Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Publications That Bring Hope

Some people complain that the Singapore press is compliant. Others have lost all hope in it, and have cancelled their respective subscriptions.

A couple of years ago, I was among those that agreed with this writing off of such local publications. But I realised that I had become too accustomed to reading newspapers first thing in the morning and it was too difficult a habit to kick.

Now, I supplement what I consume in the domestic media by reading the Financial Times, the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal (in order of personal preference). In the office, I get regular supply of magazines such as the Economist and Time.

I also read India Today and Frontline, magazines which one can purchase for about S$3 from Mustafa Centre.

When time permits, I watch Channel NewsAsia which I supplement with the BBC. I was especially pleased to hear my favourite news channel from my university days, Sky News, is now available in Singapore.

Thanks to our local sources of news, who give me much to disagree (and sometimes agree) about on a daily basis, I have predictably developed a voracious appetite for current affairs in the last few years.

I continue to harbour feelings that the quality of independent reporting and analysis in our local media will improve.

It is where school publications such as The Campus Observer and Nanyang Chronicle offer much hope. I know for a fact that Singapore's mainstream media have often used the latter as a source of information for its news.

The Campus Observer is a new kid on the block. Set up about two months ago as an independent initative of students for students, the issues it has had to face offer a peek into the kind of pressure an independent newspaper could face in Singapore.

Managing Editor Aaron Ng of The Campus Observer writes on his blog, "The Observer has been in business for 5 weeks now, and it’s 5 weeks of hell."

In addition to dealing with operational issues, he shares more about the baptism of fire that his team of journalists and him have had to go through.

These include the harassment of journalists, allegations of unethical practices by such journalists and even being barred from attending events they were entitled to attend!

This is partly a result of The Campus Observer's editorial policy, "We are committed to articulating a mature voice that emphasizes accuracy and fairness. While we do not claim to represent the student body, we are committed to the expression of diverse viewpoints, to being a top source for in-depth and comprehensive news and features, and a rewarding co-curricular activity for our staff members."

Aaron elaborates further on his blog, "We act in the interest of the public that the newspaper serves. As members, students have the right to know what goes on in campus. We do not bother with whether the report looks good or bad on you. What is of concern to us is that we got the facts right, and we did not misrepresent anyone."

A brave position with strong words indeed.

Contrast this to the stories one hears from journalists in the mainstream media about how a certain story was not carried as it would affect relations with a particular news-maker.

Some days ago, I too wanted to write something about certain comments that a news-maker had made. I was informed it would not be published in a local publication.

If the first five weeks of The Campus Observer are a precedent to go by, it can look forward to many more interesting milestones!

Dharmendra Yadav

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