Before its younger brother social media arose from a Big Bang of disruptive technologies and a deep-seated itch for the common man to say his piece without censorship, Singapore’s mainstream media had enjoyed a long run of media monopoly on the hearts and minds of Singapore citizens.
However it is a rising trend how social media is having an increasing influence and impact on its officious and sometimes ostentatious older sibling, who while resenting the seeming lack of ethics and journalistic credibility of social media, have also been tapping on this vibrant and exciting source of information in a bid to remain relevant and timely.
For all its roots in development journalism and undisguised scorn of social media, mainstream media has increasingly not been able to resist being pulled into the social media way of leveraging on impulse and spontaneous creation of virulent topics that garner more attention from authorities and public alike.
Recently a Straits Times journalist covering the changes in Singapore’s Employment Act chose to focus (out of all the positive changes) on a small part that allows the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), responsible for enforcing the act, to arrest employers for failing to pay staff.
He proceeded to incite fear and uncertainty by elaborating on how MOM has been sending officers for courses on using handcuffs and batons, insinuating that employers run their operations mafia-style to the point that MOM has to arrest first and question later.
This is the type of reporting that online media hatemongers such as The Real Singapore and Roy Ngerng are good at, looking for ways to sensationalize news based on their perceived right as the ‘Fourth Estate’ to sway netizens towards their personal agenda, instead of looking at the larger objective of building up Singapore as a nation of the strong and free.
The question that mainstream media should ask themselves is whether it is right to devolutionise their journalistic policy to follow alternative media in creating sensationalist news, or revolutionise their interactions with the audience by providing the same development journalism online as offline while tapping on the dynamics of social media to create a positive online environment of free and rational conversations.
Will mainstream media’s foray into social media be able to balance the negativism and skewed reporting on the internet that is rife with harassment and unconstructive comments? This should be the proactive goal mainstream media aims to achieve instead of the reactive manner of sensationalising their own news in the desperate hope of increasing their flagging readership.
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