Sunday, March 19, 2006

ESWN on Taiwan Media

ESWN offers a translation of an interview on the Taiwan news media. There's some pretty good discussion of the Chinese-language media, which is pretty awful.

Lin: Right. Unable to sustain it. Also, there are too few international news stories. Right now, I know that many intellectuals avoid reading newspapers. They can wait until Saturday and Sunday to watch Chen Wenqian's television program "World Weekly." This is not just about the attractiveness of Chen Wenqian, but it is her contents. Is it possible for the newspapers to go back to doing what they used to be able to do: a weekend review of national and international news with discussion: for example, Feng Xialung is ill and what are the important implications? What is the Palestinian problem? We must start from the beginning. What is history? What is the position of our government? Right now, we have no sense of history at all. From the angle of news, we need some remedial education.

For this WTO conference, if Taiwan did not send anyone over, the news just disappears. The media made Taiwan feel that it is unconnected to the world. The reason is that the first three pages of the newspapers were stuffed with stories about "chickens flying and dogs jumping." They are now speculating about whether "Hsieh is out and Su is in." I don't care. Do you need so much space for that? This is like a serial drama. In the long term, this is very unfortunate for the country.

The Weekly Review must have an explanation of the background and the readers must be told how this is related to Taiwan. Today, we must not cut ourselves off from the world. But the people of Taiwan do not have that self-awareness. Perhaps there are people who have the sort of self-awareness, but they do not speak out in the business community, or in the cultural community, or in newspapers and television. Everybody has totally given up. Given up. I don't like it, but I feel that we are the ones who decide whether the bottom line is. We draw a line and we tell ourselves: we cannot go down any further! Taiwan cannot sink continuously, and the media must not push us along that way.

For example, if there is a new iPod product from Apple Computer, we should talk about it from the beginning as opposed to shoving it back to the consumer section. We should dig things out in the front sections. Right now, when we read about new products, it is completely tied in with commercial opportunities and there is no discussion of the direct relationships with our culture and civilization. Is the iPod made in Taiwan? We should know that.

Right now, Taiwan has a serious and urgent problem in having a vacuum in the middle. All our information is connected to commerce and consumer culture. We only know about products and prices.

I obviously hope to see more about culture. The presence of movie and television news is an important selling point, but do we need so much every day? Perhaps you can have a bit less. You can get everything back on Sunday with an impressive publication. You can move the movie and television section there, and you don't need it every day. Frankly, if you all imitate Apple Daily, none of you can beat them. This is because you have to wear a western suit, but Apple Daily does not. You have to think about a way to adjust. Apple Daily is very bold, and many things appear in the headlines. Your "Minshengpao Weekly" is not enough.

Do we need so much news about Jay Chou every day? Can the four pages on movies and television be reduced to two pages? I don't know. This is going to affect the base of the circulation department, right?

It's a good interview with lots of blunt speaking and strong points of view, embodying the contradictions of intellectuals raised in local society who have never come to terms with its working class-to-nouveau riche values. Too much to comment on, really.

The media influence the schools! There are no core values now. None at all. Japan and Korea have not discarded them. What does United Daily News care about? These things cannot be stopped. Frankly speaking, apart from national politics and the cross-strait subject, I don't see what United Daily News cares about. Sometimes, there is an AIDS topic, but this does not mean that United Daily News cares.

Lin earlier calls for the media to be more objective, but then wants it to express "core values." But Lin refrains from explaining how a media in a nation divided into pro-China and pro-Taiwan camps can be expected to identity and express core values, but also be apolitical and objective. How can "expressing values" result in a media that is objective and apolitical? And how to the media influence the schools? Few of my students read the newspaper, and when they do, they do not read the news, but glance at the fashion and entertainment pages.

While many talk about how bad the media here is, the issues involved are often not identified clearly. I've been reading these "Taiwan media suck" articles for years, and have written many myself. Yet none of them has ever clearly pointed to the interrelationship of several issues -- poorly educated journalists, with neither broad knowledge base or background in statistics or scholarly analysis, writing for a populace that is itself nearly entirely free of critical thinking skills, and trained by Taiwan's awful and authoritarian education system to disinterest in the world around it, and to passively accept whatever happens out there......

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