Taipei Times 的醜聞
二月二十日，亞洲最長歷史的英文報，香港的South China Morning Post刊出一則令人驚奇的消息「Newspaper orders its staff to support Chen」，報導中指出台灣的Taipei Times的總編輯（Rick Chu 朱立熙），對報社內的主管及若干工作同仁發了封電子郵件，信中明白表示：「本報支持「泛綠」的立場絕不容質疑與挑戰，任何人若不同意，此一立場，請不要勉強自己，繼續在這裡過不快樂的日子。我歡迎不認同本報立場的人請盡快在選前離職，我會尊重各位的選擇並成全想走的人。」 Taipei Times本來就是自由時報系的報紙，支持泛綠不是新聞，有新聞價值的是，媒體的自主與獨立性在台灣選舉的文化中被黑紙白字的寫了出來，破了新聞教科書言之復復的客觀中立。在接受South China Morning Post的訪問中，Taipei Times的總編輯說到這只是個內部的備註，沒什麼好評論的。而有位Taipei Times的記者表示，「I was told that if I write anything against the DPP or too `Blue' that I would be fired」（我被告知如果寫了什麼反對民進黨或過於偏藍的東西，我可能被革職）。
The Taipei Times sends a memo
The paper’s editor-in-chief internally called for “unbalanced” reporting, but was it really necessary?
BY DAVID FRAZIER
Orignal POTS Extra 298
LAST FRIDAY (Feb 20), Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) broke a story about an email from the editor-in-chief of the Taipei Times to the paper’s entire staff, stating in the run-up to the presidential election, any reporters not wishing to support the “pan-greens” – namely the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) – could go ahead and resign. For the playa haters on Taiwan’s largest expat web forum (www.forumosa.com), where threads such as “The Taipei Times Sucks” have garnered so much traffic that they’ve been restarted several times, this was just another nail in the coffin, proof that the Taipei Times is unquestionably biased and worthy of their scorn. But what no one, not even current TT staffers, understands, is why the memo was sent in the first place.
The man who sent the email, TT editor-in-chief Rick Chu (朱立熙), was not in the office on Wednesday (Feb 25), our press day, and could not be reached for comment. He did however verify sending the memo, according to the SCMP report.
The 469 Chinese character memo – we now have a copy as well – states: “no matter what your individual political stance, this newspaper’s stance of supporting ‘pan-green’ will not tolerate questions or challenges.” The next sentence continues: “I invite those who disagree with this paper’s stance to resign quickly before the election.” It then warns against supporting the “pan-blues” in any way, and further on explains the logic behind these admonitions: “This newspaper’s support of “pan-green” can only amount to an extremely small balancing force. While the mean-spirited pro-unification media does not even observe the most basic professionalism in writing balanced reports, it’s not necessary to ask this newspaper to write balanced reports. I’m sorry, I don’t buy it!”
The evening that the email was sent, one Taipei Times reporter said that “there was a lot of whispering in the office. Of course nobody was happy about it. And nobody could figure out why they would need to send an email like that.”
“Even some very obviously pan-green media like Formosa Television and the Liberty Times (自由時報) wouldn’t do that. They have systematic control. Editors can cut stories or change stories, and as a reporter, if you always have your stories killed, you pretty much know what the deal is and you leave.”
And finally: “The weird thing is that almost all the reporters here are ardent DPP supporters, so why would that be necessary?”
The TT has more than 50 staffers, and once the email was sent to them, it was also forwarded on to several outside the paper, including some in the international press. One of the recipients was Tim Culpan, a former editor at TT who still lives in Taipei freelancing for the SCMP, the Washington Post, and other publications. “The reason I thought it was a story was because it’s unusual for an editor-in-chief to put his bias in writing,” he said.
Interestingly, Chu also seems to share some of this interest in exposing the widespread bias in Taiwan’s media, which – we can infer from his email – does not just appear on editorial pages, but in the way stories are reported as well. However, using bias to combat bias is obviously the wrong approach, and more than that, a serious stain on the TT’s DPP idealism.
That said, there’s not much point in trashing the TT further over this, at least locally and in English. If you want to do that you can log onto Forumosa and blast away, or else just read the colorful backlog there, much of it by former TT staffers. In the interest of fairness I should probably also add that I was fired from the TT by Chu last July, via email, with no reason given, but even before that I was becoming disillusioned by the falling quality standards there.
As a postscript I’ll add that on Tuesday (Feb 24), Chu sent another email to the staff. I haven’t seen it yet, but a reporter there told me it neither contained anything too controversial nor commented on the SCMP story, “it was just encouraging us to stand firm and support pan-green”. So for the time being, life at the Taipei Times goes on.