Discerning Reading, Responsible Journalism

Chanced upon two interesting articles in StraitsTimes:

1. Chinese factory ‘treated workers as slave labour’ – dated 15 December 2010

2. Hospital steps in to stop abuse – dated 16 December 2010

The first article about “mentally disabled workers allegedly enslaved for years in deplorable conditions (China)” was syndicated from Agence France-Presse, XINHUA while the second article was written by Kimberly Spykerman from SPH (Singapore Press Holdings).

These two articles caught my attention because while both were reporting on abuse, their respective titles focused on quite different aspects of the matters.  The first article focused on the abuse of workers by a Chinese factory while the second focused on how a hospital stopped abuse.  Granted, the context and people involved are vastly different, the subtle difference in the title can paint a very different story in the mind of many readers who merely scan through titles.

To be fair, the former article states clearly in the first paragraph of how the Chinese authorities have stepped in to shutdown said factory.  What if the title had read “Chinese authorities stepped in to shutdown factory for workers abuse”?  Would that not give a more positive impression that the Chinese government is not that different from other governments in protecting its citizens?

Consider the second article.  If it was entitled “Mentally disabled patients abused”, it would still be factual, except that it would skew the reader to focus on the abuse and perhaps even mislead one to think that these patients are abused in the hospital!  Fortunately, journalists in Singapore are more prudent when it comes to reporting.  Their reporting serve as a feedback loop that can support and aid positively, the social fabric of society or trigger a mass hysteria.

We as readers, need to be discerning in our reading.  Read the article thoroughly before forming your opinion.  And even then, remember, this is what is reported.  That is all it is.

In a similar vein, when we hear reports of people at work or among friends, we should be discerning in our hearing and not simply jump to conclusions.  Preconception about people or situations often create self-fulfilling prophesies.  If there is anything I learnt from Literature in secondary school, it was the concept of “self-fulfilling prophesies” introduced in Macbeth.  Like the king who listened to the three (witch?) sisters and later led to his own downfall (granted, many other factors are at play!), we sometimes listen to our ‘oracles’ and watch our own little ‘tragedy’ unfold.

My friend, how do you want your life to be like?  Read carefully, hear mindfully, discern wisely.

Footnote:

I noticed that the date in StraitsTimes read “Thursday, December 16, 2010”.  This follows the US date format convention.  I thought the date format convention in Singapore should read “Thursday, 16 December, 2010”?  When did StraitsTimes started adopting the US date format convention?