Government should provide equal respect for all media

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The China Post news staff

Following the heat of recent urban renewal issues, an article about a side-line story, “The Pride and Prejudice of News Reporters” (記者的傲慢與偏見), written by Taiwan Public Television Service News Network (PNN, 公視新聞議題中心) reporter Chung Sheng-hsiung (鍾勝雄), was widely circulated on the Internet.

In the article, Chung outlined what happened in the press conference held by the Taiwan Alliance for Victims of Urban Renewal for the Wang family on April 3, when the alliance accused the Taipei City Government of not following its standard procedure to issue a demolition permit before the destruction of the Wang family homes.

Chung stated that after the press conference held by the victims' alliance, when reporters asked Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) for their reply, he was unwilling to respond. Indeed, after the press conference held by the victims' alliance, reporters went to the room next door to make a phone call to the Taipei City Government. With microphones placed beside the telephone machine, Chang, who received the phone call, hung up the phone in front of every news camera.

Later, a press conference was held by the Taipei City Construction Management Office. Chang only showed up for less than 10 minutes, answered about three questions from a China Television Co. (中視) reporter and then left.

When reporters from PNN, Lihpao daily (立報), Coolloud (苦勞網), and a reporter from The China Post tried to ask further questions, the unified response the Post received from Chang was that “the press conference is over!” When the China Television reporter and Chinese Television System (華視) reporter asked their questions, Chang was at least willing to provide an official statement.

Only when the news of the victims' alliance's press conference was published in The China Post on the following day did The China Post receive a clarification statement from the Taipei City Government.

The city government clearly believes in a news media hierarchy, which can be observed from the behavior of the spokesman. They place big electronic media companies like the China Television and Chinese Television System higher than other electronic media and print media.

The government is supposed to serve the general public, and the spokesman should let every citizen know what the government is doing. Thus, Chang should answer questions asked by every media outlet and treat each reporter the same, which is what a press conference is all about.

Furthermore, it is a bad example of public relations for the city government, especially the spokesman, to treat the media in this way. If the Taipei City Government acted appropriately concerning the demolition of the Wang family's homes, as the city has claimed, behaving like this only arouses public suspicion. In addition, instead of issuing a statement on the following day, the questions should have simply been answered when they were asked. Had this been the case, each media source would have been more than happy to include their point of view in the stories published on April 4.

Moreover, perhaps Chang can recall that less than a month ago, because of independent filmmaker Lee Hui-ren's (李惠仁) documentary, the Control Yuan and the court intervened to investigate the misconduct of the Council of Agriculture. In this era when people have access to the Internet, the influence of media outlets like Coolloud cannot be overlooked. While other media in Taiwan were criticized by the general public — a long list of inaccurate reports on Wikipedia can serve as a typical example — Coolloud and other non-traditional media have reached wider readership, making them even more valuable resources to the nation and worthy of respect.

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