CITY DIARY

In 2035, Vietnamese press will be free of sensational, sexy stories

TUOI TRE NEWS

Updated : 08/01/2015 19:11 GMT + 7

Editor’s note: Cao Nu Phuong Tra, 22, hopes that the local media would be free of sensational, sexy and slushy coverage to lure views in the next two decades in her entry sent to the “Ky Vong Viet Nam 20 Nam Toi” (“My Expectations for Vietnam in 20 Years”) writing contest.

I hope for a 'clean' Vietnamese press, which means such contents that are sensational, sexy and slushy would no longer be published on local newspapers or newswires under any form.

Saddening reality

One month ago, I conducted a survey for my end-of-term assignment themed “Sensational, sex, and slushy (3 S’s) coverage in today’s Vietnamese press.”

The survey was carried out on a number of newspaper editions published from January to March 2015. Despite the limited surveying time, the results are really alarming.

The findings revealed that 60 articles published in 51 editions of D. newspaper featured such 3s content. Within the same period of time, newswire T. had 40 articles with similar content. This shows that D. and T. both feature one “uncleaned” journalistic work on average in every one of their editions.

In other words, regular readers of these two newspapers read or are exposed to at least one such article in each edition.

Such constant exposure has become a norm among the newspapers’ readership. With time, sensational, sexy and exaggeratedly sentimental stories will lose their novelty and appeal. In readers’ subconsciousness, wariness and criticism gradually give way to concession, acceptance and even imitation. 

These have brought about the ultimate disastrous consequence: reporting and journalism works have seen declining professional quality, while social, ethical and cultural values are tainted.

I also conducted another survey on 100 readers aged 15 to 30 on how frequently they read such sensational, sexy and slushy content in Vietnamese media.     

Though only eight readers chose the “Regularly” category, up to 85 people had read 3s articles, and the number is constantly changing.

This has entailed increasing concerns over deteriorating culture and ethics among a portion of people.

The press is supposed to educate, orientate, oversee and reflect social issues. With articles in which reporters give unnecessarily detailed information on incidents, including violent, sexual, or overly sentimental elements, how can journalism educate or orientate readers on desired qualities?

Tackling such a problem requires concerted efforts from competent agencies, with emphasis placed on the roles played by press agencies and press administration agencies.

New directions

Press management agencies should impose stringent, specific fines on rule violations among local reporters and press agencies as well.

In actuality, regulations on the current Press Law are released to tackle 3s articles in isolated cases, not placing them in correlation with similar works written by a reporter and published by a news agency.

Though penalties have been slapped on many reporters and news agencies, such fines are the “tip of the iceberg,” as only high-profile incidents which spark fury among the public are brought into the spotlight. In comparison, the surveyed articles in D. newspaper and T. newswire as mentioned earlier have gone unnoticed by management agecies.

Specific rules and penalties should thus be imposed on infringers based on inspection results. It’s essential that the Ministry of Information and Communications carry out such inspections every month or three months, instead of proscratinating until rage-provoking incidents happen. Inspection activities should incorporate listing and examining all items published during one or three months.

If an infringement of the regulations stipulated in Government Decree 159/2013/NĐ-CP, which was issued on November 12, 2013, is detected, based on the density of the 3s coverage and consequences, corresponding punishment includes administrative fines, revocation of reporters’ cards, suspension from work, revocation of the rule-breaking news agencies’ permits and suspension of their publication activity.

To boost surveillance, it’s advisable that press administration organizations set up a hotline or a forum on social networks to gather opinions from the public, particularly righteous journalists. Public members have the right to monitor, question and assess the local media’s performance on a selected basis.  

Leaders of press agencies should bear in mind that readers are not only drawn to certain newspapers or newswires for their 3s content but also to the newspapers’ customer service policies.

Apart from abiding by laws and professional ethical codes determined by the Vietnam Journalists Association, news agencies need to set up departments focused on public need research. These departments will find out about public demands and psychology, and work out specific plans to enhance their news agencies’ publication and circulation and expand their readership.

If these activities are conducted properly, pressure on writing sensational, sexy and slushy stories to lure views and boost profitability would be eased and disappear altogether. Reporters would then devote all their time to high-quality articles.

As press works are cultural products, a country’s cultural level can be judged based on how press agencies in that country carry out their coverage and choose their topics.

Hopefully in the next 20 years, we Vietnamese can pride ourselves on the robust, wholesome growth of the local media. 

“Ky Vong Viet Nam 20 Nam Toi” is a competition organized by the World Bank in Vietnam and Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that encourages local youths to write down their wildest, yet feasible, dreams about how Vietnam will change in 20 years’ time.