By Sean Francis Han
On 21 October The Straits Times published an article that cited the discipline of parkour as the reason for a girl’s death. The girl, 14 years old, was allegedly trying to jump from the fourth to the third floor of a school building when she fell and later died of injuries.
Some members of the general public and of Singapore’s parkour community were appalled by the Straits Time’s frivolous conflation of parkour with the girl’s death – especially since there was little evidence to suggest the girl was involved in parkour training. “People who do parkour know how to assess the risk,” said Ben Matchap, parkour coach and member of Parkour Singapore. “We train for what we are ready to do and slowly push the boundaries.”
The saga prompted journalists at Offbeat Perspectives to investigate which of Singapore’s mainstream (M) and non-mainstream (NM) media outlets had reported the matter to the highest standard of journalism. Offbeat Perspectives looked at report headlines and content from 11 news outlets, namely Zaobao, the Straits Times, Rewire, AsiaOne, EduMatters, Omy News, Berita Harian, All Singapore Stuff, Yahoo News, and TheAsianParent.
With regard to headlines improperly linking the girl’s death with parkour, 7 of the 11 headlines of the above news sites explicitly suggested that parkour was what resulted in the girl’s death. These were:
- Zaobao (M)
- ST (M)
- RedWire Singapore (NM)
- theAsianparent (NM)>
- EduMatters (NM)
- Omy News (M)
- Berita Harian (M)
AsiaOne (M), Yahoo News (NM) and All Singapore Stuff (NM) placed a neutral headline stating the girl died falling from either a height or school building.
All Singapore Stuff (CJ) speculated and linked the girl’s death to bullying.
In terms of content, 7 out of 10 news sites stated in their articles that it was “believed/suspected” the girl’s death was a result of doing parkour.
theAsianparent (NM) was the only one that deemed the relation of the girl’s death to parkour as a fact.
Yahoo News (NM) and All Singapore Stuff (CJ) stated the girl’s death was classified as unnatural, and also included updates by the police and the school.
All Singapore Stuff (NM) did not link the girl’s death to parkour, though it did speculate that bullying was a possible cause, based on a netizen's personal experience of seeing students from that school bullying their schoolmates in the past.
In a summary of its findings Offbeat Perspectives concluded that theAsianparent had been the least credible new outlet for explicitly suggested in both their headlines and content that the girl’s death was a result of doing parkour.
Conversely, Yahoo News and All Singapore Stuff were tied for being the most credible news outlets. Both had played it safe with not only a neutral headlines, but were also the only 2 news sites not to speculate the still unverified cause of the girl’s death.
M – Mainstream news sites [*Any news sites under Singapore Press Holding]
NM – Non-mainstream news sites
CJ – Citizen Journalism [*Source of news came from netizens themselves]