為香港娛記平反 Be fair to HK's entertainment press
|You shoot, I shoot: entertainment photographers aiming their lenses at celebrities strutting down the red carpet. Photo: Internet
It's not uncommon to hear Hong Kong's news reporters criticising their colleagues covering the entertainment beat: they are rude and uncultured; they make a living only from gossiping trivial stuff of celebrities, scrambling information from their rubbish bins and tailing them around the clock. Some of the criticisms might be valid, but there is something about them that most have failed to see.
The success of Hong Kong's entertainment industry owes largely to the city's hard working entertainment press. Cantonese opera, for example, is now a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. But once upon a time it was entertainment for the masses. Without the appropriate media coverage, Cantonese opera wouldn't have earned its solid fan base to support its development back in the days, let alone becoming a cultural heritage today. Press clippings from the past kept track with the development of this art form, laying the foundation for academics and scholars to study and research today. Similarly, the entertainment press also propelled the rise of Hong Kong films and Canto-pop. What was popular in the past has become the collective memories and cultural assets treasured by many Hongkongers today.
But not that many people think along those lines. Many journalism graduates covering hard news look down on the entertainment press. But little do they know, they can be pretty crap in comparison to entertainment beat reporters when dealing with certain news topics.
During the times when family members of Stanley Ho went public for their disputes over the estate of the aging casino mogul, tonnes of reporters stationed at various Ho's mansions around the clock. But the ironic thing was that many news reporters had no idea who was who in Ho's extensive family. They had to rely on the entertainment press to tell them which daughters and sons were from which of Ho's four wives.
The entertainment reporters know the lives and networks of the high society and celebrities from the bottom of their hearts. Such is in fact very basic for reporters covering local news, but many news reporters can't even get their homework done properly. Many ambitious fresh graduates only care to produce "big (non-)stories" while laughing at the seemingly frivolous stuff that entertainment press covers, overlooking the most basic foundation on which they should've focused in the early years of their journalism career.
Is it true that only hard news reporters can do good investigative reporting? Apparently not. If it wasn't the entertainment press, many fans of idols might still be living in their fantasy of marrying their idols promising them that they would stay single forever, when in fact they have been secretly married.
If interviewing with celebrities is a trivial job, I don't think certain political news coverage being particularly marvelous. If one has compared certain news and entertainment coverages in the media, it is not difficult to tell that there isn't much different between the two: it's all established under the he-says-she-says basis. Someone has made some statement, and then you get a reaction from other parties for reaction. By sticking all the quotes together, you get a story. The only difference is that one story goes into the main book and the other goes into the entertainment section.
Many have said that they couldn't stand the stupid questions that entertainment press fired at celebrities. But are those questions really that stupid? A while ago Hong Kong's up and coming singer G.E.M.'s old blog was exposed, and in the blog the singer who claimed to be a faithful Christian said that she had spent the night with her then boyfriend. Then when the entertainment press saw G.E.M., they asked her directly if she was still a virgin. It was damn embarrassing, but if you were a fan of the singer and if you had been following that story, you certainly had the same question in mind. Same principle is applied when a politician is embroidered in a sex scandal. A news reporter would still have to ask if the politician had ever slept with so and so. When reporters see those suffering from the loss of families in some tragic accidents, they would still have to ask in their faces the details of the accidents and how they felt, despite how hurtful it is to the victims.
Certainly, I have seen entertainment reporters with terrible conduct, but I believe that is down to a personal issue rather than anything else. Of course I do not agree with any kind of reporting that invades a celebrity's privacy unnecessarily. But in order to improve the quality of the entertainment press, shouldn't there be proper training on culture and entertainment journalism at schools?
If the entertainment pages are really that frivolous, I suggest the whole world to boycott not only those pages, but also to stop going to the cinema or watching TV; don't even read any books or listen to any music, because they are all entertainment to a certain extent, despite the fact that one day, some of the quality films, TV shows, books and music will become our cultural heritage in a distant future. At the end of the day, we would want to share with our children or grandchildren what films we saw or what music we listened to when we were young, not some political scandals that no one will remember.