media censorship in singaporeUsually, the stories I turned in, once in the hands of the editor, metamorphosed into some watered down version of it’s former self, even though it came in within the requirements.

After one incident, when a really hilarious incident was cut out, and another part completely rewritten into a falsehood, I had to stand up to my editor and ask him why he’d butchered my piece.

He looked at me with a straight faced and said “Singaporeans are dumb, they won’t get it.”

I told him that if the public is not so bright, then the blame for that falls squarely upon the media that’s available, and that it was time to raise the bar. He wasn’t interested in that, so I went back to my desk and wrote my best piece ever; a resignation letter.

Due to years of self-imposed censorship and a culture of conformity, most media writers in Singapore are too timid to be bold in their writing, to stimulate thoughts with their words, and provide new ways of thinking to society. This results in bland, boring and predictable articles that merely reiterate the status quo.

As Singapore seeks to increase it’s media sector as a percentage of GDP, you find a very entrenched mindset at the editor’s desks that just keeps pumping out these articles, which to be honest, are insults to the intelligence of anybody past the fifth grade and an embarrassment internationally. It says a lot about the quality of the writing here that the main paper in town’s main brag on its masthead was that it’s the best-designed newspaper in Asia.

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Just to give you some background, in 2004 I launched a Singapore edition of Think Magazine here. I did a lot of research beforehand, confident that the opportunity lay not in another magazine, but the fact that there really was nothing interesting to read that was locally produced.

An early meeting with an MDA representative about what was possible proved really encouraging. As he spieled off the government’s hopes of turning Singapore into a regional media hub, he told me that the main problem here is that the journalists have been in the box so long, they can’t see that the lid’s off the box and what that means to them.

The old taboos are still there, but for change to occur, a new way of thinking needs to happen in the media scene. Too many journalists here are merely hacks, rewriting press releases and other articles to meet their deadlines and collect their paycheck.

At first, I thought this was the problem of the journalists themselves, but the ones responsible for creating this culture of blandness is none other than the editors. The creative drive has been crushed out of the writers. Not wanting to hire someone who has already learned bad habits, I interviewed recent graduates, as well as junior staffers at other titles. The young writers I spoke with during my search each related their experiences with talentless and tyrannical editors, who push that a professionally written article is more about syntax than concept.

Naturally they jumped at the chance to be able to write what they really want to write, and the challenge of being truly clever is something that fuels their passion. Perhaps you too have a passion for writing?

We’d love to invite you dear readers and thinkers, to send us your submission and share your views with this discourse that is Singapore. 300 to 1,500 words, pictures, artwork, we want Think to be your forum, so send us your work, who knows, you just might be the wave that turns the tide on boring media.

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