Friday 13 June 2014

So was Baey Yam Keng misquoted?

Today, The Straits Times published a report about the Wikipedia page on the People's Action Party being vandalised.

Soon after, Mr Baey Yam Keng, who was quoted in the report, posted this on Instagram.

He also added this comment:
I have requested @straits_times to make a file correction as I DID NOT "call on ruling party to consider legal action".

Mr Baey's Instagram post was then reported by Channel News Asia.

I was very confused by the MP's Instagram comment and the CNA report. They give the impression that The Straits Times had somehow misquoted Mr Baey.

I re-read everything carefully again and again, and I think I finally figured out what happened.

ST didn't misquote Mr Baey.

This is what the newspaper reported:
"Wikipedia has made it clear that these edits constitute vandalism and they are certainly not something we would condone or support," said Mr Baey.

"Whether any legal action can be taken is something we need to consider. We need to look at whether there is indeed any legal recourse for us. Ultimately it is quite a vicious attack."

Mr Baey said the PAP "respects that Wikipedia is an open source platform and anyone with an account can go in and do edits, but there is a certain expected code of conduct on Wikipedia and this is certainly not acceptable".

He added that the party had not decided whether to make a police report

None of that is the problem.

The problem is that the headline writer summarised and paraphrased what Mr Baey said into "MP calls for ruling party to consider legal action".

And that is what my man-crush wants a correction for. Not anything in the report per se, but the sub-head.

Nowhere in the report did Mr Baey actually call for PAP to consider legal action, although "We need to look at whether there is indeed any legal recourse for us" comes pretty close. That's the danger of paraphrasing.

So the ST reporter didn't misquote him.

It was the ST headline writer who might have misrepresented Mr Baey's quotes (at least according to Mr Baey).

As a sub-editor myself, I can empathise. It's very hard to give good head.


ST published a clarification the next day and Mr Baey responded again on Instagram:
I thank @straits_times for making the file correction and publishing a clarification today.


Mr Baey responded to this blog post on Instagram:
@sm_ong you are spot on. Yes, not easy to be a good headline writer. ..☺