Letters to editor
Letters to editor
Thoughts needed

After reading the editorial "Judging the Past" in the section "From the Editor" of the November issue of Varsity, I am very dissatisfied. You "asked" several "questions" in Paragraph 4, including:

"What would it have been like if the Communist government had been successfully overthrown by students?"

"What kind of government would they have established?"

Please think carefully whether those students had the intention to overthrow the government! Although you said you did not defend what the Chinese government has done in the past few years, similar "questions" were also "asked" by pro-Beijing people who tried to justify that bloody crackdown.

Chau Po Lok

News photos

After the horrifying fire in the Garley Building on 21 November 1996, it was reported that many people sought psychological assistance. Surprisingly, 40 percent of people who used this service felt uncomfortable after watching or reading media coverage. We can see in this case the effects of media reports on people.

Thanks to the development of technology and competition among media organizations, news reports have become more real than ever. They can sometimes make us feel as if we were there. For instance, the picture of a burning body in a window in this fire frightened people. Many bestselling newspapers such as Apple Daily used it in large size on their front pages. We also saw this scene on almost every television news report that day.

However, is it necessary to shoot something which may upset the TV audience or the readers, even though they are real and they reflect the situation? Some psychologists advise that warnings should be given before airing shots capable of upsetting people. Morever, I think this is related to moral issues of photography in media industries.

There exists some absolute standards in judging news photos. The photos, first of all, must reflect real situations; they should be as objective as possible, and, similar to literal reports, they should be independent from opinion.

However, there are still many problems. Whether to use a photo that may have adverse effects on readers or TV viewers is one of them. Maybe affected by the sensationalism which has become prevalent in the media lately, newspapers tend to use more and more sensational photos, such as photos of dead bodies in pools of blood, to get the attention of readers. Even traditional papers such as Ming Pao recently have been using more photos of this kind. Although the audience can feel the intensity of the event, some of them, especially children, may be shocked.

Another problem is the conflict between public interest and privacy. People have the right to know what is happening in society, but under circumstances not violating the public interest. I think people have the right to protect their privacy at the same time. Public interest does not mean those things which the public are interested in; it means those which are related to the welfare of the public as a whole.

Is it justified to take photos of a victims' relatives when they are extremely sorrowful? Is it justified to break into people's houses to take photos? Is it justified to take photos when reporters disguise their true identities? We can see that there are still many problems in the morality of news photography.

Kathy Choi
Kwun Tong

Inaccurate reporting

We are deeply disturbed by the inaccuracy in the article appearing in the November 1996 issue of Varsity on Pp. 9-10 ("Not a failure? Sex education policy reviewed"). According to our Miss Chung Lai-Kuen, the teacher contacted by the reporter on the phone, major discrepancies between what she told the reporter and what was in the report include:

1. Discussions of the report about sexual attitudes of teenagers or whatsoever had never been held in our school.

2. Miss Chung is the head of the school counselling team, not a sex educa- tion teacher. In fact, we do not have any sex education teacher in our school.

3. There were hygienic lectures rather than sex education seminars held in the school. 4. Matriculation students had discussed cohabitation and abortion as a dis- cussion topic during some Chinese language and culture lessons, but not as according to the report "usu- ally discuss" the topics in those les- sons.

At first sight, the inaccuracies listed above seem to be no-big-deals, but we believe the most essential element in journalism is creditability and honesty. What is little discrepancy in one's eyes may be essential in another's. For instance, although we have no prejudice in whether sex education is important, the report as it is would lead to the impression that we are an honest supporter of the discipline.

While plagiarism has been too heavy a blow to academics in Hong Kong in recent years, inaccuracy in reporting would in certain sense be much more harmful to the society, let alone the discreditability would thus be born to the journal concerned. Creation should undoubtedly be left to the scientists but not the journalists.

We request that this letter be forwarded to the "author" of the said article and demand a rectification in Varsity. We reserve all rights for further actions as we see fit.

Thank you very much.

Pong Yu-Chung
Chan Pak Sha School
San Wui Commercial Society of Hong Kong

Varsity stands corrected, and we regret the errors. The Editors

Letters to the editor should be addressed to: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Room 204, Humanities Building, New Asia College. Letters may be sent by email to s956595@mailserv.cuhk.hk. All letters must include names and addresses.

January 1997

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