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The Necessity of Investigative Journalism

Investigative journalism, though often perilous, is important not just to the field of journalism but also to society as a whole. Investigative journalism ranges from “simple news-based enquiries to undercover operations” (Forbes, 2005, p. 1) and has led to the discovery of scandals and acts of corruption in individuals, businesses and governments. Although there is no conclusive definition for investigative journalism, it is often associated with reporting in the public’s interest. To some, investigative journalism is simply “an extension of what good journalism should really be” (Forbes, 2005, p. 1).

To highlight the significance of investigative journalism, one can look at the Watergate scandal that shook the United States in the 1970s. The scandal led to the resignation of then-president Richard Nixon and the aftereffects of the scandal “altered the history of American politics to a great extent” (Naik).

Locally, the results of investigative journalism also hit the headlines, such as the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) scandal in which its Chief Executive Officer T.T Durai was found guilty of misusing funds meant for the running of the NKF. The general public was riled by Durai’s affluent lifestyle and personal expenditure which was a stark contrast to the NKF’s goal of offering as much assistance to its beneficiaries, financial or otherwise.

At present, social media has made it easier for investigative journalism, as the role is somewhat shared between journalists and citizens. Given the large ratio of citizens to journalists, the likelihood of citizens discovering information that could lead to an investigation is higher. Also, public commentary towards a piece of news on social media can help drive the story, as journalists have an obligation to answer to the concerns of the public. The viral nature of social media has also enabled information to be spread rapidly, decreasing the chances of guilty parties “snuffing” out their wrongdoings before it reaches the general public’s knowledge.

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References

Forbes, D. (2005). A Watchdog’s Guide to Investigative Reporting: A Simple Introduction to Principles and Practice in Investigative Reporting: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

Naik, A. Watergate Scandal  Retrieved 11 July 2013, from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/watergate-scandal.html

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PR Spin: Ineffective in Current Times

Public relations (PR) has often been viewed negatively because of the existence of spin. PR spin involves “manipulating the truth, hiding facts or presenting false information” (Wolcott, 2011). Spin also occurs when “companies are seen to use deceptive or manipulative tactics to gain the public’s goodwill” (Kennedy, 2010). Spin has led PR practitioners to be labelled as “spin doctors” and created a sense of distrust towards the practitioners and industry. 

But, it could argued that spin is losing its effectiveness. Regulatory bodies for PR, such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore (IPRS) have put in place a Code of Ethics that provides practitioners with guidelines on how to go about their work ethically. Also, practitioners themselves see the need to remove spin from their scope of work. As trust with the public is essential in PR work, most practitioners approach their clients with the intention of using aboveboard methods to put the clients in good favour with the public.

Social media has also contributed to the reduction of spin by making it “easier for consumers to learn about the mix-ups and and blunders committed in the name of trying to influence what they buy and believe” (Elliott, 2011). Social media has become the filter where by users can inform one another if a company is genuinely trying to influence the public in the right way or is employing spin to fool them. The speed at which social media transmits such information means that companies must be responsible in their actions. Social media has the power to make known to the world any backlash from the public, and this can be detrimental to the existence and reputation of the said companies. 

(290 words)

References

Elliot, S. (2011). Redefining Public Relations in the Age of Social Media, The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/21/business/media/redefining-public-relations-in-the-age-of-social-media.html?_r=0

Kennedy, M. (2010). Pubic Relations: Not Just the Spin Zone  Retrieved 4 July 2013, from http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/public-relations-spin-zone/

Wolcott, D. (2011). Definition of SPIN.  Retrieved from http://losangelespr.blogspot.sg/2011/03/definition-of-spin.html

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WikiLeaks & Edward Snowden

WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website dedicated to uncovering and publishing secret information and news leaks for the sake of providing the public with the truth, is not alone in its fight. Edward Snowden, who until last month was a relatively unknown figure, has been thrust into the limelight following his exposure of United States surveillance secrets.

The former employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) justified his actions by saying that he “can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building” (Greenwald, MacAskill, & Poitras, 2013).

His actions largely mirror that of WikiLeaks, whose founder Julian Assange has been pursued and is currently seeking asylum in Ecuador. Both men have been painted by governments as villains, but many media outlets have done otherwise, portraying them as champions of freedom. What’s more, a majority of people commenting on the Internet have also praised them for forcing transparency in governments and removing coverups.

It is then not surprising that in latest developments, WikiLeaks is seen to be offering assistance to Snowden, who fled US to avoid arrest. WikiLeaks has “brokered an offer of political asylum in Ecuador for United States intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden” and that “WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange this morning welcomed Ecuador’s decision to assist Mr Snowden” (Dorling, 2013). Assange also expressed “great personal sympathy” for Snowden.

While it remains to be seen what will eventually happen to Snowden, his actions have proved that certain governments, even one as powerful as the United States, are guilty of committing unethical acts against others.

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References

Dorling. (2013). Assange pushes Snowden bid for Ecuador asylum  Retrieved 24 June 2013, from http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/security-it/assange-pushes-snowden-bid-for-ecuador-asylum-20130624-2or96.html

Greenwald, G., MacAskill, E., & Poitras, L. (2013). Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations  Retrieved 24 June 2013, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance?guni=Network%20front:network-front%20aux-1%20mini-bento:Bento%20box%208%20col:Position1:sublinks

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Media Regulations & How Social Media Could Help

Just last week, the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) came up with a set of regulations stating that “news sites that report regularly on Singapore and have significant reach will be required to follow the same regulatory framework as traditional media” (Chiu, 2013). Websites such as Yahoo! News will have to obtain an individual license similar to those that traditional media have. The implications of this license is that “online news sites are expected to comply within 24 hours to MDA’s directions to remove content that is found to be in breach of content standards” (Chiu, 2013).

The new regulations were met with criticism and were claimed to be put in place so that the government can control the content of news that is not under Singapore’s main media organisations Mediacorp and Singapore Press Holdings. Unlike these two media groups, Yahoo! News has had a penchant for putting up objective news that were not always in favour of the Singapore government. To put things in perspective, the mainstream media in Singapore does not rank highly in terms of press freedom. For 2013, Singapore is ranked 149 out of 179 countries in terms of press freedom, a drop of 14 places compared to the previous year (“Press Freedom Index 2013”, 2013).

This is a real challenge for objective news reporting in Singapore, as third party websites will most likely be faced with licensing issues should their content be deemed questionable. Perhaps social media can help to mitigate this problem. It’s all too easy to create a social media account on say, Facebook, and have people following the activities of the said account. It may even be tougher for MDA to impose its regulations on social media. Of course, the onus is on the account owners to walk a fine line; that is to produce news that is objective and not defamatory, or they might risk getting into trouble with the law.

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References

Chiu, P. (2013). 10 online news sites must follow traditional media regulations: MDA  Retrieved 30 May 2013, from http://sg.news.yahoo.com/10-online-news-sites-must-follow-traditional-media-regulations–mda-103906167.html

Press Freedom Index 2013. (2013)  Retrieved 30 May 2013, from https://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html

 

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Journalism, Social Media & the Citizen

The work produced by journalists has, for the longest time, been shown and propagated through several traditional mediums such as television, radio and newspapers. In recent years, the birth and continuous development of the Internet provided another avenue for journalism to flourish. One such development that has captured the world by storm is social media.

The idea behind social media and its relevant networks is to bring people closer and in doing so, allowing for shared personal information and experiences. This can manifest in many forms, from a simple status update on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter, to mass sharing of photographs and videos on Tumblr and Youtube respectively. News organisations and journalists have also taken to social media to publish news and garner attention from users.

Through social media, citizens have somewhat become journalists themselves. Measures (2013) mentions that “pretty much everyone now has the means to report what is going on in the world around them” and that “consequently citizen journalists – ordinary people doing the job of reporters – are everywhere”. The ability to instantly share an image or video to a variety of social network platforms has enabled the citizen to contribute to news reporting. Of course, citizen journalists and actual journalists are divided by issues such as legitimacy and biased news reporting. But this has not hindered citizens from contributing to the act of journalism.

Receptivity itself has been altered with the introduction of journalism in social media. Tomer (2013) states that “as the world become increasingly smaller, with communication technology that allows us to connect with anyone in the world, citizens can learn and process information as it happens from a variety of sources”. News organisations have been removed from their pedestal as the sole source of news and placed amongst social media networks that at times, could be quicker in providing up-to-date news. The recipient now has options as to which piece of news to read, allowing for a fuller picture to be revealed.

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References

Measures, C. (2013). The Rise of Citizen Journalism  Retrieved 16 May 2013, from http://socialmediatoday.com/chris-measures/1430031/rise-citizen-journalism

Tomer, C. (2013). Social Media And How It’s Changing Journalism  Retrieved 16 May 2013, from http://techli.com/2013/04/social-media-and-how-its-changing-journalism/

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