This week’s webinar touched on a topic that is seen sensitive – the neutrality and objectivity in political journalism in Singapore. Coincidentally in the same week, Singapore finished General Election 2020. In such a time, political journalism naturally became the focal point of press industry.
The webinar introduced the definition of neutrality, objectivity and their use in political journalism. Neutrality in journalism suggests an unbiased, even-handed and impartial manner in news reporting, not siding with any of the involved parties and presenting only the relevant facts not opinions (Calcutt & Hammond, 2011). Sounds familiar? Journalistic neutrality and objectivity are the least important things in what we have discussed last week – the opinion-oriented citizen journalism arising from social media. To apply the same concepts in political journalism, it refers to news coverage on civil government and political power free from any biased political views.
One of the reasons why political journalism sits in the middle of public debate is the fact that opinions and bias are so easily injected when reporting on politics. The number of coverages on different political parties, a slight favour towards one politician, a longer discussion over certain topics may all lead to the disruption to the objectivity in political news reporting, thus affecting public perception to political parties or politicians. Particularly, the webinar asserted the chance of political journalism in Singapore to be neutral and objective is relatively low, owing to the press model in Singapore — social responsibility model. It indicates the primary functions of the press to be nation-building, which emphasizes more on economic, social stability over civil liberties (Huat, 1989).
However, stereotype did not stop Singapore media to make an effort in objective news reporting on politics. Amidst the GE2020, major Singapore media organizations tried hard to stay neutral and objective by leaving sufficient space to cover stories on all opposition parties, such as the Worker’s Party (WP) and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). What’s more, being neutral also includes covering issues of both good and bad. This can be seen especially in The Straits Times (ST) articles, in spite of the circulated remarks that ST represents only the ‘voice of government’.
Calcutt, A., & Hammond, P. (2011). Journalism studies: A critical introduction. Routledge.
Huat, T. C. (1989). Confucianism and nation building in Singapore. International Journal of Social Economics.