Biased reporting in the Straits Times
I’m not sure what to make of counter protests by the Straits Times and its apologists that it reported the Hougang by-election coverage objectively and dispassionately. Yes those are the words used by the Straits Times editor in its reply to WP’s Low here. As previously written, when then MM Lee Kuan Yew slipped up under oath in 2008, the Straits Times could have spun the headline the same way it did for the by-election such as MM Lee made misstatement under oath, or as it did to WP even something like MM Lee faces allegations of perjury.
But what did Straits Times choose to go with instead? A headline firmly on the MM and PAP’s side: Govt rebuts law group’s attack on S’pore judiciary. Why the inconsistency, Straits Times?
A former Straits Times journalist curiously stated it isn’t just the opposition figures who complain about biased coverage. Apparently the PAP does too, and no less by heavyweight ministers:
Lest people think that only the opposition complains about headlines, well, the PAP does too but maybe not as publicly. I don’t know about this by-election or even the last general election, but I’ve had to face the ire of PAP heavyweights who complain about unflattering pictures or supposedly misleading headlines during past polls or the amount of acreage given to the opposition. Yes, the PAP complains too about media bias.
Then the question here is, why doesn’t the Straits Times make such complaints and their dealings public? Why couldn’t the editor make a decision to publish the content of the PAP complaints together with its editor’s replies and let the public make their own judgement as to whether the Straits Times was consistent and fair in their election coverage? Must it be settled behind closed doors over hushed whispers? As though the Straits Times are politically subservient to the PAP?
Photo choice and placement is another issue. As noted by another blogger here, it’s quite telling that the Straits Times tended to portray Desmond Choo together with his constituents, but of Png simply campaigning for votes.
Let’s review a couple more recent instances of biased articles from the Straits Times. Earlier this year there was this: Did Singaporeans over-react to MRT breakdowns? The article suggests that Singaporeans went over the top in demanding that then-SMRT CEO Saw Phaik Hwa resign after train service broke down repeatedly in December 2011. But something surprising happened less than a week later which vindicated those calling for Saw’s resignation: Saw actually resigned. What happened, Straits Times? If Singaporeans were indeed complaining as the spoilt brats they were made out to be, why did Saw have to resign?
Or take this example from earlier this January, where the Straits Times declared that President Tony Tan volunteers to take 51% pay cut. Volunteer? Why couldn’t the headline have been written as President Tan accepts pay cut recommendations? Why the need to spin it as a selfless gesture on Tony Tan’s part?
However ST apologists want to spin it, it becomes very hard to deny that the Straits Times is biased in its reporting and coverage through selective use of headlines, photo choice and placement.