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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Role of main media in a sea of blogs and videos

Nov 23, 2007
Old media still has vital role: Minister
Mainstream media's 'strongest value proposition': professionalism and objectivity
By Li Xueying

THE sea of blogs, chatrooms and YouTube videos has led many to predict all doom and gloom for the mainstream media.
But Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, cast a different light on the battle on Friday.

He believes the mainstream media (MSM) can stand up to the challenge of new media with what he sees as its 'strongest value proposition' to consumers: professionalism and objectivity.

'MSM will have to fall back on the time-tested value of providing timely, reliable and accurate news and reports, as well as insightful and informed analyses in a responsible manner,' he said,

Dr Lee was addressing some 100 journalists - both local and foreign - including those who are in town to cover the Asean Summit this week, at his ministry's annual press cocktail.

At the same time, he added, the Singapore media must continue to play its critical role in 'strengthening social cohesion and resilience'.

This model has served Singapore well in the past; it will remain important going forward, he noted. This is particularly so in a world where foreign influences - good or bad - are transmitted across increasingly porous borders.

Said Dr Lee: 'The Singapore media has a heavy and responsible role in our nation-building effort. Economic viability and social stability are vital for Singapore's continued progress and success.

'In a world where the borders are becoming increasingly porous and foreign influences, good and bad, are carried to our shores by the rising tide, we should not forsake what has worked well for us for the past four decades.

'When we have to grapple with the threat of self-radicalisation resulting from the spread of religious, extremism and terrorism ideology through the Internet, we must not jettison the media's critical role in strengthening social cohesion and resilience.'

Therefore, in an age of new media, the Singapore media has 'an even more important role' to inform with objective and responsible news coverage and analyses, to better prepare Singaporeans for engaging an interconnected and globalised world, he said.

For in this world, consumers are inundated with a flood of information.

'When you venture into new media space, separating the wheat from the chaff is perhaps the most challenging exercise,' he said.

Speaking in reaction, Lianhe Zaobao political editor Poh Say Teck, 48, said the media can play its nation-building role and yet not be a government mouthpiece.

'It has to be a two-way expressway, where we help the Government explain its policies, and at the same time, ensure that we reflect feedback from Singaporeans that may help change policies.

'If it's just a one-way traffic, we lose our credibility.'

Dr Lee also touched on the image of Singapore as portrayed by the foreign media. Changes such as the upcoming integrated resorts and the bid for the Youth Olympic Games have been 'positively featured', he said.

It is also not just focusing on political, economic and financial stories, but other changes such as on the arts and culture, said Dr Lee, citing the Smithsonian magazine, which had an article headlined 'Singapore Swing'.

Ms Lu Qing, 40, from China Radio International, said more events like the recent Singapore Season in Shanghai will help promote the Republic as a vibrant and creative city.

'Many China tourists are in Singapore for just a day or two, so they won't get a full flavour of what Singapore has to offer. So such events will be very useful.'

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