Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Pain in the Ass

Trained as a journalist, I feel guilty to say that reading the news these days has become a pain in the ass. Seriously, it now takes quite some determination to switch on the television or pick up a newspaper.

This is all because the local news agenda has never seemed so hopelessly boring and tedious. So many seem to be happening, but little progress has been visible.

Much of the media attention has been focusing on the potential candidates at the next chief executive elections, for example. No doubt this is big news for Hong Kong, although only 0.1 per cent of us would have the privilege to "determine" who is going to succeed Sir Donald. Convenor of the Executive Council Leung Chun-ying has just tendered his resignation but it still remains unclear when he would formally leave his office. Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang manages to maintain his posture despite all the rumours and speculations. But it seems only God knows whether or not he would become another candidate for the helm of Hong Kong.

It is unbearably boring because so many guessing games have been going on for weeks and months and even years and the answer remains so remote and unreachable. It feels like watching a soap opera that has been dragging on and on for ages and no one can tell precisely who the leading players are and the cameos. The audience's patience and tolerance have been repeatedly put to test, but there is little, if any, escape. Essentially there is no such thing as a plot, although everyone knows that someone behind the scenes are masterminding the show. But this time it seems even those "invisible hands" are also confused and perplexed, not knowing exactly what to do with the available options. In turn, the absence of any direction only fuels the boiling speculations that only end up with nothing.

Be it political, economic, social or even showbiz news, it is incredibly tedious also because news stories these days are filled with endless chains of responses to responses to the most trivial stuff. Few can have a grasp of what is going on by reading the newspaper or watching television nowadays because too often everyone seems to lose sight of what the real issue is. To begin with, journalists are simply too obsessed to seek diverse views - an extremely misled but prevalent definition of balanced reporting. Constructive debates and contemplation with reason are replaced by wars of words fought in front of the camera. Everyone is so obsessed with the ability to grab a share of media exposure as if it were the ultimate end, not means of communication. No one seems to bother to pause for a second to think, let alone attempting to clarify, what the matter is all about. This is why the news pages are flooded with comments of relevant - and quite often irrelevant - parties on someone else's sound-bites - rather than the key issue - that mean anything but meaningful. Air time and columns are filled with the same opposing views by the same rivals from the same political camps and interest groups. Op-ed pages in the press are dominated by well-established names, although the quality of their content is not necessarily commensurate. Simply put, the journalists are abandoning their moral duty of being the gatekeeper. Instead, they are running after those who are feeding the advertisers to pay their bills, in the glorious name of market orientation.

So if all these do not cause inertia and sickness of news, what else does?

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