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Appalling standards in Malaysian newspapers

It's often been argued that one reason for the popularity of blogs in Malaysia is the restrictions on the mainstream media (MSM) by the government, which uses laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act, and ownership by political parties to ensure a compliant fourth estate.

That seems straightforward enough. But an interviewee (a popular blogger) surprised me by saying that she also thought that the poor quality of women's magazines explained why some blogs that talk about fashion, makeup, etc. are popular. There's no political reason why a woman's magazine should be mediocre: that's only explainable by poor management and/or insufficiently trained manpower.

Anyway - thanks to a tweet by @kruel74, I have come across one of the worst examples of journalism I can remember. Inspired no doubt by the sensationalist potential, The Star online announced "Boob-staring good for men" (click here for a screenshot)
Both Sin Chew Daily and China Press reported that a German research published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men ogling at breasts for 10 minutes a day was equivalent to a 30-minute gym workout.

Perhaps they were a bit dubious about this patently ridiculous claim, so they made a pitiful attempt to cover their butts
However, it was reported that reporters had attempted to search the article in the journal’s website but failed. Thus, there were doubts whether there was indeed such an article in the journal.

First of all, if there are doubts that it is true, why the heck publish it? The only journalistic reason to do so would be if it was deemed to be of major importance to the public. Is a puerile booby-joke worth infringing basic journalistic fact-checking ethics? I don't think so!

Second. GOOGLE! Within two minutes, I found it on Snopes - the primary source for debunking c**p like this: this particular "Important if true" snippet has been circulating since 1997.

It's not surprising that readership numbers for newspapers are constantly slipping! THREE newspapers managed to print this rubbish!

As a lecturer, I find these kind of poor standards a real barrier to convincing bright, eager and willing students to uphold the highest standards, to not copy and paste, and to look for examples of good practice to follow. For their own self-worth, and to represent Malaysia to the world.

Anyway, I guess the silver lining is that they won't have to try very hard to be better than those they will hopefully replace... :-)

**Edit**: Another blogger Chang Yang who commented (below) found a very similar piece of shoddy journalism in The Star a month ago, it was (probably not coincidentally) also about women's boobs: "Women with bigger breasts found to be smarter" sigh... (click here for a screenshot) He was more responsible than me, and emailed the editor - but to no avail apparently, the article is still online, and being recirculated and requoted by other people (most of whom, including bloggers, haven't bothered to check either - but then again, they're not paid to provide reliable information).

**Edit 07/12/09**: more evidence supplied by Bintulu.org
This 'story' was also apparently picked up by Asian News International, and republished in DailyIndia.com; and asiaone via Asia News Network. My feeling for the two 'wire' services (ANI and ANN), is that they have automatic RSS feeds that come directly from The Star. Anyway, now this story has been given credence (for the credulous) by a leading Malaysian newspaper, cited in each occasion as the source of this story.

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anthroblogia on : Are journalists an example for bloggers?

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Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein claimed that some bloggers, unlike local journalists, do not adhere to the rules and ethics of journalism in their bid to garner popularity. Local journalists adhered to ethics but these bloggers did no

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BabyMocha on :

Pass by from Innit :-) Have a nice day!

Chang Yang on :

This is the second time they are posting fake sensationalist news in the last month. Last month they also published an article about "women with bigger breasts are smarter".

I wrote about it in my blog here:
http://changyang1230.blogspot.com/2009/11/big-boob-blooper-story-on-fail.html

The Star is just one big fail. In both cases they said Sin Chew is the original source, but I can't verify it independently. I suspect even this claim is not true.

julian on :

Thanks Chang Yang, I agree entirely with your analysis in your letter. You did the right thing by emailing the editor (which I will also do, now that you reminded me :-P) - and it's pretty amazing to see that the article is **still** online!

julian on :

Hiya, thanks for dropping by :-)

goingkookies on :

hi. dropping by from innit.

interesting.

if i didn't read ur post i would have continuingly believe that there was such an article...

julian on :

Ya well, unfortunately it seems like one cannot always trust what's in the newspaper...

Rafidah on :

Thanks for this. Who are you e-mailing at The Star regarding this? I will e-mail a complaint as well.

p/s: Thanks **edited - WW** for the link to this blog :-)

julian on :

You're welcome, and will do :-)

I used the online form to email T.Selva (as far as I can remember), listed as "Senior News Editor" here: http://thestar.com.my/info/editors.asp

meldee on :

GAH! Leave women's boobs out of this. Our cup size has nothing to do with how smart or capable we are.

And really, some of these morons who happen to work in the media really give the rest of us a bad name. scowls

julian on :

Ya it's pretty ridiculous...

You have a point, I guess maybe it's not fair to speak of "Appalling standards in Malaysian journalism", maybe I should have said "Appalling standards in The Star" - based on this evidence anyway.

Frenzii on :

We are facing amateur journalism for many years now and it is not surprising for me that some really funny articles appear from time to time. Journalists must earn money and sometimes there is no subject, so one is created. And sometimes only some pieces of information are being known and the rest must be written.

julian on :

Well, the problem is, The Star is definitely not an 'amateur' newspaper. Though it would seem so sometimes...

Beth Charette on :

Actually, almost any premise is defensible from a certain perspective.
For example, let's take the proposition that women with the biggest boobs are the smartest.

One would say, "Ridiculous!" But, hold on!!

Suppose I limit my study to Western Europe. A study of Western Europe demonstrates that the biggest people on average are the Germans. The Scots take second place. The Germans and Scots together account for a full 70% of all Nobel Prizes won by Europeans, but have less than 50% of the total population there. Bigger people have bigger mothers. Bigger mothers, bigger boobs.
Thus, bigger boobs = smarter people.

We can do that with any premise. I can clearly see how I could defend the boob staring premise. However, this is a scientific site after all.

julian on :

Good point, but for your argument to stand, you would have to cite sources. Which is the point really, if The Star had bothered to check sources, they would have seen that the articles are rubbish.

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