Battlepanda: Literal media whores


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Literal media whores

Sigh. Is there any wonder why journalism can be such a disrespected profession in Taiwan? Of course, this is the action of an individual and it will be unfair to smear all journalists as brazen hucksters. But I think it does say something about the general media environment that this sort of thing is tried at all.

The richest person in Taiwan is Terry Guo (郭台銘), who heads Hong Hai (for which FoxConn is a subsidiary). Recently, Guo received an email from a reporter named Zang Jiayi (臧家宜) with Next Magazine (part of the Next Media group and a sister publication of Apple Daily in Taiwan). In the email, Zang indicated that she intends to publish a book on Terry Guo titled "The Blazing Sun Scorches The Body: The Guo That You Don't Know About." The email included an outline of the proposed book as well as some of the content. The email was sent under the guise of asking Guo to write the foreword. Guo read the email and considered the contents of the book to be sensationalistic and malicious, with plenty of unsupported negative information which will cause him grave personal damage. Zang and her boyfriend then informed Guo that the book need not be published and proposed a payment of NT$32 million. Guo decided to call the police instead. The police instructed Guo to meet with Zang at a VIP room in a bank, whereupon an agreement was assigned after the payment of NT$32 million in cash. The police then burst in and arrested Zang and Huang. The two denied that they were extorting and claimed that the NT$32 million was for the transferral of copyrights.

NT $32 million is a shade under one million USD, by the way. Talking about corrupt reporters in Taiwan, I'm reading an interesting book written by an ex-journalist called "How to defeat reporters" -- sort of a kind of extreme machiavellian PR handbook. Here's some translated snippets:
There are ways to make a reporter feel like you're his best friend. For instance, involve him in your campaign. Ask him to write your news releases or publicity materials. Have him outline your speeches. Many reporters are indeed experts at such tasks. Since you would have had to pay for these services anyhow, you need to give the reporter reasonable renumeration. For the same price, you have purchased a media outlet along with the necessary services. A very good deal indeed. [snip]

However, there may be greedy reporters who make requests without anything being offered to them first. How to deal with this situation? [snip] Evaluate whether or not they have the potential to be utilized. If they can be of service, pay them a wage. If they cannot, refuse their requests.

Will a refusal result in negative repecussions? Especially in a campaign that might cost tens or even a hundred million taiwanese dollars, would offending a clown by refusing to pay one or two hundred thousand taiwanese dollars have catastrophic consequences? Can you afford to offend a reporter?

This is a complicated question.
I'm glad I never went to journalism school, never built up any serious notions of the nobility of the profession or the sacredness of our duty and our essential role in a democracy. If I did, I might be a sight more upset by the state of journalism in Taiwan now than I am right now.