Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Teluk Ketapang Story Part 10: Factual Inaccuracies In The Newspapers

Although six SEVEN mainstream newspapers carried our story, only one got their facts right - Guang Ming Daily. As such, this post will address the inaccuracies of all the newspaper reports.

Let's start with Kwong Wah Daily [PDF] since it's the worst culprit of them all. They claimed we were lost, physically weak, was there to conduct research and even got our gender wrong. As you know by now, we didn't lose our way in the forest at all. We were also not physically weak and in fact, surprisingly still very strong after all the strenous hiking and trekking, experiencing more than six hours of torrential downpour and not sleeping at all! There were three males and two females in our group but they reported four males and one female. You just can't find worse reporting than that!

Next up, Sin Chew Daily [PDF]. The most major mistake reported by this newspaper was the purpose of us being there. Like the other dailies, it reported that we were doing research but it added a little something on their own too. It claimed we were there to open up new trails which is not true. I don't think we're qualified to actually open up new trails (yet). We were actually just exploring a trail that is hardly used by anyone and I don't think that qualifies as opening up new trails for others. It also got our age wrong which was also a mistake made by the other dailies.

Nanyang Siang Pau [PDF] gave quite an accurate account of what actually transpired but not quite good enough. They also reported that we were conducting research and opening up new routes which we know is all wrong. It was pure leisure and we were trying out new trails. Age was also reported wrongly but this is not really a major issue.

I will discuss both the New Straits Times [PDF] and Utusan Malaysia [PDF] articles together since they are just translations of each other considering they are sister companies. It was quite poor reporting from them. They got the timeline all wrong. As much as I like to hike at night, we didn't start our hike at midnight. Instead, it was close to 1pm on Saturday. We did head to Teluk Duyong but we didn't detour to Pantai Kerachut after that. We did not forget to inform our families and friends. We just couldn't contact them since there were no available mobile networks at Teluk Ketapang. The missing persons report was also lodged much earlier than 3am stated in the article. We were not conducting research for our Master degree. In fact, none of us were pursuing a Masters degree.

The Star [PDF], arguably the most read English newspaper in Malaysia and widely circulated in Penang, probably did the most damage of them all. The news spread like wildfire due to their article on page 3. It also resulted in showcause letters from the Fisheries Department and Forestry Department since it was stated in the article that we were conducting research at the Penang National Park, which we weren't. Fortunately, the university cleared the mess up on our behalf. We weren't stranded per se but that headline definitely caught the readers' attention. We never had intentions of going to Pantai Kerachut and had not gone to Pantai Kerachut to only be located at Monkey Beach which is at two opposite ends of the Penang National Park. Our age was also reported wrongly and none of us were Master's students. We were never interviewed by Ann Tan so how is it possible that I was quoted to have only wished to be named as Lee? How is it possible for us to decline to be named if we weren't even interviewed? The article was written as if to give the impression that the reporter was there but she just wasn't. In all honesty, they did try to contact me through my handphones later that day but both my phones were dead after the whole ordeal and I was already on my bed catching up on sleep. I definitely expected better reporting from The Star. It was nothing but poor, irresponsible and unethical reporting.

Guang Ming Daily [PDF] wrote the most accurate and most detailed article amongst the lot. This was due to the fact that the reporter actually stayed with the families and friends at the police station to get all the facts. The reporter was there throughout the whole ordeal and was the only one that interviewed us. I gave him a full account of what actually transpired and we were rewarded with accurate reporting. Although the article did also state we were doing research, got our age wrong and didn't report our actual destination like all the other dailies, these were considered trivial when compared to the other parts of the article which was complete with facts and put us in a good light. The reporter must be commended for doing what he was paid to do, report the facts and not sensationalise the issue like his peers from the other dailies.

From this one event, we can see for ourselves which newspaper observes ethics when reporting the news and the ones that put in that extra effort to spice up their stories. As the ones who report the news to the masses, they are responsible to check their facts before putting it to print. When in doubt, they should do the only ethical thing - do not include it. Our newspapers are known to spin all kinds of stories these days and we've to take all that is reported with a pinch of salt. From this experience, a whole sack is probably needed to nulify all the spices added to their stories.


  1. to my loved ones and friends reading this, i hope u understand our side of the story. i indeed apologize for putting u through hell. but i am so blessed and thankful to know that there are always people whom i can count on in times of need. i am sorry, and a huge thank u for everything. love u.
    to the famous 4: i'm glad that we made it through together. thanks for being there and sharing this experience with me. it was a wonderful horrible thing to happen, hehe. [did that make sense?] muaks ;)

  2. shern, thanks for writing the true account of our adventure. give yourself a pat on your shivery shoulder.
    i'm going to share it with my friends. too lazy to write my own. i know u don't mind :D

  3. it was really a horrible night to me, in fact, i think i am still not so over it....
    to think that i am probably losing 5 VIPs in my life over a night, i can still feel the chill from my head down to my toes now...
    so, i am in.... no matter what event coming up next... this is not a request, it's a statement!
    i am really thankful and glad that you all came home safe and sound... :)

  4. Quite an adventure I must say. I'm glad you and your friends were found safe & sound.

    Thanks also for exposing the disappointing newspaper reporting etiquette in Malaysia.

  5. It was indeed quite an adventure. Thanks for your concern and readership. :)