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PAP grapples with new media

PAP grapples with new media

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The fear of coming off looking like electricity-fearing Luddites should be great. Very great.

Wong Kan Seng's positive demonstration of embracing technology.

It comes as no surprise that new media was mentioned in President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s Address in Parliament last week, MPs and media experts say.

This group of people also see new media playing a pivotal role in deciding how well the government wants to engage the people as well as in informing the government on what the people want.

New Nation’s very own media expert, Terence Lee, argued that the benefits of using new media far outweighs the problems and feels the Government is late to the game but is slowly getting better at it.

The 25-year-old, co-founder and editor of this particularly punchy, irreverent, Twitter-versed website, said very wisely: “It is now more responsive to comments and less authoritative in its tone.”

Another new media guru, Remy Choo, also 25, who is a lawyer and who founded The Online Citizen site with former editor-chief Andrew Loh who is now at the helm of Publichouse.sg, said the inclusion of new media in the president’s address is a shift by the Government, which previously wrote off the Internet “as an echo chamber of anti-government noise”.

MP Indranee Rajah, in an apparent 180-degree about turn on the ruling party’s long-standing view of the Internet, said: “The discourse on the Internet is an increasingly important source for the Government to ascertain how Singaporeans think and feel, and what they want. So digital media is directly relevant to the agenda for the next five years.”

This is the complete opposite view the ruling party had of the Internet the previous five years. Maybe a paltry 60.1 percent win in the May General Election had something to do with it.

However, MP Baey Yam Keng, honcho at Hill & Knowlton, a public relations firm, cautioned the Government against being overly concerned with the “uncontrollable element” of new media.

“It’s not possible for the Government to have the last say in every rumour. It’s not possible to explain everything,” Baey spoke with the authority of a knowledgeable PR man.

“It has to focus on platforms that have traction, and are opinion-shapers among the masses. It must pick its battles,” he authoritatively declared.

He also decried that the Government has not fully exploited the promise of new media.

“It is not just about giving information anymore, but getting buy-in,” emphatically proclaimed Baey.

It is urgent for the Government to engage this group sooner, not later, as their numbers are only going to grow, he added some more and more.

Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said the discussion on new media is appropriate as it is a relatively new platform, although the traditional media remains important.

He said: “Highlighting its characteristics reminds us to be judicious in how we regard it and how we use it. But it does not replace other forms of engagement.”

On Oct. 10, last Monday, Tony Tan’s parliament speech had highlighted the importance of the new media platform as a ‘tremendous tool to empower individuals, link us up with one another, and mobilise people for social causes’.

But he also pointed out its downsides, saying: “On the Internet, truth is not easily distinguished from misinformation. Anonymity is often abused. Harsh, intemperate voices often drown out moderate, considered views.”

Maybe he was thinking about what was said online about his son, Patrick Tan, and the issue of his supposed preferential treatment during National Service.

Or his 0.34 percent Kate-Moss-slender-near-win that secured his presidency.

This is a 60-second reduction of the original article published in The Straits Times on Oct. 12.