On first look, you might feel the Straits Times (ST) is really doing some philanthropic work. After all, the headline says, “The Straits Times to auction Volkswagen car for charity.”
Yup, the ST is helping to auction the car, worth $107,500, for charity.
But as with all things with the mainstream media nowadays, you have to look at the fine print – and I mean, literally.
And when you do, you find this:
“All the proceeds from the auction will go towards sponsoring one-year subscriptions to ST for some 1,000 low-income families. A yearly subscription to the ST costs about $300.”
Now, before we all slam the ST for being self-serving, let us acknowledge that the paper does do some genuine charity, such as its Pocket Money Fund for students. That is to be applauded.
But then, ST changed its Chief Editor – from Han Fook Kwang (who I believe is responsible for starting the Pocket Money Fund) to Warren Fernandez who took over the helms not too long ago this year.
There is nothing wrong in wanting to generate publicity for your newspaper. Indeed, everyone would want his paper’s name to be known far and wide. But there is a moral, ethical line one would need to cross if such publicity stunts are to involve using the poor as a decoy, or what would seem as a decoy.
And this latest charity stunt, I’ll call it what it is, by the ST leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.
To be fair, one would have to ask what exactly are the St’s intentions behind the “charity” tie-up with Volkswagen.
Mr Fernandez provides the answer:
“We want to give the young in these families a precious gift: access to information and a window to the world and all its possibilities. That will help them get ahead in life. We sincerely believe a daily copy of the ST delivered to their homes will do that.”
Mr Fernandez “sincerely believes” that a copy of the ST will help the young in low-income families to “get ahead in life.”
Well, kudos to Mr Fernandez for wanting to help the children in low income families get ahead in life. Nothing wrong with that per se.
But one would think that the low income would rather be given necessities such as foodstuff, or even cash, which they presumably would need more.
What really makes one disgusted – like the 90% who feel this way with the ST report – is that the entire “charity” tie-up comes off as a cheap stunt, exploiting the low-income for a rather substantial financial gain for the ST – “All the proceeds from the auction will go towards sponsoring one-year subscriptions to ST for some 1,000 low-income families.”
Let me repeat, with emphasis: “ALL the proceeds will go…. to ST….”
S$300 per subscription.
There is a fine line between promoting your product ethically, and doing so with seemingly amoral reasons.
Sadly, in this case, it is inexplicably unethical and immoral of the ST to [try to] camouflage itself behind the name and the struggles of the low-income to enrich itself – and to do so proudly, with a report in its own newspaper, and a chief editor beaming broadly too.
The ST probably thinks it is a win-win-win situation for everyone involved: Volkswagen gets the publicity it seeks; ST gets extra subscriptions and publicity for doing “charity”; and the low-income get free subscriptions and also “get ahead in life” by reading the newspaper.
But really, does the ST think everyone is as dense as ST itself apparently is?
ST should – I mean, really – forego the money, give it to the poor AND give them free subscriptions as well.
Do that and maybe you will yet save your terrible reputation, ST, not just in the content of your paper, but also in the manner you conduct yourself as “professional journalists.”
Your conduct in this case leaves me aghast.
It’s nothing but a cheap and disgusting self-serving “charity” stunt.