Saturday, July 2, 2005

Writing Letters To The Editor

An anonymous person commented yesterday on my entry on PCK...
Hi, I was wondering why bloggers like yourself do not write to the forum of ST. For example, your take on SM Goh's comments brought out a very important point on Singapore society's attitude today. Does not writing in have anything to do with heavy editing on ST's part?
I have at times suggested to other bloggers that they might want to consider writing letters to the Editor (LTE) after reading their thoughtful entries. However, I have trouble following my own advice LOL. First, I don't think I'm able to write in the style that has a high chance of success in getting published. Second, do I want to be published? The commenter mentions 'heavy editing'. I don't think the ST does heavy editing all the time. And even if they edit a little bit here and there, problems can still arise. That is enough to make some cringe and hesitate in submitting letters. I'm guessing there're probably two things that the Forum Editor does. First, he or she selects articles for consideration, or KIV them so that it goes into a forthcoming day's 'theme', then the letters with similar theme gets published. Also in this process, those letters that are deemed 'unacceptable' for public consumption due to political or other pressures are being discarded. I can't sleep at night if I'm in that position. It is a thankless job. The second thing that happens is when a letter is accepted for publication, the editing starts. There's nothing wrong with editing for things like grammatical errors and tweaking awkward sentence structuring. It's not just the censoring, per se, it's the selective pruning of words to 'tone it down' that many would probably find unacceptable. What's worse is if the original message is changed in a subtle manner that doesn't bring out the original intent of the author. There are bloggers who write to the newspaper. My friend Vivien's very first LTE was published. You can see exactly how the original became the published version. It's not really 'heavy editing', but one is left with a sense of helplessness: how is my LTE going to turn out?! Worse, what happens if the Editor misinterprets what I'm really saying? This point is a concern for some because the circulation of the newspaper is 1.23 million. One wrong corrected word, one inappropriately tweaked sentence, and the public is your judge and executor. There's no way to defend yourself because one hardly has the right of reply in the context of the ST Forum. In the meantime, if I think I have something to say that might be published with little risk to myself, I might just do an LTE. For the time being though, I'll continue to blog. First, I have complete editorial control. Second, others have the chance to counter my arguments, and I in turn can counter-counter. I'm also able to update my original arguments as a result of these exchanges. It's a remarkable fluid and efficient platform for discussing things. This cannot happen in the newspaper because others' opinions also need to survive the editorial process first before they have the chance to get published! Oh BTW, talking about my PCK post that mentions Robin, in case Robin is reading this, I'd still like to have tea with you! I won't be surprised if you got misquoted or misconstrued in a certain fashion... therein lies the risk in talking to the press, in whatever shape or for[u]m...

7 comments:

Huichieh said...

But perhaps the day to come when putting in on your blog--or having one of the more frequented blogs post or link your letter--is as good as having it published by ST...

Huichieh said...

edit: "...the day will come..."

jeffyen said...

That would be THE day! But realistically speaking, that won't happen anytime soon. It'd be interesting to see the readership of the more popular blogs/aggregators and see in absolute terms how many people visit per day...

Huichieh said...

Well, that day is still in the future... and I would certainly love to see those statistics as well.

On a related note, my impression is that blog readers--especially those who regularly read certain blogs--would also tend to be the more interested part of the citizenry. So despite ST's 1+ mil readership, the relevant audience of the ST Forum Page may be much smaller.

kukukucinta said...

hello! i din know u have a blog at blogspot...hehehe.

jeffyen said...

The ST has a circulation of nearly 400,000. mrbrown's recent interview for zaobao mentions 20,000 bloggers in Singapore, 500 of them might turn up for the upcoming blogcon. It'd be interesting to see how these numbers are arrived at. If these 20k people understand the leverage possible in these interesting times, it's probably not an insignificant presense in the media sphere.

Number of people familiar with blogs will most likely go up (since there is zero barriers to entry.) Newspaper readership, I'm not too sure. Which is probably why they're doing their best to 'hook up' the schools to get loyalty from the students to start reading the newspapers from young. LOL

kucinta: hehe, one of these days, I'd start writing my other word journal again...I'm lazy...

VIV said...

Jeff, i think i know why they published my LTE right away that time, it's cos my letter was strongly-worded and i sent it almost immediately after the Lee Wei Ling shit hit the fan =) So if you're thinking of getting yours published, why not try it? I doubt your language skills have anything to do with getting published, in fact, ALL the friggin letters that come out in the Forum sound like the same frigging person wrote em. (with the exception of some insipid whiners of course)

Plus, if u send letters in regularly, i hear PAP will invite you to be part of their Feedback Sessions. Hwah! Then u really can be heard =P