The Student News Site of Taipei American School




An open letter to the media of Taiwan


Taiwan is ranked 51 out of 180 countries on the press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. We are privileged to be living and working in a country (or region to not offend anyone) with one of the freest and most open press landscapes in Asia if not the world. This basic right to the freedom of speech allows us, as journalists, to do our job and inform the public of the truth and nothing but the truth.
But with that said, we should not abuse this privilege, freedom, and basic right we possess.
Over the past few years, the Taiwanese media has become a monster built upon sensationalized and provocative news that often fails to  better inform anyone on this island. The seven 24 hours news networks on TV do little but repeat and replay the same sketchily researched  stories that are rarely newsworthy.
The 2013 coverage of the exploding Rubber Duck, designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman,  is a great example of how the Taiwanese media took a  second rate story and then transformed it into a  front page breaking news “investigative” piece.
ETTV, one of the  many 24 hours news channels in Taiwan, covered the duck’s explosion with a three minute segment which they replayed throughout the week and an 11 minute segment during their primetime talk show weirdly called, “This is it.”
The three minute news segment explored every possibilities to why the explosion occurred by speculating about the temperature differences inside and outside the duck, the possibility of an eagle pecking a hole in the duck or the cleaning detergent harming the “duck skin.” These options were explained using ETTV’s amazing standard definition touch screens and computer graphics. What a story. Life changing story.
But it gets better.
The genius producers at ETTV then “investigate” this “international news story” during their talk show, “This is it,” by first showing the poor viewers all the screenshots they took 3 seconds to grab from BBC, the New York Post, and other international outlets’ website covering this explosion.
After they are satisfied with their collage of foreign articles used to persuade the audience just how important this fake duck is, they then move on to the “investigative” segment of their cutting-edge  show. The host invites numerous “experts” to help debunk and serve justice to this “international story.” One of the experts invited up by the host to stand next to their huge touch screen TV started to jabber on how the east coast of Taiwan is just simply a place with “bad aura.” The expert claims that during 228 the KMT killed the most people in Keelung which is where the duck explosion occurred. He also stated that the KMT threw all the dead bodies in the ocean. This “fact” plus some other nearby parking lot myth and a movie theater stampede that occurred in the 1960s is why the Keelung harbor area has “bad aura” and ultimately why the duck exploded. Please give this program an Emmy.
The newspapers in Taiwan aren’t any better.
The Liberty Times and United Daily News are two of the four main newspaper with the highest circulation in Taiwan. They dedicate around 14 pages on average to the news sections each day filled with scandalous crime stories and exaggerated political pieces. How many pages do they dedicate to international news? The answer is one. One sad page that barely touches on real international news and is often half-filled with advertisements. Sometimes, the Liberty Times’ international page is just articles on US scholars from small unknown institutions claiming how Taiwan’s independence is essential to US foreign policy. This serves the paper’s pro-independence bias well. Meanwhile, the China Times, a pro-unification paper owned by the appropriately named Want Want company, runs stories all day on how amazing China is. Both papers are not even close to having a proper international section. Forget about the United Nations. Forget about Syria.
The lack of international news coverage in Taiwan is a serious problem as it creates a population disconnected from the world and increasingly ignorant of any global current events that do not involve sex, money, or blood.
The Liberty Times’ story on ISIS killing 21 Christians in a horrific manner is three sentences long and was only published online. The New York Times Chinese Edition ran a full page article on this same event.
News channels and papers are also clearly biassed towards one political party (KMT or DPP). They will oftentimes only cover stories that support their political party and undermine the opposition. Readers and viewers are forced to read and watch the news that is produced with an opinion and viewpoint in mind. This is unfortunate as it will only cause voters to become more bipolar and less capable of making informed political decisions free from any “brainwash.”
The Taiwanese media has come  a long way since the martial law period. As a journalist, I am only happy to see  great progress towards an open and free press, but the lack of journalistic standards is a huge disappointment. Publications and networks should strive for excellence. We are here to tell the story, to tell the facts, and to tell the truth. The Taiwanese media has made big steps but there are still a lot more steps to take for this media-savvy nation to reach a state when citizens can turn on the TV, open the newspaper, and download an app knowing that they will be served nothing but real news.

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