Isn’t Singapore a multicultural society?
    Where have we come to Singapore?
    ….
    I just hope that not everyone is like that.
    I have experienced a lot of racism in Singapore
    and I have lived here for 7 years.
    I know that not everyone is racist but those who are, well they are really messed up.
    Get over it..
    we’re white, so what?

  43. Mathilde C. said

    BTW
    before being caucasian/malaysian/chinease, we are humans after all

  44. James Michael said

    Mathilde C.,well as you can see from STOMP’s point of view,its a lopsided,one-sided point of view,its just that the “victim” who calls herself Princess Michie(i prefer Princess Giselle from Enchanted,she’s far too kind),her motive was to get sympathy votes plus seeking attention from the media,after all,isn’t it stated in her blog,”star blogger”,i mean seriously,has this Princess Michie ever experienced real life?Nope,i don’t think so,she’s just a wannabe,trying to impress the local populace of who’s more superior,i do not condone her actions,cause she doesn’t know that she shall reap what she sows!I agree with you that Spore is a multi-racial country but sad to say,it sounds more like a racial supremacy nation,you know,majority wins,minority loses,so there you go Mathilde,if i were you,i’ll go somewhere else where people are more than willing to agree to disagree in civil fashion,racial acceptance is a plus point,racial tolerance leaves to naught!Cheers!

  45. leon said

    (amended)

    To: Choo Zheng Xi
    Editor-in-Chief

    i don’t believe that Michelle’s report on her blog, was meant to be a journalistic piece neither was it a “gutter journalism”
    as you proudly alleged it to be. i don’t think that was Michelle’s intentions.

    Her article was more of a “sharing of a traumatic incident” with us fellow Singaporeans. As such, the report was hers, from her viewpoints and personal experience.

    So please, give her a “break”. We Singaporeans need to “close ranks” and support one another.

  46. […] Nov 2007: Gutter journalism masquerading as citizen journalism: Racist rhetoric stoked over irresponsible repo…STOMP’s coverage of the alleged attack on a ‘Star Blogger’, Michelle Quek; opened […]

  47. A great article highlighting the problems with prejudiced reporting in Singapore. For more articles on racism in Asia goto http://www.asianracism.blogspot.com

    Keep up the great work!

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