Sat, Aug 26, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: Life's a bitch when you're slapped

It's come to this. A one-time DPP luminary and Shih Ming-teh supporter has roughed up a minor media mogul on a talkshow. But there's one "reporter" who won't be covering the story - he took his job description of bias too seriously.

By Johnny Neihu

Well, originally I wanted to stay away from writing about the movement to recall the president as much as possible. But then everything got crazy. I just can't ignore some of these recent events.

First, Ting Wan-ming (丁萬鳴), who The Associated Press describes as "a veteran journalist from the pro-opposition United Daily News (UDN)," managed, with one single act, to offer indisputable proof of every criticism I have ever leveled at the Chinese-language media. Namely, that journalists and editors have no professional ethics, no detachment, are unable to -- or do not care to -- discern the difference between speculation and fact, and do not understand the very simple concept that an independent and objective media is essential to a democracy.

During an awards ceremony that one presumes Ting had been invited to attend in his professional capacity, the "journalist" (I put sneer marks around it because he is clearly unworthy of the title) stood up and began waving a banner and screaming "Step down A-bian!" at the president. (For the uninitiated, "A-bian" is President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) nickname.) It would have been equally shocking if a baseball umpire had begun cheering for one of the teams in the middle of the game.

Obviously, security intervened. We learn from our very own Taipei Times that "Ting said he was expressing himself on behalf of `the 60 percent of the Taiwanese public' that want Chen Shui-bian to step down, because it was difficult for them to send a message to the president directly."

Except by voting, of course. And, not to nitpick, but I had always been under the impression that the role of the media was to keep watch over the government for the public's benefit, not to intercede in political affairs on behalf of the public.

But then, I never benefited from the fine journalistic education one obviously receives at the UDN. If they have a formal training program, it must look something like this:

Day 1: How to Read.

Day 2: How to Write.

Day 3: How to Make Things Up.

Day 4: Ten Quick and Easy Ways to Libel.

Day 5: Objectivity -- What's the Point?

Day 6: Bias, Activism and You -- How to Become the Story.

And on the seventh day, no doubt, they rest, look upon their work, and think that it is good.

I learned from an acquaintance, who shall remain nameless (because I now refuse to publicly associate with anyone from the UDN), that Ting was transferred to a "non-editorial position" -- a symbolic slap on the wrist. I'll have to check back in a few months to see if he gets promoted once the furor dies down.

There was another little event on Thursday night that is simply too good to pass up. There is even a slight chance that careful viewers might have caught it on television -- it played several thousand times on every channel and graced the front pages of most local newspapers.

The event, of course, was Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰) -- a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has-been -- deciding to beat the shit out of Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒) -- a veteran political commentator -- on live television.

Hmm. I'm almost at a loss for words. Almost.

Now, I've never been a really big fan of Chin or his magazine, Contemporary Monthly. In the jargon of the industry, Chin is what we call a "media whore." Unfortunately, unlike most professional media whores, Chin does not "give good quote," to use the expression of a former colleague of mine from the Asian Wall Street Journal. But just because I don't like him doesn't mean I want to see him beaten up (although it had its moments).

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