Sonntag, Oktober 30, 2005

Editorial Integrity?

Wendy Cheng and her "trophy"....

It was the Straits Times; it was on page four; it was supposed to be the next blogging controversy--this time involving a high-profile blogger.

In the end, what was published in the Sunday Times was a lame, one-sided affair seemingly written by a Xiaxue apologist.

No disrespect intended for the reporter Jeremy Au Yong, but having read his article on the "controversy", I really wonder what do they mean by objective journalism.

To add insult to injury, two local charitable organisations even gave their support for Wendy: "Blogger Wendy Cheng found support from two unlikely groups. The Society for the Physically Disabled as well as the Handicaps Welfare Aossciation see nothing wrong with sharing toilets meant for the handicapped, as long as the able-bodied give priority to the disabled."

I really like to know if Mr Au Yong faxed these two societies Wendy's blog entry in its entirety; if he did, whether they actually read it. For to lend their support to Wendy--after what she's written--is bad publicity for them. I for one am not going to donate to an organisation that can't tell the difference between right and wrong.

Jeremy wrote: "Her critics argued taht the toilets should not be dirtied by the abled-bodied who had many more cubicles from which to pick and use."

However, the only critic quoted in the article? Peter Tan, the 39-year-old Malaysian blogger (and a disabled himself), who wrote to Wendy's sponsors complaining about her article. Yes, a Malaysian, as noted by the Straits Times.

What about the local critics? There were more locals who spoke against Wendy than Malaysians, so why not ask at least one of them for their opinions? Also, Netizens turned against Wendy not because she thought it's fine to share disabled toilets.

It's the disdain and contempt she showed for the disabled when she wrote her blog entry that riled people. Why not quote excerpts from her blog entry and let readers decide who's right or wrong?

Not a single word Wendy wrote was published; and Peter Tan was the lone voice speaking out against Wendy in the article. In mitigation, Wendy not only had the two local societies offering their support, but also LocalBrand founder Turodrique Fuad, who told the Straits Times that the issue "has been blown out of proportion" and "there was noting intentionally malicious about her post". They also got Wendy for a her comment, who said: "I don't think I have projected something that is extreme and I will write exactly the way I've always done."

Even the facts that Mr Au Yong brought up in his article don't give the full picture. I'm not questionnig Mr Au Yong's professional integrity, but there are certain points in the article that needs to be addressed:

Mr Au Yong wrote: "Ms Cheng is known for speaking her mind. She has written about measuring penises and evangelising, and poked fun at the nude pictures posted by a blogger writing as Sarong Party Girl."

Wendy can ramble on about measuring penises, she can make fun of Sarong Party Girl and even Furong Jie; fact is, we don't care. But she has written expletive-laden entries on far more senstive issues than a toilet cubicle--and the Straits Times didn't even mention one of them.

What about Wendy's recent entry on students who blog about their teachers--she openly encouraged wayward behaviour in students by telling them to go against their educators, and even taught them how to do it under a cloak of anonymity. And what about her racist remarks about Arabs and Malays which she later edited despite all her talk of editorial integrity?

Did Mr Au Yong read these entries before he wrote his article? Did he speak to Wendy's critics, who would've pointed them out to him? And if he did, why didn't he mention them, when they can give a truer picture of the sort of person Wendy is, and why people are so upset over this whole incident.

"While none would reveal the amount paid, the two endorsements are worth a three-figure sum to Ms. Cheng," he wrote.

Yes, it's a small sum, but before people start questioning why her critics are trying to deny her even this amount, they NEED to know why she doesn't deserve anything in the first place.

Maybe it's me, but the Sunday Times article has done a great disservice to its readers by painting Wendy as a victim when she's not.

Hats off to the Straits Times for a job well done, and for giving us such an objective view (sarcasm intended).

I'm sure Wendy will thank you for that. We won't.

Dienstag, Oktober 25, 2005

Down the Toilet...

Not the best looking banner around, but expect to see this more often now....

"So what if one, two, or three companies are afraid of endorsing a REAL human, someone with flaws? Someone with opinions?There are so many companies out there... I'm ok. :) "
-- Xiaxue

Some of you may have noticed the hoo-hah over at Xiaxue's blog. It appears that several individuals have started a campaign to get companies to pull their endorsements, and to say Wendy isn't happy is an understatement. She's just lost Voxy, and is terribly upset about what she sees as a smear campaign against her by people with personal agendas.

"I don't blame Voxy, because as Turodrique told me, in this politically correct world, no company will ever want to be seen as being politically incorrect. (With the exception of Guess endorsing Paris Hilton perhaps; sex tapes and all) "

First of all, with regards to Paris Hilton, being the heiress of an hotelier empire (and a better looking one) has its perks. But I digress.... *grin*

Ok, for the benefit of all, I'll make this simple:



Companies want Wendy to endorse their products because of her blogging fame; she's their spokesperson, so to speak. They don't care much about what she writes but only about her image in public, and if that takes a battering, these companies will want out. It's that simple.

Wendy still doesn't believe that her being politically incorrect (not once, but a zillion times) has gotten her into a fix. She blames it on her critics for trying to bring her down out of malice and JEALOUSY.

"I blame, however, the malicious people who have been bombarding my companies for a personal grudge you might have against me.

There can be only two motives why people would write to my endorsers:

1) They sincerely care for the company.
2) They want to attack my income, and subsequently, me.

Anyone votes for option one? I doubt it. "

I'd prefer option 3: "They feel that I'm abusing my privilege as an agenda-setter and want to set things straight".

It's a worrying sign when the young are so preoccupied with self-worshipping on the net; it's even more troubling when they are rewarded for it. I can't speak for the others, but for me, I certainly think it's not right for companies--run by educated adults who should know better--to get these wayward individuals to be their spokesperson. I mean, endorsements work both ways in this case--by offering Wendy endorsements, these companies are effectively condoning her bad social behaviour, making her think what she's doing is fine.

I also feel that the general public has every right to criticse when someone in the public's eye has disgraced the company/organisation he or she represents. It was public opinion that led to Mrs. Goh stepping down as NKF patron, following her now-infamous "$600000 a year is peanuts" remark; why should Wendy think she's above public scrutiny when even someone like Mrs.Goh isn't?

Because she feels she's got more integrity than others?

"I will never compromise my editorial integrity for commercial deals.

Then why harp on commercialising her blog? She'd be better off having a real job and blogging freely whenever she feels like it (that is, if she can refrain from blogging about her company as well....)

And while we're on "editorial integrity", thought I point out something Wendy wrote a while back--some incident involving her, a photo website, and the Today newspaper.

When Wendy was 19, she was supposedly approached by a businessman who wanted to feature her on his photo website. Wendy agreed to it after she was promised "photoshop rights" and $300. She was a poly intern with Today newspaper then, and so she approached her editor to do a story on websites like these:

"Because there are other websites also like his, and because these other websites were not trying to be less sleazy, I actually wanted to interview him and put him in a neutral light, whilst the other websites, of course, in the bad light they deserved to be put in."

Wendy insists that she was sincere about doing the story. But then, things began to fall apart. First, Wendy finds out that the guy was ripping her off and wanted out. The guy said he'd sue her, so she countered by threatening to write an unflattering article about his business--something which she regretted:

"THAT WAS SO FUCKING STUPID OF ME. Yes, I KNOW! Editorial integrity should never be compromised, and even if it is, you NEVER, as a reporter, SAY IT OUT LOUD. Ever."

Editorial integrity is something that should never be compromised--whether you say it out loud or otherwise. In any case, Wendy got an earful from the assistant-editor for dragging the paper into her personal mess, and the whole thing was eventually settled with an apology (which Wendy found humiliating). She still thinks she didn't do any wrong by playing hardball:

"I wasn't blackmailing him, I was just informing him about the FACTS that I was going to write on my article have changed. And certainly, threatening to contact my school, and also write to ST about this whole story, IS blackmail.)"

By one's mere association to a party that you're writing about, you can easily be accused of having "vested interest"; whether it's true or not is irrelevant.

If I'm an editor and a Democrat, and I write a stinging editorial blasting George Bush's policies, have I compromised my integrity? I may have put forth a most-convincing argument, but my political leanings immediate put me in an untenable position. Or let's say I'm a reporter and I heap praise on a particular company which I share an undisclosed relationship with--won't I get accused of editorial bias?

What the guy reportedly did was unscrupulous (you'd expect that from someone who runs a "sleazy website" for profit). Wendy might've been naïve then to think that she wasn't compromising her professional role as a journalist (even if she's an intern), but three years after that incident, she should at least be wiser for it.

Talk of integrity? As an agenda-setter and owner of a blog read by many young people out there, she needs to show "moral integrity" by not encouraging wayward behaviour. As a blogger supposedly making a living out of her blog, she needs to show "journalistic and editorial integrity" by not dragging her personal vendettas into the public's eye. As a spokesperson for the brands she endorses, she needs to show "professional integrity" by being mindful of the things she says so as not to harm their image.

Saying things like "So what if one, two, or three companies are afraid of endorsing a REAL human, someone with flaws? Someone with opinions? There are so many companies out there... I'm ok. :)" is terribly childish.

Wendy should just stop using "editorial integrity" to defend herself because she's shown very little of it until now.

"Whilst I might have stood up and proclaimed that I think there is nothing wrong with using a handicapped toilet when there is no handicapped person around (and I still stand on that opinion; more about it later), keep in mind:

I am also an ambassador for non-smoking in Singapore.
I love Singapore, and I am strongly against drugs.
I have influenced innumerous teens/females to learn to stand up for themselves.
I have inspired many to start blogging and opening themselves to the world bravely.

Many tell me thank you, daily, for being the voice they never had...


It doesn't matter if she's an ambassador for the non-smoking campaign in Singapore or she's against drugs. Most people are against these things anyway. It matters little if she's taught teens/females to stand up for themselves--the media has been championing their cause for a long time. It's pointless to say she have inspired others to blog when besides "vanity" blogs (and blogs like this one which exists due of a lack of free speech on her end) I can't really see how she has contributed to the net community in general.

And as for being the "voice they never had", I'm sure she has enough critics out there to qualify her as the "voice they never wanted" too. Would be interesting to know how many of her devoted fans are responsible adults rather than youngsters who deserve a better role model to guide and inspire them.

"And who is to gauge where morality lies? Despite all the good I do or represent, is one opinion I have, enough to say I am a bad influence, overall? "

Let me give you a scenario, a fictional example--IF you receive this letter:

"Dear Wendy, My daughter is an invalid. She is 21, like you, and she has been reading your blog since 2 years ago. However, recently, she has begun to slip into depression. She begin to cry every night, and when I ask her why, she says it is because the very blogger whom she looks up to has written something nasty about invalids like herself.

Reading your blog has depressed her, because while you say you're critical of only two individuals, my daughter still can't help but feel hurt too because she can relate to their plight...."

How would Wendy respond to this? Not another teary podcast, I hope.

I can give you countless other examples too: how about an angry parent whose little girl has just been suspended by her school for taking Wendy's advice--that is, to write nasty things about her teachers and principal on the net? She followed Wendy's instructions--setting up an anonymous blog and then act innocent when her teachers confront her. Problem is, she didn't realise that her friends weren't good at keeping secrets....

So, how is Wendy going to respond to that? Act as though nothing happened? Insist she's done no wrong and that it was the girl's fault for having friends with loose lips?

We're all familiar with the phrase "the straw that broke the camel's back". Wendy's problem with others (and vice versa) didn't start with "Toiletgate"--it started long ago, with her controversial entries, her condescending attitude towards people, and of course, her over-the-top ego trips.

"Teens who are free to read my blog possibly also can surf porn - why not go campaign against those websites? Surely beastiality is a worse influence than Xiaxue?!] "

Because porn doesn't have a face; Wendy does. Why do you think organisations have famous faces campaigning against all sorts of social ills like poverty, anti-racisim etc. Wendy, as an ambassador herself, should know how important it is to uphold her public image. The fact that she doesn't is an insult to the people who picked her.

"I come from a single-parent family, and money is something not easy to come by for us. My mom works very hard, and my brother is only 12. He doesn't have his own room, and I want to move to a bigger house so that he can get himself a room of his own.

I am not asking for sympathy, shove it up your smelly ass if you have any - I don't need it. I am just wondering how come people can derive happiness from others' misery. How much lower can the human race go, I sometimes wonder.

Thinking, perhaps, that you have taught me a moral lesson? "Be more careful with your words next time Xiaxue"?

I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, but given her financial situation, I do wonder how she can consider "blogging" as her first job when people out there are hunting high and low for security and a stable income.

Sheer entrepreneurship, naivety, or just plain laziness? Only she knows.

"Will making me not have food to eat make you any happier?"

Well, Wendy can always eat brioche if she can't afford bread.... No, just kidding. *grin*

Someone who can afford a life of clubbing and shopping shouldn't be worrying about something as trivial as this, no? My advice to Wendy? Get a real job, and oh, try not to get too infamous--wouldn't want to scare off your future employers, would you? =)

So what can Wendy do about endorsements going down the toilet? This is clearly a no-win situation for her. If she sticks to her guns, she's likely to lose future endorsements; if she changes, her "brat" appeal will go and she'll lose her audience. It's that "brat image" she builds around herself that sells her (and sadly, her blog's only selling point). But that's a double-edge sword to companies that have to worry about their public image as well. Should be interesting to see how this develops.

Wendy asked her readers to remember her name, 'cos she thinks she'll be a case study in the future. Never mind the future, she's fast becoming a case study now, but for all the wrong reasons.

Nb: Wendy wrote later: "Voxy wants to clarify that our endorsement (as is Kimage) was for 3 months and not a year... "

Oh well, they had the option of extending it if they wanted to, I sure. =)

Mittwoch, Oktober 19, 2005

Ego Tripper

"She is an ego tripper, one-way traffic yeah. Didn't take me so long to find out, and I found out." (with apologies to the late John Lennon *grin*)

"It's also a huge ego trip. A blogger in Norway made a button that says "I love Wendy's Blog" and a number of my fellow bloggers have displayed that on their sites. I can't begin to tell you how immensely flattering that is! I don't think I'll ever stop being amazed at how 'famous' I've become."

Not to be confused with Singapore's own enfant terrible blogger, Wendy Cheng (Xiaxue), it was Wendy Johnson of Alexandria, Washington--a knitting enthusiast and owner of the hobby blog/website (since 1996)--who said that. Her blog has received over 3.5 million hits since April 2002, and she has sponsored numerous “knit-alongs” for fellow hobbyists.

Johnson made those comments in a newsletter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) a few years back, when asked about her online journals.

"A sense of community, for one thing. I'm a solitary knitter, don't go to guild meetings, don't shop in [local yarn stores], don't hang out with other knitters in person. Since I started my knitting blog, I've made a lot of new friends."

In all honesty, ego trips have been around on the Internet, long before personal blogs turned them into a popular pastime. People were sharing their own thoughts and putting up personal photos onto their homepages in the net's Jurassic period; a few friends of mine even uploaded their wedding videos onto their personal website (registered with their own domain names). Justin Hall, considered the “founding father of personal blogging”, was already penning his online journal way back in 1994.

For me, it's fairly easy to relate to how Johnson feels about her online fame. After all, I've been running my own hobby websites since 1994, and like her, it feel good when strangers give you a pat for the back for all the hard work you've put in; it's even more flattering (kind of embarrassing, though) when fellow enthusiasts recognise you on the street.

However, you won't find Johnson rambling on about herself and her achievements, nor will you spot too many photo on herself on her blog, since most of them are devoted to her knitting projects and pet cat.

I don't put my photos up on my websites either, and the only time I didn't use a pseudonym was during an online interview with a US webzine.

Everyone likes to be appreciated for a job well done. You don't just feel good about yourself, but more importantly, about what you've achieved. It's about pride, since your work's an extension of your ego.

Like they say, you can insult the artist, but never his work. =)

So, yeah, we all had our occasional ego trips. But few ever got carried away with over-personifying their egos.

How things have changed with vanity blogs. And now Wendy intends to take her online narcissism to new heights/depths by commercialising it.

I don't like picking on people, I really don't. But I've never seen someone so conceited as to spend her waking hours building an altar for herself so she can sit on it. And if that's not bad enough, she even intends to make a living out of it.

Wendy has just revamped her blog—what she professes to be “possibly the most beautiful blog in the WORLD”—and with it, added new claims to greatness.

Here the pick of the crop:

I am Xiaxue, and I am your mother.

I am Xiaxue, and I'm a great spirit because Einstein once said that great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

I am Xiaxue. Thus behold the best blogger in the world.
(yeah right, tell that to Cory Doctorow and a lot of other bloggers out there)

The "world" in American sports is usually confined to North America (the World Series in Major League Baseball, for instance); the "world" in Wendy's dictionary must be a hell lot smaller even, perhaps something like a red dot....

However, the one that irked me most was this: "I also give talks about blogging, because someone killed the oldest blogger and made me the ultimate expert."

If Wendy thinks she's the "oldest blogger" and "ultimate expert" around, then what does that make professionals who have been in this industry even before she discovered her first webpage?

For all the hype surrounding blogs being a "new phenomenon", let's not forget that weblogs--like websites and community portals etc--are part of an ongoing Internet "evolution" that began years ago.

As John Grohol, a psychologist who writes about weblogs, observes: "The content and purpose of a blog is no different than a Web page, a Usenet discussion group, a mailing list or anything else adapted to a specific purpose."

A few years of frivolous blogging don't instantly make you an expert. Neither do a few weblog awards (we used get inundated with website awards too until we all got sick of them). It takes years of accumulated knowledge and experience to make someone an "expert" in his or her field--and Wendy has neither.

Oldest blogger, ultimate expert? What arrogance!

A lot of people have achieved far more than her--IT professionals, marketing people, designers, editorial staff etc who worked their butts off getting the online community to be where it is today--and they don't even openly make such claims.

You really have to ask yourself, how can someone's ego possibly grow so big for achieving so little? At 21 she's got little (if any) working/life experience under her belt; she's hardly a qualified webmaster, and has others to do her blog design and graphics; her articles are condescending, and hold water like a broken sieve; her looks are average, her personality worse.

And yet, she has a legion of groveling fans who can see no wrong in whatever she does, while the media and brand names are contented just to keep a symbiotic relationship with her.

Whether it's the media attention she gets, our youth's obsession with hype, or a deadly concoction of both, things are working out fine for Wendy. Also, credit where credit's due--she does seem to understand what makes the brat culture tick, and knows how to use the medium to work the crowds.

However, given her "success", it's only a matter of time before dozens of Xiaxue-wannabes start jumping on the bandwagon and imitating her.

Now that's worrying.

Yes, it's worrying when flaunting one's ego on the net can be considered a professional career--let alone an achievement. It's worrying when youngsters are encouraged to value show over substance, moreover by adults who should know better.

And it borders on the absurd when I can get accused of jealousy (and all sorts of silly things) simply for voicing my concerns.

Global village, global community, my foot! The Internet has devolved into one monstrous and expensive ego trip.

Welcome to the grave new world.

Dienstag, Oktober 18, 2005

Dude, Where's My Toilet Cubicle?

Woah, woah! HOLD ON DUDE. You mean only handicapped people can use handicapped toilets?

Ex-cons, educators, and now the disabled are the latest victims of Wendy/Xiaxue's poison tongue, and even though she claims her scathing remarks are reserved for two individuals, her tone seems to betray a more general disdain for these unfortunate folks.

It all started with her supposed conversation with her brother. Apparently, her brother saw someone getting an earful from a disabled man after he was caught trying to use a disabled cubicle. To his credit, Wendy's brother thought the guy got what he deserved, but Wendy (being Wendy) had to be controversial, as usual.

The man stopped at the handicapped toilet instead of the normal male toilet, because well...
1) it is nearer afterall
2) maybe he shares my love for handicapped toilets because they are so freaking spacious and usually has your own mirror and wash basin! Coolness!

I don't know what the fuck is this person's problem, but he shouted at the innocent man who opened his door:

"You come inside here for what, you are not even handicapped!" and etc scoldings.

Woah, woah! HOLD ON DUDE. You mean only handicapped people can use handicapped toilets?

You mean, the handicapped can use the other cubicles then?

She was equally unhappy that a male friend of hers got the same blow dryer treatment for using a disabled cubicle in the cinema.

Another one was my friend who was using a cineleisure handicapped toilet... When he walked out, he was severely lectured by a man who was wheel-chair bound, the latter chiding him for making him (latter) wait.

I don't know if it is the same grumpy, crazy person who did these two scoldings, but if it is not, then it seems a little too much of a coincidence.
How come people have this notion that only the disabled can use facilities for the disabled?

*Roll eyes*

So tell me ... our government spent millions of taxpayers' money to build so many facilities for the physically disabled, and only they are allowed to use it?

Oh, excuse me for going down the slope instead of the stairs, will you? I shouldn't have. MRT lifts - don't use it, cannot use it. Use the escalator instead.

WTF is this?

I don't know how much the government spent on such facilities (don't care either, 'cos I'm not writing a thesis here), but if Wendy really thinks they spent millions, then maybe she can direct me to her source? And by the way, MRT lifts can be used by others, including old folks who may have difficulty making their way up the stairs or escalators. As a matter of fact, until recently, most of the MRT stations aren't exactly accessible to people requiring wheelchairs; many public places (including tourist attractions) still aren't.

Sure, if I SEE that you are physically disabled, and you need to use the handicapped toilet, then yes, obviously I will let you use it and go use a normal toilet.

Of course, it wouldn't look good if she didn't. But what if she's already inside? Can she see through the cubicle walls to know that someone's waiting to use it. And even so, is she really going to move her butt (literally), apologise, and let the person use it instead?

Don't even go near the issue of handicapped parking lots. That is different, because waiting for a parking lot is not a matter of 2 minutes.

They're not. It's not a matter of waiting time; it's a matter of princple.

As far as I am concerned, you have a physical disability - and that is where you have a disadvantage. Your bladder is working fine isn't it? So you wait, just like normal people do, when there is a queue for the toilet. The rest of us queue up to use a toilet - I don't see why the disabled should be any different.

So a person's disabled, but his bladder must still be working fine, right?

Diabetes can damage the nerves controlling bladder function; it can also lead to limb amputations. I'm no expert in this area (okay, I suck *grin*), but you don't need to be a doctor to know that not everyone who's physically disabled is free of other illnesses. And even if it isn't the case, she didn't have to make such callous remarks.

And finally:

Pissed with unreasonable people. What pisses me off more is when the society at large condones bad behavior when it comes from supposedly piteous people. So what, handicapped have the rights to be unreasonable meh? If I ever break my leg (choy!) I think I shall use my crutch to anyhow whack anyone who comes near my MRT lift.

Between inconveniencing a disabled person (and still insist you've done no wrong) and getting chided for doing so, which is more unreasonable? The answer's pretty obvious, unless you're Wendy. Also, did she have to belittle the issue (and these people's plight) with her lame joke about breaking a leg?

Come to think of it, maybe she should just go ahead and break a leg after all. It might help her appreciate better the sort of difficulties these "supposedly piteous people" go through everyday in their lives.

Wendy obviously thinks that the disabled are too "privileged"--especially when she asks "why the disabled should be any different". What she doesn't realise (intentionally or otherwise) is that these people are very much "under-privileged" in most things people like herself take for granted. They have difficulties landing jobs available to normal people; they have problems getting around; those with families to take care of have to shoulder the psychological and emotional burdens; most already feel ostracised by their own society even without people like Wendy making them feel even smaller.

What may be "expensive" facilities to Wendy are, to these people, the simple things that make their lives more normal.

And while we're at toilet cubicles, there's only one cubicle reserved for them in every toilet, so why deny them even of that? It's disgrace that Wendy thinks they should just keep quiet and wait their turn.

Oh well, it's nice to know our government's call for a more caring society is heeded; and it's even more heartening to know that Singapore's "oldest blogger" and "ultimate expert" has done her part to support the cause by writing such a mentally-challenged piece of social commentary... Now if only it were "mentally challenging" instead. =)

nb: Really, I should stop blogging at ungodly hours... -_-