Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When there's more to be be gleaned than just the byline...

I'll dwell some more on journalistic matters. How curious are today's journalists?

I daresay many of the lapses in today's journalistic standards are due to this "curiosity deficiency". A journalist is not expected to be an expert outside his or her domain area but he or she must be able to sense that something said by the news maker or provided in the copy being processed is, say, incomplete or inadequate and requires "fleshing out".

This commentary article appeared in today's ST (Jan 21):

Going by the byline, someone called Harry Harris contributed the piece. ST's commentary articles are typically written by domain experts so he is unlikely to be just any Tom, Dick or Harry. Reading the first paragraph tells us more:

Okay, he is the commander of the United States Pacific Fleet. That makes him a high-ranking naval officer. The tagline below -- the stuff at the end of a commentary piece that answers the "Tell me (the reader) more about the writer" -- is unsatisfactory:

Why? His rank is missing. His functional job status is that of a commander, just as someone else might be a police chief (who will have a certain rank, say, Commissioner of Police). Is this vital bit of information hard to get? A call to the US Embassy will, I am very sure, secure the answer (incidentally, embassies do have military attaches on hand). I did not even need to do that. A check with reliable sources on the Internet revealed that the writer is Admiral (Four-Star) Harry Harris, that he is a naval aviator by training, and that his mother is Japanese.

While I was curious about the Asian ancestry of this highest-ranking Asian-American in the US Navy, I can accept that he can't be referred to as Japanese-American since that would suggest both his parents are Asian. But the point is: I was curious, and I did find out more just by making some checks online.

Incidentally, Admiral Harris' article is referred to as a "curtain raiser" since it was written to tie in with his introductory visit to Singapore as US Pacific Fleet Commander.


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