Saturday, 7 November 2009

Why Changing Headlines is Bad...

Recently, the Head of Editorial Systems at SPH remarked in an ST blog post that some bloggers "jump up and down ... when an SPH website changes a headline". Well, although I don't have the habit of doing any physical body movments when I'm typing out a blog post, he may have felt that bloggers like me are nitpicking on the ST due to the sheer volume of ridiculous faux pas it makes in spite of it being "the most widely read newspaper in Singapore" that "strives to be an authoritative provider of news and views" - ST's own claims.

True to form, over the last 2 days, the self-censorship over the Minitor's comments continued to bring out the 'headless-chicken' behaviour at ST. A report carried on Friday (6 November 2009) reported on the China Premier's press briefing before his trip to Singapore and was titled "Controversy is 'normal'", referring to Minitor's earlier comments at an event in the US.

However, the same report appears at a different URL with the exact same text but is dated 7 November 2009 and carries the more vague title "MM's remarks normal".

If one were to read the article, however, what is referred to as 'normal' is actually the controversy and furor - not Minitor's remarks. Thus the 'updated' version of the article is incorrectly titled and is plainly misleading - how can this be a 'correction' by any stretch of the imagination? Unless 'correction' is a pseudonym for 'self-censorship'.
THE recent uproar among Chinese netizens over Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's call for the United States to remain engaged in Asia to balance China is 'normal', the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

"It is not surprising to see all kinds of comments on his views appearing in the newspapers. That is normal." - Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue
Based on the callousness with which the aforementioned Head of Editorial Systems at SPH makes his observation with regard to taking issue with such senseless changes, it would seem that the ST sees this as part of the journalistic process.

The problem is that changing a headline makes it difficult to trace, hard to cite and is just downright unprofessional. Journalists and media organisations who claim to be credible should research the material thoroughly, make a decision on the text and title, and then stick by it. Changing the material after publication (whether online or otherwise) suggests ineptitude at best - something that an "authoritative provider of news and views" should not be.

Remember the friend who keeps changing his handphone number for god-knows-why? Well, it's equally annoying when today's article cannot be located tomorrow because of the title-change. And just as you would want to slap the friend who justifies the change by saying he liked the new phone number better than the former, frustrated readers are metaphorically slapping the ST's unsavoury behaviour by pointing this out on their blogs.

And since ST is now aware of the 'smoke' (i.e. bloggers "jumping up and down") it should consider putting out the proverbial fire by improving its journalistic integrity rather than be "the most widely read newspaper in Singapore" that only knows how to fan away the smoke.



Anonymous New Visitor said...

Well said.

I think by countering ST's critics with "jumping up and down", it demonstrates to all of us the immaturity and unprofessional behavior of ST reporters (I would not call them journalists because they are actually not up to that standard).

9 November 2009 21:33:00 GMT+08:00  

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