I just had a look at a Straits Times weekend article after reading about it now on The Online Citizen (Moderating the internet – let’s hold the horses ). Of course, bloggers should exercise restraint for their own good. How many want trouble at work or school or with the authorities for that matter?
But the problem is not so much with the blogs I read as with the Straits Times itself. It’s the Singapore newspaper’s rah-rah cheerleading that induces netizens to say that’s not all there is to the story.
Take, for example, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech to employers and unionists at the Singapore Tripartism Forum. The Straits Times website came out with its usual rah-rah about Our not-so-secret weapon — about how a Latin American leader was astounded when he heard that Singapore’s labour chief Lim Swee Say is also a government minister. ““He looked at Swee Say, and looked at me. He said: ‘Is that really true?’ He could not imagine it,’” said Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, reported the Straits Times.
That made me wonder how a Latin American leader of all people could be surprised at a labour leader being a government minister.
Doesn’t the Latin American leader know the backgrounds of the leaders of his own region?, I asked in my previous post, An easily surprised Latin American leader.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is a former union leader. And so is Bolivia’s President Evo Morales.
I was so surprised that the Straits Times covered the prime minister’s speech from that angle that I actually bought the newspaper today. It carried the same story with virtually the same headline, Tripartism, Singapore’s not-so-secret weapon.
Why rah-rah ain’t all right
That might have been all right 10 years ago. But now we have the internet and a multitude of news sources, plenty of which are credible. One can easily cross-check a Straits Times report with what others are saying.
Singapore’s tech-savvy prime minister – who graduated with a first in mathematics from Cambridge and has a diploma in computer science – knows that.
What the report should have said
In fact, he had a great deal more to say in his speech. Brace for tough times: PM, says the headline on the Today website. He gave a sober thoughtful speech where he candidly spoke of the problems facing Singapore. “Over the next four to five years, if we can get 2 or 3 per cent growth, I think that’s not bad, 3 or 4 per cent growth, I would say we’re lucky,” he said. He also spoke of Singapore’s strengths and the measures the government is taking to tackle the downturn.
Why didn’t the Straits Times go with that instead of highlighting a Latin American leader’s surprise at a union leader being a government minister?
So what if the prime minister mentioned it? Newspapers are expected to exercise their own judgment and as far possible provide a complete picture. People are more interested in the prime minister’s own assessment of the economic conditions and what the future holds.
And sure enough the Straits Times website now has a story headlined, Brace for worse times, which leads with:
The next six months will be especially tough for Singapore as there is worse to come in the global economy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told employers and unionists yesterday.
That may be less upbeat than talk about a “not-so-secret weapon” that gives Singapore a unique advantage over other nations. But while looking on the bright side is fine, people want to know when the rain is going to stop on a rainy day – and not how bright and sunny the weather usually is.