Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Media, reform thyself

By Cheng Kai-chun

The Taiwanese legislature has just passed a bill on media reform, but long-standing, unresolved problems remain.

Taiwan has more than a dozen TV news channels broadcasting live pictures and telling sensational stories without proper fact-checking -- a high density of media outlets for just 23 million people.

The legislature has been working on ridding the media of the influence of such interest groups as political parties and the military. But the general public simply wants good journalism in line with international standards. Since Hong Kong publications like the Apple Daily and Next Magazine launched their Taiwanese versions, major Taiwanese daily papers that used to be a lot more serious have become paparazzi-like, with juicy, graphic photos creeping onto their front pages.

Further degrading the local media scene is the fresh-out-of-college, inexperienced but telegenic TV journalists and anchorpersons who have no choice but to adapt as quickly as possible to the "real world of media" by completing the missions assigned by their always-barking bosses. These rookie journalists always find themselves chasing people whose quotes scarcely matter.

In a tiny market like Taiwan, a major part of the daily work schedule of any media executive includes wooing advertisers. It's the hard-earned advertising dollars that keep media organizations above water. As a result, specialists in the sales department of any media outlet enjoy greater leverage than their editorial counterparts. This is so evident that more and more aspiring media talents -- many of whom are in a position to provide for their families -- are making a detour to job offers as PR coordinators or marketing specialists in either the public or private sector.

Well-trained media professionals are consequently staying away from jobs where they used to monitor the government and benefit the masses, with only ill-prepared recent graduates stumbling to feed viewers and readers with scandal-mongering and careless reports.

For reporters, editors and producers, the real aim of media reform should be the determination to do better-quality journalism, rather than hastily passing any more media bills in the raucous, bickering Legislative Yuan.

Cheng Kai-chun


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