Monday, July 10, 2006

How now Mr Brown?

Strategic opportunities for contentious journalism on the internet

Hi everyone,

The world cup final is a coupla hours away, and since I have yet to watch a single WC match this year, I figured I should watch this one since the next one is 4 years away. Since I have time to kill, I figured I should drop a few words on THE hottest topic on the inter-net; Mr Brown getting dropped by Today.

And since I am really (un)excited by the coming match, I figured I should do this by the book.

The book I will be referencing from is Cherian George's Contentious Journalism and the Internet: Towards Democratic Discourse in Malaysia and Singapore

In both Malaysia and Singapore, the behind the scenes strings that tie the press to the government mean that the latter does not need to micromanage journalists by, for example, requiring articles to be submitted for vetting. The political leadership can instead count on editors to act in the interests of the nation, the state, the government, and the party (all of which in the politics of the two countries tend to get conflated). Editors do not always get it right, which is why the newspapers occasionally get in trouble with the government. Hegemonic control, after all, is not failsafe. The price of giving the dominated some choice in their domination is the risk that a few of these democratic decisions go astray. By and large, however, the mainstream press is ideologically aligned with the state, readily embracing their nation-building role, and recognizing the government of the day as the legitimate interpreter and trustee of the national interest. pg 49

The popularity of Mr Brown's writing lies in his uninhibited celebration of the yuppy lifestyle. He loves writing about the latest tech toys, playing computer games, checking out the newest dining spots, family life (concentrating on his children), and occasionally griping cynically about life in Singapore. In his latest article published in his Today Friday column, Mr Brown went on about the rising cost of living, ticking off a list of what he believes is wrong in today's society. It can be argued that by writing on something that is beyond his field of expertise, Mr Brown is approaching the realm of contentious journalism. Cherian offers this definition of contentious journalism.

Contentious journalism is the reporting and commenting on current events with at least some intention of serving a public purpose (the journalism half of the definition) and with the explicit purpose objective of challenging the authority of elites in setting the agenda and forging a national consensus (the contentious half of the definition). pg78

I'm not so interested in what has happened as I am to know, what will happen next? Mr Brown has several options. He can revert back to what he does best. He can review the upcoming Coldplay concert. He can fantasise about the next generation "wireless" iPod coming up in the last quarter 2006. He can do a podcast solely on Mavis Hee. He can get excited about the new Borat movie.

Mr Brown will suffer no fall in popular support, as it is in line with his previous writing history.


Mr Brown can continue with more exploratory writing online. He might wish to seek an external party to offer credibility to his arguments. Getting in touch with Think Centre is a start. Perhaps an economist with good data or projections to show. He might want to interview some people from the local think tank, Institute of Policy Studies. He can even get in touch with some of the members of the opposition party, perhaps some of the Workers Party committee members.

What he should do is to argue that what he wrote is not the isolated rantings of a typical cynical Singaporean. He needs hard facts, with credible data.

Unfortunately this is all hard work. You need contacts, coordination, scheduling, preparation. It is the work of a team. Mr Brown is one man, with a wife, kids and a full time job.


How now brown cow?