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June 25, 2017

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With the rise of infotainment, 'boring' news is better news

People say no news is good news. But in an age when a minor starlet's tweet celebrating her discovery of NT$200 in her jacket pocket can make the news, there is no such thing as no news. The public can only hope for the second best thing and sometimes that is boring news.

British novelist Hilary Mantel recently criticized some of the UK media for possessing a bully mentality that compromises freedom of speech. Mantel described Kate Middleton's image as "a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung" in a lecture last year. Her comparison, which she meant as a criticism of the media culture's portrayal of Middleton, was interpreted by some in the British press as targeting the wife of Prince William herself.

"There's almost an attempt to intimidate. I feel that public life and freedom of speech is compromised at the moment by a conformist and trivializing culture," the Times of London quoted Mantel as saying. The writer suggested that the "jointed doll" controversy "was indicative of the way the media presented stories in bite-size chunks so that readers could form instant opinions," according to the newspaper.

News readers in Taiwan are probably no less familiar with a media culture that focuses on shameless entertainment, mindless opinion forming and instant gratification. The editorial direction of local newsrooms seems to point toward amusement and gossip rather than enlightenment. Even when the news is already entertaining enough, local editors often still juice it up with a headline full of cheesy adjectives. It is as if editors are desperately trying to tell readers what to feel even before they read the lead paragraph. In a worrying trend, some newspapers are lowering already low standards by incorporating colloquial language and vulgar words (sometimes straight out of pornography lexicons) into the headlines of real-time e-news.

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