[思潮] 記者別自以為了不起



連常識都不足 更別提玩世不恭的批判精神

文/洪健昭 譯/張淑伶

People like to aggrandize themselves, press workers in particular. So much so that they call the press the fourth estate, one more added to the three estates of the realm. There used to be three estates in dear old England. Actually, they were three political groups, including the Lords Spiritual (Bishops in the House of Lords), Lords Temporal (other lords) and the Commons (the common people). In modern times, English newsmen, who were very good at self-aggrandizement, came to regard themselves as forming another political or social class and began to style the press as the fourth estate.


Newsmen in Taiwan are even more self-aggrandizing. They have translated the fourth estate as the fourth power in Chinese, one in addition to the three powers of the realm – executive, legislative and judicial. The translation may be a gross mistake on purpose. Of course, the press may be a great power in a democracy like Taiwan, but that power means a group of people who are influential rather than a right or an authority to which they are entitled. And they get smug, because their naive but loyal readership and audience parrot the vainglorious moniker.



As a matter of fact, some of our journalists believe they are so powerful that they are able to play god. They can’t.I am certain the best description of a reporter, according to Jimmy Wei who worked at one time as a Reuters correspondent and went on to become a director-general of the Government Information Office and then a president of the Central News Agency, is one who is a celestial being, a tiger and a dog at different times. His elaboration: A reporter may be pampered or even worshipped as a near-immortal, or as fierce as the tiger or just as subservient as a running dog. Well, Jimmy was a good reporter and a good reporter has to be a cynic. He was.


It’s difficult to be a cynic, a person who sees little good in anything, has no belief in human progress, and shows this by being sarcastic. To qualify for such a grand title, a reporter has to have an extensive and critical knowledge in practically every field of human endeavor. He has to work himself to death to acquire that much knowledge. Few aspiring journalists want to do so. Okay, let’s lower the norm: A mediocre reporter has to have enough common knowledge, period. Searching for just so-so reporters measuring up to that yardstick may not be fruitful.


Here are a couple of news stories that prove the dearth of C-average newspaper workers. (No examples need to be cited from TV news reporting, for average viewers can scarcely understand what anchorpersons are used to blabbing at an unbelievable speed.)



An afternoon paper in Taipei splashed its front page with a banner headline a few years ago. The top story of the day was so long as to cover the full page and it’s about a mountain-sickness case in southern Taiwan. A young lady, who was an assistant professor at a Pingtung institute of technology, joined in a field trip to a remote mountain in the neighboring county of Taitung in search of rare Formosan black bears, a very much endangered species. It was reported that she got mountain-sick at an altitude of a little more than 1,000 meters above sea level. So her colleagues called for police help. Taitung police sent a helicopter to Mount Taiwu to look for the lady suddenly taken ill. Two paramedics aboard the chopper were equipped with all kinds of first aid medicine and gear except an oxygen tank or a very small aqualung. And the pilot couldn’t locate her. In the end, he had to land the pair somewhere in the mountain and let them stay overnight there. That ended the story, though reporters wrote in detail what transpired among her and her fellow mountain-climbing scientists from the same institute of higher learning.


I was stunned when I read perhaps the worst news story in history. Reporters simply did not know no one can get mountain-sick unless he is above the timber line at the very lowest, which is about 3,000 meters. The young lady simply could never have mountain-sickness. Did they make the story up? Unlikely. Their copy was read by copy readers. Didn’t the copy readers have that little piece of common knowledge under their thick skull? Unbelievable! What about her fellow scientists who have to climb a mountain from time to time on a field trip? Didn’t they know mountain-sickness could be cured the moment the victim was lowered to an altitude below the timber line? How come the paramedics didn’t carry an aqualung or two with them, knowing the victim was mountain-sick. The police were asked for help by phone. Didn’t the caller tell them exactly where she was? How could the chopper pilot leave the paramedics in the middle of nowhere to do exactly nothing while staying overnight? Did they agree and obey the order obediently like two running dogs, though they knew full well they would be stranded there for the night? Those who produced the story were idiotic press workers. They can never hope to be cynics.


含糊不清的內容 不如不寫

A lady reporter who later became the editor of a newspaper in Taipei and taught news writing at one of the most prestigious universities in Taiwan once wrote a human-interest story about the donation of blood in Taipei by a group of Japanese medical practitioners who were graduated from the Medical School of Taihoku Imperial University. She started the story with several days ago and followed it up with several Japanese doctors who went to the Taiwan University Hospital to give blood, not knowing an inexact date and an inexact number of people involved are taboos in news writing. An even more inexact unit of capacity ensued. She wrote: They donated a small bottle of blood. She didn’t know blood donated is measured in cubic centimeters.


Few, if any, reporters in Taiwan are good at math. Their reporting on numbers is almost always wrong. Let’s pick up a report on Taiwan’s foreign trade for a casual checkup. A reporter writes about the trade volume and its breakdown. But when you sum up the numbers in the breakdown, the sum doesn’t – more often than not – tally with the total volume. A news agency reporter once wrote an otherwise good story about the daily protein intake of the people on Taiwan. He cited the number of hogs slaughtered a year and our population. His numbers didn’t tally. Based on the numbers reported, a hog weighed a mere two kilograms or 4.4 pounds.


A mass-circulation paper put out a good caption story the other day. The picture shows a folk Taoist temple designated as a historic relic by the Council of Cultural Affairs. The story was not very well told, but worst of all, the reporter didn’t tell the readers where they could find the shrine.


I am not nit-picking. All that I dare to hope for is a somewhat plausible story by a run-of-the mill news writer. Is that an exorbitant price the man in the street demands of our self-styled wordsmiths who are trying probably unwittingly to murder the Chinese language a la the British model described by the celebrated grammarian H. W. Fowler of Concise Oxford Dictionary fame? Fellow journalists, work harder to learn more. Don’t get smug, please.



2 回應:

匿名 提到...






1.《高山症》(High Altitude Illness):「在海拔高度1500公尺以上就有可能發生高山症,隨著高度越高,出現症狀的比例越高...」


ckprodigal 提到...




耳機裡的新浪潮 Design by Insight © 2009