2006-06-01

What is wrong with Bus Uncle profiteering?

You can usually judge the quality of a newspaper/magazine by that of the editorial. The only exception is WSJ, where the reporting is consistently good, while the editorial could be idiotically partisan.

The quality of Ming Pao has gone downhil since the thug Yu Pinghai took control. Though it had since recovered when Yu left, it was never able to reclaim the ground lost to Apple Daily. I thought commentator Qin Sheng has been really good. But I am really disappointed by today's editorial on Bus Uncle
  • [ 明報 ]若借醜聞發達 應停發綜援
    「巴士阿叔」罵人事件續有餘波。繼被罵青年Elvis和用手機偷拍罵人經過的Jon相繼向傳媒現身,罵人的阿叔也公開亮相,原來他是曾經報名參選特首的綜援受助人陳乙東。他接受了《壹週刊》的專訪,聲淚俱下地訴說自己和女友吵架致心情低落,罵人前正致電撒瑪利亞防止自殺會求助。

    本報記者跟進這宗新聞時,陳乙東要求記者先付錢表示誠意,並說另一家媒體給了他10萬元,如果此說屬實,是自1998年《蘋果日報》的「陳健康事件」後,另一宗媒體付錢予醜聞主角炮製真假難辨「新聞」的個案。《壹週刊》應公開說明今期的陳乙東專訪是否用錢換來,而社會福利署亦應主動調查陳乙東的財政狀,若發現他有大筆金錢而不作申報,應馬上停止發放綜援金及考慮提出檢控。

    媒體如果用錢買新聞,對象若非公職人員,一般而言並不違法,但卻會引起新聞道德操守的質疑,因為受訪者為了令付款機構覺得物有所值,很易會刻意誇大、弄虛作假,甚至自導自演炮製新聞,而花錢買新聞的機構,若不認真查證,並向讀者如實交代採訪經過,可能會像當年付錢給剛喪妻的陳健康北上尋歡的《蘋果日報》那樣,從醜聞的揭發者搖身一變為醜聞的主角。

    試想像,如果媒體付錢給陳乙東,安排他和被罵青年見面,上演一幕巴士罵人事件續集,然後大書特書,試問這是客觀的新聞報道,還是為求銷量而刻意編導的一齣煽情戲劇﹖

    陳乙東欲借醜聞發達,公眾雖感到惡心,卻也無法阻止,只能罷買罷看他的半瘋癲狂人表演,但社署有責任確保公帑不被亂花,綜援受助人若有巨額收入而不申報,社署須依法懲處

1. This sounds more like a reporter's rant. It is, unfortunately, very common in HK media that reporters rant in their reports. I understand that the reporter has every reason to despise Bus Uncle when he asked for $100k in return for the interview. But should the editorial be the ranting window for reporters? MP went on to ask for suspending Bus Uncle's social security stipend, and prosecute him if abuse has been found. MP obviously forgot that our legal system is built on the principle of "presumed innocent", and that it is unfair to predict crime just because you do not like the person. (According to Oriental Daily, Chen vowed he will stop his social welfare application if he has income from media exposure. Why did MP not bother to ask Chen this question?)

2. Ming Pao went on to compare this to the "Chen Kin Hong scandal" of Apple Daily and questioned if AD did this again. AD might have succumbed to Bus Uncle's ransom, but paying someone to buy a story that has already happened and probing about his perspectives is very different from paying someone to create a story.

3. MP is apparently worried about the interviewee would exaggerate if the interview is paid for. They worried too much. a) People would exaggerate whether there is economic incentive or not. b) As long as the reporters are faithful and use 'quotes', we should leave the readers to judge for themselves, not the editor. Next did a decent job in using 'quotes' and leaving subjective judgment aside.

4. Lastly, (this is what I really want to talk about), if Bus Uncle (or anyone) is able to earn a living for himself and release himself from the safety net of social welfare, shouldn't this be encouraged? Why Bus Uncle cannot take opportunity of his 3 week fame to make a few bucks? If the media can profit from an event, why the person in question is not allowed to? Why, is the selling of (fabricated) Lady Di's secret love story more acceptable than (hypothetically) if Lady Di sells her own interview? Why is it okay for Clinton or Greenspan to charge US$200k per appearance/lecture, but no okay for Chen Yuet-tung to charge HK$100k for an interview?

p.s. IMHO Bus Uncle is full of sh1t (why? see this) and he does not deserve my sympathy. But my precise point is that such personal view should not alter our answers to the questions above.
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree, Ming Pao's reporters really should not use their circulation to interfere with Bus Uncle's personal financial situation by calling for investigations into his social security stipend. Unless, the report knowingly reveals public endangerment, then this is an abuse of power.
Also, Bus Uncle is not the most likable person, but he is not very different from many of us, because he is actually very lonely, and just wants to be liked and respected. Unfortunately, he just happens to be one of those people you love to hate.
Life might be favorable to you, life might be fair to you, or life might be harsh to you. Bus Uncle's life seems to be harsh, because here is a man who has lived for over half a century, with much of it trying to acheive some sort of fame and recognition, then finally one day it happens, without him even knowing or trying, and he becomes the biggest assh*le in the world - that's life.

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