Friday, April 30, 2010

Polarization in Singapore Media

The mainstream media in Singapore is often accused of being biased. This allegation stems from the observation that the mainstream media tends to report only the positive aspects of Government policy. Clearly, this is insufficient, and a severe failing; good reporting should give attention to both sides of an issue.

At the same time, however, I can’t help but think that the online community has committed the same mistake, by tending to report only the negative aspects of Government policy. It may be possible to justify this by claiming that we should hold different mediums to different standards, but this argument is not entirely satisfactory.

My take is that alternative media is reactionary is nature, often in response to the mainstream media. For example, if an article about a policy X is reported favorably in the papers, then arguments against X will be reported in alternative media, to serve as a counterpoint. In this fashion, well-intentioned bloggers (or citizen journalists, though I dislike the term) describe the weaknesses in public policy which are omitted in the mainstream media; a discussion of the positives is often not made as it is implicitly assumed that the reader is familiar with the source material previously published in the mainstream media.

However, the precondition of familiarity with the source material may not be satisfied; thus the intellectually lazy may be presented with an unduly negative portrayal of matters. It is troubling if anyone subscribes to any one source of information, more so if the sources are polarized or biased.

I have portrayed the roles of the mainstream media and alternative media as being complimentary; perhaps those more skeptical will instead have a more adversarial view.

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