The results are in: the Workers’ Party’s (WP) Mr. Png Eng Huat (13,447 votes, 62.09%) has secured victory over his opponent, the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Mr. Desmond Choo (8,210 votes, 37.91%). I don’t wish to comment on the factors – Mr. Png’s relatively poor oratorical expressions, the Mr. Yaw Shin Leong controversy, the parties’ performance at the various rallies (here) et cetera) – that might have caused the gain or loss in votes (more commentaries will be published by others to analyse the outcome), and would just like to briefly evaluate Channel NewsAsia’s (CNA) coverage of the by-election.
Evaluating Channel NewsAsia’s Performance
1. I thought the entire programme was quite poorly planned, and I think it boiled down to the lack of content as a result of the amount of time made available (the broadcast started at 2100h, and the results were only announced at 2230h). Shifting the special feature to a later slot might have been more effective, which could hence reduce the need for repetitive commentaries, questions or video clips, as well as the incessant inclusion of advertisement breaks.
2. Dr. Gillian Koh’s performance was rather underwhelming. The newscasters have to assume responsibility for rehashing questions of little value, but Dr. Koh’s perspectives were mere monotonous summaries of what had gone on over the past week. CNA could consider two proposals to address the concern of guests in general: first, to invite two individuals who might be slightly partisan to air their views, so as to generate some form of dynamism and synergy in the exchanges; second, to have guests postulate future scenarios, and to think about how different results might yield varying outcomes.
Some might contend that the boundaries of our mainstream media might not allow for the aforementioned (Mr. Low Thia Khiang has just expressed his disappointment, which should certainly be looked into), but we could start by pushing the envelope progressively.
3. Tweets: to quote or not to quote? I do empathise with CNA on this point, because they find themselves in an awkward position: if they do report tweets, individuals question the relevance and accuracy of the information; if they don’t, they would be harshly derided for ignoring content from social networking sites. I thought they did a fair job this time round.
Nevertheless, they could enhance the status quo by using pertinent pictures or photographs from Twitter (creating a simple slide-show with relevant commentary), or by analysing associated trends (gauging general sentiments, looking at key hash-tags, considering trending topics from various sources). It would also be interesting to group relevant messages together, and hence present these on-the-ground opinions. These online points of view would have been good complements to the field reports streaming in, given that CNA had teams at Hougang Block 322 (for the WP) and Block 328 (for the PAP).
4. Hearing from residents and supporters. It is meaningful to zoom in on the press conferences or interviews with the candidates, but post-announcement interviews with PAP and WP supporters would have certainly added an intriguing dimension to the programme.