The Malaysian Insider: spinning and editorialising the news again?

By Malaysian Heart

(Screenshot from The Malaysian Insider)

Some time ago, I posted an entry on media spin by The Malaysian Insider. Well, they seem to have done it again. “Najib wants Selangor back in BN’s clutches” reads the headline of this story in MI today. It reports how Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak stated his wish that BN win back the state of Selangor, and how he believes they have a bright chance of doing so.

Using the word “clutches” in the headline casts a certain light over the entire article. Clutch means “a hand, claw, talon, or paw in the act of grasping”, “a tight grasp”, and “control or power”. When used to mean “control or power”, it is often used in the plural: as in “caught in the clutches of sin”. It’s interesting to note that in this sense it is almost never used to refer to something good or wholesome; one would rarely, if ever, say “the clutches of good” (a google search unearths all of 14 instances). It is, however, a word that is commonly used when the thing doing the clutching is not so benign (34,200 instances of “the clutches of evil” from google). It is an example of a word with pejorative connotations, one that is used to imply disapproval or contempt and is meant to be insulting, impolite, or unkind. Using such loaded language is, in turn, one of the dishonest tricks used in arguments. In this headline, the “target” being “attacked” is none other than the BN, and DS Najib himself.

As I have written about before, advocacy journalism certainly has its place amongst journalism’s different genres. However, this article purports to report the news; news articles must report only the facts and must be free from spin and editorialising. Readers must be able to make up their own minds without having to contend with reporters and editors trying to push their own opinions down our throats. Journalists and editors already have every opportunity, without having to provide evidence, of opining, hinting, insinuating, alluding, implying, surmising, suggesting, exhorting, preaching and haranguing to their hearts content, on their respective editorial or op-ed pages; we readers know to read those pages with the appropriate critical incredulity. They must never co-opt news pages as their soap-box too.

This is the minimum that is required of any media organisation that claims to support civilised public discourse in a democracy; even advocacy journalists need to uphold certain minimum standards if they want to be regarded as anything other than mere shills and propagandists.

Was there any other way for The Malaysian Insider to introduce their article? What’s wrong with a headline like “Najib wants BN to win Selangor back”? Less catchy and exciting? Less likely to attract “clicks”? Perhaps so, but in my opinion, at least it would have been honest, unbiased and worthy of a news article.

(The views expressed here are solely my own.)

7 Responses to “The Malaysian Insider: spinning and editorialising the news again?”
  1. amoker says:

    cause najib is going to use force to get it?

  2. Gozaimasu says:

    PM minces no words. He meant to keep Selangor in BN’s clutches, much like the past 50 years.

  3. BadEgg says:

    Nope i think MI is right. For one, Najib timing for saying that is totally off. What’s with the MACC allegation, retake Perak fiasco and UMNO involment in the beer incident, one would have to an idiot to think clutches is not the right word to use.

  4. ong says:

    Malaysian Heart is correct in saying that the word “clutches” has negative connotations. Perhaps that is exactly the reason why the MI correspondent used that word.

  5. Antares says:

    “Spin” is inevitable. The planet spins on its axis as it spins around the Sun. And the solar system spins around the Galactic Center. Spinning is what makes the universe go round. Some types of spin are natural and serve to maintain a dynamic equilibrium. Other types may be described as “downspiraling spins” – whereby a system begins to wind down and lose coherence. Eventually it gets flung out of its original orbit or implodes with its own gravity or explodes when it collides with an external force (meteors, asteroids, etc). This particular headline indicates that the writer isn’t happy at the idea of Najib wresting the state of Selangor back from Pakatan Rakyat the way he engineered the Perak power grab. Subtly inserting the word “clutches” into the headline expresses his or her disgust at Umno/BN’s gangster tactics. Since the Malaysian Insider is not a personal blog and purports to be a professional or semi-pro news portal, this sort of spin is the only way writers can express their personal inclinations and disinclination in print without
    exposing themselves to severe censure. I fully endorse this sort of “spin.”

  6. KT says:

    There is no spinning here at all. What MI is doing is conveying exactly what Najib is doing.

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