Professionalism in Hong Kong media industry (Glossy Magazine)
As the media industry becomes more mature and open, more different media channels have appeared in the community. In recent years, we have a wider variety of print magazines and pay-TV channels to choose from. Currently, I-cable is even trying to gain the free TV license in order to penetrate the domestic market. Having more choices is undoubtedly beneficial to audiences, the industry and the whole market. However, the expanding media industry does not guarantee a better quality offered by the media. The professionalism of different media organizations therefore becomes a controversial issue nowadays.
Next Media is one of the largest listed media companies in Hong Kong. It owns one newspaper, Apple Daily, and several print and online magazines. Its magazine, Next Magazine, is one of the most popular local glossy magazines. This magazine is well known of its aggressive and flamboyant reporting style. Next Magazine is a typical example of using exaggerated and even fake cover stories to maximize its readership. Because of the commonly used fictional and immoral reporting styles, publications under this company are always criticized for its unprofessional conduct.
Fictional reports represent that reporters attempt to write an entire story just according to a partial fact. Sometimes, reporters’ personal comments or imagination of an issue will be added into the story. The worst case appears when the contents of the whole story is counterfeit and without any evidence. This kind of unprofessional reports is always carried out by reporters and editors of the Next Magazine. Shocking cover stories about the celebrities can always attract readers. Yet, those rumors are always accused of the content inaccuracy by the protagonists of stories. Some celebrities even take legal actions to defend and clarify themselves. In February 2010, an artist named Law Ka Leung and his former wife respectively declared that the cover story of the Next Magazine about their life after divorce was not true. That cover story described Mr. Leung as an irresponsible father and discredited his image by depicting his poor treats to his ex-wife and son. However, this was not the real case but made up by the unprofessional reporters. Mr. Leung blamed that the irresponsible report has seriously damaged his image so that he would keep the rights to sue the magazine.
In addition, some media even unethically make up an entire story of some well-known public figures. In many cases, such reporting would offense the privacy of the people involved. For instance, the paparazzi always invade into celebrities’ apartments in order to look for some personal materials which may help create newsworthy articles. Not to mention letters, credit card and bill receipts, rubbish like empty bottles of skin care products can be collected as sources for reporters’ creative rumors. In April 2003, the famous singer, Leslie Cheung, committed suicide in a hotel. The paparazzi of the Next Media sneaked into his room and foraged his rubbish. Their behaviors were seriously criticized of disrespect to the subject singer.
In August 2006, the Next media again aroused another furor after publishing a cover story about a young female singer, Gillian Chong. The magazine, titled Easy Finder, was once a popular publication under the Next Media. There was a huge coverage in Easy Finder about Gillian Chong putting off her clothes in a changing room. Miss Chong’s naked photos were actually taken by the paparazzi using a hidden camera. Finally, the Easy Finder was accused by the local regulation of obscene and indecent articles ordinance. This incident not only infringed the privacy of the victim, but also the morality of society.
The unprofessional reports of the Next Media led the company into complaints and troublesome lawsuits. Its stories have also brought up heated controversy. Although its eye-catching stories can help bringing huge readerships, its credibility is very low. Its semi-fabricate stories are regarded as personalities instead of credible pieces of journalistic writing.
Nowadays, many media companies put sales into an upper priority over professionalism. Looking for claptrap information for the sake of raising the circulation becomes the most essential concern. Therefore, the bottom line of journalists’ professionalism nowadays becomes loosened. The problem turns into much more complicated when the media coverage was done not only immorally, but also illegally. In order to safeguard the profession and ethics of journalism, self-discipline is very important. The local government, in this circumstance, should perform as a watchdog to protect and balance the interests of the media industry and the general public. Meanwhile, the government should also beware of violating the press freedom. In short, objectively reporting the reality is the ultimate goal of being a journalist. Every practitioner in this industry should respect their identities and duties and behave as a professional.