I feel sorry for the reporter sacked by Singapore Press Holdings for lying about a picture she posted on STOMP.
True, she had no business claiming the MRT train was running with an open door when she took the picture. And SPH, I guess, had no choice but to fire her to protect its reputation for integrity in journalism.
But the reporter is only 23 years old. Wouldn’t she have mended her ways if disciplined in some other way but allowed to keep her job?
Sure, Jayson Blair had to resign from the New York Times in May 2003 after he was found guilty of plagiarism in a series of articles. But he was a serial plagiarist. As for the SPH reporter, it was one strike, and she was out.
The Jayson Blair scandal led to the downfall of Howell Raines, the New York Times executive editor, who had to leave the paper like his protégé later in 2003.
I was reminded of that because Bertha Henson, a former Straits Times editor, recalled the Toh Chin Chye saga on her blog. She wrote on Bertha Harian:
Many moons ago, TNP had to apologise to ex-DPM Toh Chin Chye for saying that he had been charged with drunk driving. The whole stable of SPH newspapers had to get on its knees and apologise on page one, not on one day, but on several. The reporter was sacked and a couple of his superiors were removed from decision-making positions.
I was in Australia when the news (or rather not news) broke. And when I returned to Singapore, I was given marching orders to go to TNP to fill the gaps left by the editors who had been disciplined and sidelined.
But time marches on. Weren’t the editors “disciplined and sidelined” later rehabilitated?
People make mistakes, but, given a chance, surely, they try to do better.
What appalled me was something else.
Blogger Andrew Loh wrote:
STOMP not only apparently allows its staff to pose as nondescript members of the public – Samantha Francis’ original posting of the train doors was under the name “wasabi” – but it also verges on promoting xenophobic sentiments.
He showed a string of anti-foreigner postings on STOMP and added:
The Government has expressed its concerns of anti-foreigner or xenophobic sentiments expressed online and it has often pointed the fingers at bloggers or netizens.
Yet, in its own backyard – SPH is after all ultimately owned by the Government itself – is this cesspool which it refuses to clean up first.
I haven’t seen STOMP lately. A long time ago, I wrote STOMP doesn’t seem to get a lot of traffic.
Loh thinks the anti-foreigner postings were meant to grab eyeballs. Maybe.
But I didn’t expect this of Singapore Press Holdings. All said and done, its flagship daily, The Straits Times, is a sober, serious newspaper.
How can an organisation publishing a newspaper like The Straits Times condone such stuff on STOMP?
More to the point, how can Singapore Press Holdings publish tabla! for expats and anti-foreigner rants on STOMP?
Doesn’t that look like catering to the expats and the xenophobes at the same time?