Categorized | Philosophy

2012 note

Posted on 31 December 2012

Last year at around this time, on a rather gloomy weekday night, I sat in front of my laptop feeling somewhat bummed. We’d just wrapped up our first year of existence since starting out with ambitions to be the Huffington Post of Singapore, and then of the region.

Ambitions.

Those who’ve been with us from the start would have noticed our slow regression from a wannabe news-lite portal, to a news summary website, to an unashamedly mediocre journalistic site, and then to gradually decreasing amounts of real news in proportion to stuff we make up.

We were the “bronze” standard of journalism. As opposed to, you know, the much more objective and better “gold” standard established by the nation-building press The Straits Times. We were absolutely average at what we did, and made no excuses for creating fake news when we were too lazy to go out to do actual reporting.  When we realised no one with something controversial to say would go on record with what was really on their minds, we invented fake quotes

Yet to our surprise, the more unethical we became, the more our readership grew, and the costlier our server bill became. The website crashed more than three times this year due to server overload. So much that we even suspected it was a DDoS attack from everyone we ever made fun of, which ranges from fundamentalist christians, hardcore supporters from various political parties and feminists. Basically every single interest group that was ever too uptight about a cause.

From a half-assed news website that was regularly disparaged for confused reporting (not really mainstream, but not anti-establishment and definitely “alternative”), we became a half-assed fake news site that fortunately has more fans than haters.

To understand why an incredibly mediocre satirical website has any amount of success in Singapore, where people are reportedly the most emotionless beings on the face of this planet, one must first understand the tragic state of actual mainstream news coverage here.

Tragedy makes for great comedy, as any literature student worth his salt would tell you.

Every newspaper, news agency or magazine purports to be unbiased and factual. In Singapore this strife for objectivity has become a fetish. Liberalising cautiously after decades of state control, the editorial stance of both the publications under Singapore Press Holdings, and the news outlets under Mediacorp (another moment of irony: my spellcheck tells me that “Mediacorp” should be replaced by “Mediocre”) has moved away from being an extension of the state.

Just five years ago as a university student, researching for a case of government failure was practically an impossible task. Aside from the well documented case of Teh Chean Wan’s suicide via an overdose of amytal barbiturate in 1986 (how the former housing minister obtained the poison in jail is still a mystery today), there was hardly any evidence of corruption within the establishment to be found.

This year alone we were peppered with sex scandals, the husband of a deified eurotrash star was charged with financial misappropriation, even the National Parks came under fire for buying ridiculously expensive foldable bicycles. Five years ago, news that the CPIB had been busy would never have made the papers, much less the front page.

The tragic state of the news mimics the tragedy that is the farcial ideology guiding the nation. Singapore is not a democracy, but it pretends to be one. It tells everyone that it is one and gets uptight when accused of authoritarianism (“No, we are an Asian democracy”). Likewise, the journalism produced by the state media has moved but an inch from being a disseminator of public information approved by the state. But it claims to set the gold standard for journalism.

The more it is battered by accusations of being a propaganda machine, the more it uses exasperation to cover its frustration of not living up to what it purports to be. (“You don’t understand, the media in Singapore is free, but part of the nation-building process…”). Like a 40-year-old virgin. Having to face the shameful presence of his undesired chastity in front of curious friends, he will eventually make outlandish claims about having banged a Megan Fox lookalike in a one night stand.

How outlandish? Take the following paraphrased statement for example: The Straits Times is the most trusted, most widely read news in Singapore. Also the most profitable and therefore, the best.

Of course I believe you. :)

The joke doesn’t stop there. Rather than leaving the rather ludicrous statement with amused disbelief, this fetish has metastasised to the internet where websites claiming to be producing “real” news pop in and out of existence.

Satirising the conflict between claim and reality makes for great reading. Why are Singlish or Hokkien memes so funny? We all claim to live in an English-speaking society when in reality no Englishman could understand a typical conversation between two NSmen. Satirical news also makes for great troll bait for the painfully immature news consumer who can’t differentiate hyperbole from pure bullshit.

Satire, however, doesn’t make money. Which brings me back to my lede whinge of being bummed while writing the 2011 editorial note. As the asshole in charge of making money for the website, I was doing a horrible job. One year on, overheads have increased more than revenue. Which means I’ve done a worse job than the year before.

I’ve often been told that with the level of readership on New Nation, advertising revenue from banner spaces should be decent. My bank statement tells me that on average, we make about US$30-US$40 a month for those ads you see on the right column. Our good friend, the very conscientious financial planner Wilfred Ling contributes his $20 a month (I think, I haven’t checked in a long time), and that is about it.

So for this 2012 note, instead of wishing for more cock ups in the next year (we definitely got more cock than we bargained for this year), I’m making an open invitation for both advertisers and writers to come on board.

If you’d like to reach out to an educated, young audience, we have banner space for you. If you’d like, we can do advertorial campaigns too.

If you’d like to try your hand at writing, we’d like to work with you too.

Have a merry 2013 everyone.

<3

Shihan

One of the three assholes at New Nation

This post was written by:

- who has written 268 posts on New Nation.

Joey is an intern at New Nation. He hopes to be as funny as Belmont one day and get laid at least twice a month.

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  • louco73

    May the unethical, trolling, “bronze” standard of journalism have a more prosperous 2013. Keep up the great work!

  • Anon

    Thanks for an entertaining 2012! Kudos to you and everyone at the team

  • ling

    i love you guys! keep being assholes!