SOPA 2015 – Media should play an explanatory role, says Taiwan journalist
By Viola Zhou and Christy Leung
Cartoon graphics of Taiwan's income distribution and animations showing why small businesses cannot survive, accompanied by music and voice-over, these are what a financial magazine provides for the public after angry students occupied the parliament for more than 20 days.
Instead of acting as a platform for arguments only, mainstream media should provide the public with explanations and solutions as the society calms down from social movements, said Chen Yi-shan, deputy editor at Taiwan's CommonWealth magazine.
Speaking to a group of journalism students at Hong Kong Baptist University, Ms Chen looked back at what is called the Sunflower Movement and addressed how professional media should play their informing and explanatory role.
"At that time, lots of different interpretations of CSSTA were floating," Ms Chen said, referring to the controversial Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement that triggered the movement. "Some were given with a political agenda, but we could not talk about that during the movement."
Ms Chen said news coverage tended to become fragmented as a result. Different opinions with no common ground were presented in a blind way.
The movement ended with the agreement shelved, and with questions on Taiwan's future. Ms Chen tried to help her readers find the answers by looking from an economic perspective.
"We are journalists, not recorders," she said. Getting at least three sources seems to be a golden rule for beginners, but Ms Chen said providing statistics and background analysis for readers is essential when it comes to complicated issues like the CSSTA.
Ms Chen said to link with the new generation is another challenge for the traditional media. Similar to what happened in Hong Kong, citizen and student-run media blossomed during the movement in Taiwan.
"The first piece of news was made by students of National Taiwan University," she said. "When everyone was watching those ‘for dummies', we need to re-consider the value of professional journalists."
The mainstream media, Ms Chen says, should explore how to communicate with the young and try to build a platform for serious discussion. The CommonWealth magazine is doing that by explaining difficult economic issues through graphics and animations.
She says it demands journalists to become project managers who can coordinate with text, infographic, music, and animation. Some of the magazine's videos have got over 200,000 clicks.
"Young people are not dummies," Ms Chen says. "If they have interests, they read long stories and analysis."
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