Main Blog Post: Do blogs inform us more effectively?Posted: May 15, 2011
Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.
Blogs are new sources of information that aim to inform the public effectively through its editorial independent content. In answering the question, I will be comparing the elite media and institution in Singapore – The Straits Times (ST) and The Temasek Review (TR), a socio-political blog.
ST is the most widely read broadsheet in Singapore and owned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). However, the Singapore media is always labeled as state-controlled. Why is this so? SPH is owned by Temasek Holdings, a government investment company and the Chairman is coincidentally the former Deputy Prime Minister. Using the recent Singapore general election as an example, ST carried mainly pro-government articles and neutral or negative reports on the opposition parties. This triggered frustration among the younger Singaporeans setting up Facebook pages to boycott the elite local media.
On the other hand, “blogs are another kind of collective intelligence in which individuals pool together their fact-finding capabilities to gather knowledge that can challenge the authority of the professional press” (Russell et. al 2008). This describes the team of bloggers behind TR, run by Singaporean bloggers from all walks of life (from students to professors). Their identity is protected due to fear of repercussions in the political climate of Singapore. Hence, the issue of bias arises as bloggers may write with a hidden political agenda.
With increasing opportunities for amateur production, people are resisting the content of mainstream news using it to offer contesting point of view and alternative practices (Russell et al 2008). This is evident, as Singaporeans seeking for an alternative point of view would read TR. Hence, I see TR as a fourth estate and unofficial watchdog of the Singapore government as it aims to provide an unbiased political coverage. With editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity, the content of the blog is refreshing as it uses news sources such as ST to offer an alternative point of view, which ST does not do so. The content in TR offers contesting arguments and reasons towards issues. Unlike ST, it is not concerned with profits and not owned by the government. Thus, the blog entries do not have to practice self-censorship and are often straightforward, criticizing government policies openly.
In this comparison, blogs do inform the public more effectively by providing viewpoints that may disagree with the state controlled mainstream media. It is another platform where the public now can turn to for information. Among Singaporeans, 1 in 2 think that mainstream media reporting is biased towards the ruling party especially towards political issues (Chang 2011). It also doesn’t help that in the 2010 Press Freedom Index, Singapore, a democratic nation, is ranked 136th in the world (Australia is ranked 18th). This means that reporters and editors are faced with strict censorship when reporting political sensitive issues in the state owned mainstream media. Political blogs like TR fills the gaps with alternative viewpoints, thus informing the public more effectively about government policies without any restrictions and the need for self-censorship. However, blogs and elite media institutions usually offer polarizing viewpoints so readers need to be discerning and critical when they are presented with this information.
Press Freedom Index 2010, Reporters Without Borders For Press Freedom, Washington DC viewed 15 May 2011, <http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2010,1034.html>
Russell A, Ito M, Richmond T, Tuters M 2008, ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Kazys Varnelis (ed.), Networked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 43-76
R, Chang 2011, The Straits Times, Singapore viewed 24 May 2011, <http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_672048.html>
The Temasek Review 2011, The Temasek Review, Singapore viewed 15 May 2011, <http://www.temasekreview.com/about-2/>