The Credibility of News Portals Compared to
Written by Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz
Monday, 27 February 2012 17:49
Art Harun wrote: "I have credibility issue with local newspapers." Secondly, he said "Reports were often spun in order to suit whatever agenda, political or otherwise, which the newspapers serve."
Anyway, I would like to refute the article published on Art Harun's blog entitled "Newspapers – Your Fate Is in Your Own Hands" where he had criticized the credibility of the mainstream press, by instead lifting up online media as a reliable source of information and lightning-speed news.
So how far true are Art Harun's statements? First, let me take you back to something that happened during the Budi Bicara Twitter Jaya forum not long ago, where I was interviewed by few members of the media about cyberwars and Umno cybertroopers.
The next day I logged on to Malaysiakini to have a look at what the news portal had reported. The portal had 'misquoted' me by saying, "Unit Media Baru (UMB) chairman, Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz said he could not control certain bloggers like Papagomo and Parpukari whom often publish writings containing slanderous elements."
As I remembered, what I actually said was: Parpukari and Papagomo are both independent bloggers and we (UMB) cannot place any rules or conditions upon them as they are not a part of the party's (Umno) machinery. I had also told to not bound our discussion with certain names.
To explain the inaccurate report and title published by Malaysiakini, I had to blog on my own version and context about the interview. I appreciate Malaysiakini's effort to amend the inaccurate report. Although in my opinion the amended report was not 100 percent accurate, as I can still accept it due to the fact that Malaysiakini might have its own objective to achieve.
Skeptical? Well, here's another example of how the news has been manipulated and spun to fulfil certain agenda. This report came from Malaysian Insider on August 2010 where it quoted: "Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today that his predecessor should not have banned the word "Allah" from being used by the Catholic Church".
I would like to stress that no other media has reported the minister saying as such. Malaysian Insider, on the other hand, not only reported as such but had also reported follow-up interviews using the skewed report.
Let me remind by citing this following quote:
"The first duty of a newspaper is to be accurate. If it be accurate, it follows that it is fair."
- Herbert Bayard Swope quotes (American Journalist and Editor, 1882-1958)
But, we were less likely than before to get the fair, steady view we need, because "we are no longer a national audience receiving news from a handful of trusted gatekeepers; we're now a million or more clusters of consumers, harvesting information from like-minded providers."
The online or new media's emergence is aimed to put traditional newspaper to shame. The reliability of printed media has come forth with a big fat question mark. However, critics may leave out one thing, be it on purpose or not, that online media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.
It all rooted back to human integrity. There is a concern that the standards of journalism are being ignored. One of the most controversial issues in modern reporting is media bias, especially on political issues, but also with regards to cultural and other issues. Sensationalism is also a common complaint. Minor factual errors are also extremely common, as almost anyone who is familiar with the subject of a particular report will quickly realize. In point of fact, there are careful writers and careless writers. There are those who strive to be fair and objective and those who are extremely slanted. To judge them by the media which carries the message, is foolish. As with any other sources of information, it all depends on the character of the person doing the writing and their commitment to honesty and fairness. Most people judge their information sources on whether those sources agree with them. But, the character of the writer is really what is important.
From possibilities of new media being deliberately manipulated, to selective reporting, spiking and double standards, these forms of bias are sometimes not easy to establish by some people, or guard against.
Even in Malaysia, you cannot blame every misreporting is due to printed media's 'way to spun the story'. Online media also have their own way of sensationalizing those things. For instance, how many false reports have been filed under Malaysiakini? People have taken a new way by using online media as a tool to put forth their political agenda. This can be done by writing, news reporting etc. People still remember on how Suhardi's `death' (twice) during Bersih rally was reported. Or the way Tan Beng Hock's death and Universiti Malaya Masturah's `kidnapping' were being sensationalized.
Factor to consider when using online information as a source, is how long will it be around? A Wikipedia article could completely change next week so if you reference a source, it could disappear. Another factor is how reputable is the source? Is the source established? Do they try to be fair? Do they have a track record? I think one of the most valuable functions of online resources is to check facts regarding articles and information we acquire elsewhere. I frequently learn about topics in magazines and then explore them in more depth or check the veracity of the information online.
So what should Art Harun have said? Maybe he should say that he also has credibility issue with online news portals such as Malaysiakini and Malaysian Insider and the worst of the kind, the political party portals such as Harakahdaily, Keadilan Daily and Roketkini. Reports from these sites were often spun in order to suit whatever agenda, political or otherwise, which the portals serve.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device via Vodafone-Celcom Mobile.