A former political desk journalist of The Straits Times (ST) shared her past working experience in ST on Facebook, revealing how mainstream media reporters are being restricted when writing about the alternative parties’ candidates.
She recounted in her Facebook post – which is only visible to her friends – on Saturday (4 July) that there are good candidates from the alternative parties but mainstream media reporters are “not allowed to report on good opposition candidates” or “highlight anything good about them”.
“I get super worked up when I hear people say ‘opposition candidates are not good’. I also feel bad because as a journalist on the Straits Times political desk, I was part of the media machinery that helped perpetuate this image,” she wrote.
According to her, they were encouraged to cover news on the “silly minor things” that made the alternative parties “look bad” instead, such as photos of them with “eyes half-closed, mouth open, looking sweaty” and others.
The mainstream media had “played up a lot” of the “real nutjobs” that emerged during elections just to build the perceptions that the alternative parties are “ridiculous” and have “no real candidates”.
“If you still feel that way, it means you fell for the ploy,” said the former ST reporter, who has since left journalism.
In the past she also shared about her preferred candidate from an alternative party, who contested in the 1997 General Election (GE) and whose candidacy she covered.
“If you’ve never heard of him and still think ‘opposition’ never had good people… well, that’s thanks to mainstream media,” she added.
The politician passed away last year.
She noted that she had “tried her best” to give his party a “fair coverage” and once managed to get a full-page coverage for his team which was published. But the editors had to “scramble” to explain to the “higher-ups” on why the alternatives’ candidates were given so much coverage, she shared in her post.
The editors also explained to reporters in “seemingly-logical language” that “coverage of parties must be proportionate to the number of MPs [Members of Parliament] they had in Government”, she said.
“Meaning it is totally fair for opposition candidates to get little to no coverage.”
Disheartened by the editors’ explanation, she decided to move to another newsdesk. She mentioned in her post that many of the ST’s journalists had tried to “challenge the rules”.
“I tried. Many of us tried, constantly doing small things to challenge the ‘rules’. Most of us have left ST,” she stated. “That’s why I am so happy that with social media, there’s little room for censorship. Because someone else will have a record of what really happened and a platform to share it on.”
Thus, she urged people to vote for the Party that they think can ensure their views are being “respected” and “represented in Parliament” and not depend on mainstream media to report fairly.
“If you’re still unsure about who to vote for in this election, the last thing you should trust is what the mainstream media is telling you,” she noted.