In praise of the new media
There was once in my secondary school days when my principal, during an assembly session criticised the growing popularity of blogs. In those times, citizen journalism was virtually unheard of (in Singapore, that is). The most popular blog among students of those times, was Open Diary.
These blogs, he said, were a mockery of their real world counterparts (diaries). They were more akin to posting on a bulletin board than an actual diary whose contents were kept secret. He found it an alien concept that someone could write stuff on their personal lives and post it online like, well, an “open diary”. Equally alien to him were cellphones. He told us of how he witnessed a few students of our school on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit, a train system in Singapore) who were engrossed with an object in their hands. Walking around train carriages, he witnessed the same spectacle among other students who were pre-occupied with similar devices who were oblivious to his presence. These students, he ranted, were dressed in school uniform and attire when they were doing this. The implication of that being that it was disgraceful to the school to be seen behaving in public in such a manner. Moreover he added, cellphones are owned mostly by businessmen; a mere high school student should have no need for one.
Fast-forward 9 years. Today most secondary schools in Singapore allow their students to carry cellphones. The Open Diary concept has been expanded and diversified into collaborative blogs such as The Online Citizen and Wayang Party. Outside of Singapore, blogs have functioned as citizen journalistic news outlets. In the US, it’s not uncommon for a story to first circulate in the blogosphere, gaining popularity and citations, before it breaks into the mainstream media. Singaporean blogs have recently broken news stories before they were later covered by the mainstream media. The Wayang Party blog for example, broke the story of SAF Medical Officer Dr Allan Ooi’s suicide note before the mainstream media did. They were the first to report (apart from the initial post on Channel News Asia’s forum) on the Northwest CDC bonuses and follow-up on it before the state media decided to cover them.
Far from the caricature by the mainstream state media of blogs being hotbeds of anti-establishment rants and poorly sourced opinions, more and more of these blogs adhere to a stricter journalistic standard than Singapore’s mainstream media believes. With this, I’m proud to say that Singapore’s new media is finally maturing.