Straits Times masks the truth that retail scene and SMEs in Singapore are in a bad shape

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By: The Singaporean Observer

As there still some Singaporeans who think that The Straits Times (as well as other Singapore mass media) is totally impartial in its content, I would just like to show one example why this is not true in today’s Straits Times (11 Mar 2017).

Look at the forum letter written by Andrew Koh “Small costs add up to a big impact on retail stores” either on the hard-copy version of The Straits Times or online. Read the whole letter and tell me whether the title suits the content of the letter. Or do you think that a title like “High rentals killed retail here” would be a better fit, which naturally follows the explicit conclusion of the writer?

By doing this, it has achieved the following objectives:

  1. Avoid offending the government.
  2. Convey the idea that things (e.g. the retail scene, policies by the government) are not so bad.
  3. Avoid being accused by its readers that they don’t publish news that are contrary to what the government says, which in this case, was Minister Lim Hng Kiang.
  4. Avoid being accused by the public that they don’t publish bad news. They actually do, but such news are usually buried somewhere deep in the article itself, or they report them in a roundabout way.

At the same time, it published a huge headline on the cover page of Section C’s Business with the text “Supermarkets, F&B lift January retail sales” to ensure that most of its readers get the message that our retail scene is “really” not that bad.

(Unfortunately, our retail scene and SMEs are in a bad shape but our government benefits the most through high rentals, which explains why they are doing this.)

This is an example of how the Singapore mass media subtly make minor changes to the headings of news or letters as well as arrangement of news article layouts to nudge its readers to a more pro-government stance.

Sadly, many Singaporeans do not know how to spot this or are simply too busy to bother even trying.

So what should we do?

  1. Don’t just care about posting pictures of your dogs / cats / family or working on your next job / holiday / property etc.
  2. Read news articles carefully, especially those reported in the mass media.
  3. Check whether the news title is really suitable for the article.
  4. Subscribe to credible alternative news sites. (If you’re interested in knowing which ones are those, I may follow up with some recommendations on another day.)
  5. Read widely. (A diet of Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, ChannelNewsAsia, News on Channel 5 and 8 etc. is not reading widely; they are basically the same.)
  6. If you think something is not right, write directly to your Member of Parliament (MP), relevant Ministers and/or public agencies and suggest solutions (don’t just complain).

I hope that this small write-up will motivate more of us to work on our powers of observation and hopefully make us better critical thinkers as we shouldn’t allow the general Singaporean populace be described as “gullible”.

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