Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Straining at Gnats and Swallowing Camels

I sometimes suffer from topic overload because it just seems that there are so many things to write about that I end up not writing at all. The crane that collapsed near my flat yesterday is a good example. My God, what if that thing had fallen onto Hennesy Road rather than back into the construction site? Does anyone doubt that the use of illiterate construction workers from the PRC and lax safety standards by HK contractors didn't have anything or probably everything to do with that horror? I hesitate to write on disasters like this because I believe this is an issue that the papers and television news can actually cover well. So why write about it? I could write a long essay on the need for better health and safety standards here or the enforcement of those already on the books but why? The SCMP can do that and should.

There are however, things that journalist cannot cover well. This is because:
  1. They don't have the technical knowledge of a specific area.
  2. They don't have the connections
  3. They are unable to separate their personal convictions or attitudes from the issues involved. This is especially true, or so it appears to me when dealing with political and scientific areas.
I must admit, I don't believe in journalistic objectivity (or any other kind of professional objectivity for that matter)in matters of importance. Everybody, my self included, has a near impossible time separating their feelings, training and beliefs from the way they view the world. Journalist are no different. Our opinions and personality color and to some extent shape what we see. That is one of the things that make blogs so useful to me. They give me the opportunity to find divergent points of view or expertise that isn't filtered though someone else provided that I have the skills to discern authentic what the blogger is saying.

I bring this up today because there is a link to a Radio interview on RTHK Radio-3 with Hemlock on his site. The very first caller to the show was a "journalist" who complained about Hemlock using a pen-name because, or so the journalist claimed, that not using his real name lessened his authority. The host of the program concurred saying in effect that the invitation to Hemlock had been carefully considered because of his screen name. Hemlock's answer that he maintains his anonymity because of his job and family was roundly pooh-poohed by the Radio host and the caller. Hemlock, in true what I think is Brit politeness was kinder to them than I would have been.

But then I am a bomb throwing reactionary crank by training, habit and temperament.

This was a perfect example of number three above. Journalist do not live in the real world when it comes to employment. They simply don't get it. More than that they are hypocrites of the worse kind.

  1. If a journalist makes an outrageous claim, especially one that is true their employer benefits through increased sales or greater market share. Having the government protest the content of an article exposing governmental corruption or having a group of protesters complain about a newspapers coverage of them is good for the paper. Finding things out, especially salacious or illegal things is what journalist are often paid to do. It increases sales. I on the other hand as a blogger would lose my job if I start having nuts who don't appreciate my point of view showing up the gate of the school where I work. As well I should because at that point my private life would be affecting my professional life.
  2. Have these journalist ever used an unnamed source? We aren't talking about Dan Rather making things up here. We're talking about printing something that includes phrases like: "An official in the government told us....." "This housewife said......." How is this different from Hemlock or Fai Mao or any of the other Hong Kong Bloggers who have pen-names? We have authority, if we have it all because what we say can be checked as true and factual.
  3. Do journalist, any journalist ever reveal all of their sources as footnotes or text notes within their articles? I've never seen it if they do.
  4. Do journalist, really think they are adequate to act as the sole gatekeepers of knowledge? Especially since, I believe, in the same week this interview with Hemlock took place they themselves issued a report describing the growing amount of self censorship among the press in Hong Kong? Maybe they should censor less and use more fake names
To say that someone who has an obvious insider position in the financial and government workings of Hong Kong. who has lived here a long time and has a cogent, well thought out not to mention often hysterically funny position on the government here is a suspect source simply because he/she/they use a screen name is simply a condescending ploy by practitioners of a dying industry to keep a few more pay checks coming before they have to get a job as a checkout boy at Wellcome.


There is a famous line from the Shakespeare play Henry VI "First we kill all the lawyers" perhaps if the Bard were alive today Journalist would have claimed his ire as well.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger Who is proud of His Anonymity.

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