The camera culture and the news

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Are more people fighting these days, or are camera phones exaggerating the Singaporeans’ ugly side?

On Jan 11, a fight broke out on an MRT train.  Teeng Kok Yong, 40, and 50-year-old Ng Cheng Kiat were strangers. Ng thought Teeng had made an offensive gesture at his girlfriend, while all three were on board the train.

A fight took place. Someone in the cabin flashed that curse of the modern century, the camera phone.

The video went viral and both men were hauled to court. Ng was fined $2,500 in February and Teeng $1,500 yesterday for their roles in the brawl.

The video of their fight got 5,000 shares on Facebook and 1,230 likes on The Real Singapore.

When the video went viral, Channel News Asia and The Straits Times gave it wide coverage, feeding the frenzy that news has become.

“This is important news for CNA to report? No hope seriously… [Sic.],” said Tiqanika Abu Bakar on CNA’s Facebook page

Some comments also showed that many Singaporeans were not too happy with this new culture of news.

Erian Hansen commented on CNA’s Facebook page today: “In the past, we stepped in as a middle-man to prevent people from fighting in public.

“Now, we don’t do that. We grab our mobiles and record the fight, the longer and fiercer the fight, the better it is, and upload it on YouTube in the hope that it will be watched by millions of viewers…”

Remember the sword-wielding “samurai” on an MRT train last December? Julian Lim recorded a five-second video of him leaving the train with his sword.

He was arrested subsequently.

Back in 22 October 2013, a man was arrested when he was caught spitting at a woman twice. Sia Jian He quickly took a video of the act. The video generated 12,000 shares and 1,600 likes in a day.

This is the culture that makes the news.

We can blame STOMP. We can blame MDA for all its biases. But today, with our camera phones, we are shaping the new media landscape.

Channel News Asia, The Straits Times, The Independent Singapore and Mothership.sg will all have to negotiate this new media landscape with a louder and rowdier camera-wielding audience.

As they negotiate this new space, it is time to ask: Should we stop the supply of oxygen to such camera phone junkies?