The Straits Times’ disgusting self-serving “charity” stunt

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….

1,000 families.

S$300 per subscription.

That’s S$300,000.

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.


14 thoughts on “The Straits Times’ disgusting self-serving “charity” stunt

  1. I tell you what’s the purpose behind this crap about wanting “to give the young in these families a precious gift: access to information and a window to the world and all its possibilities.” In another words, brainwashing them into belieivng in their (sph & garment’s) views and ideas. What is $300K to SPH man? Shap shap sui la. Well maybe a small percentage is the profit margin but overally speaking, this is something more sinister than you can imagined. As adults newspapers readers, we know their newspapers are nothing but propaganda machine for the clerisy garments. Not worth the news they’re printed on and only worthy for picking dog’s poo by the master. What a waste of natural trees just for that. Everything is what they say. Nothing is on what other people has to say. If everyday for 365 days of constant bombardment of their papers, one is sure bound to believe every words they wrote in the one sided news they published, especially the young ones with their naive, gullible impressionable minds. If this is not the case then now they know what to do next la… give free newspaper to people la. They do you know.

  2. Oh please! If it were “Temasek Review Newspaper” or some other anti-establishment paper doing this stunt, you guys would applaud it. So please don’t get on the moral high horse here. Poisoning young minds with crap is ok as long as it’s your kinda crap. You guys aren’t any different from the government mouthpieces. A pox on both your houses.

  3. obviously no one here is from below the poverty line, get over it. poor ppl who get money for ‘free’ spend it on luxuries, not on necessities (fact, go do your research), at least those who receive this get some information about the outside world and perhaps a leg up towards getting out of the poverty cycle. yeah, the singapore side of the news may be highly biased, doesn’t mean ALL world events will be biased. maybe it’ll inspire the kids to do sports, or cip or whatever. don’t be a troll.

  4. A charitable intention is all that counts. Even if the low income families don’t read, they can still use them to wrap things or clean windows. At the end of the year, probably can get a few bucks by selling the waste papers.

    And ST circulation will increase automatically by another 1K so they can now charge higher for advertisements. That’s what you call shooting many birds with one bullet.

  5. To those who say that there’s nothing wrong with ST wanting to give away subscriptions, yes you are right. But, please don’t be dense. No one will blink an eye if they actually give them away without pocketing that $300,000. Not being on the moral high horse doesn’t mean you are allowed to be stupid.

  6. I’m entirely for what they’re doing. While not an avid reader myself, it’s entirely up to the Straits Times to donate what they want. They are not obliged to give anything to low-income families whatsoever. If they choose to give said families coffee beans or lego bricks, it would be a somewhat similar case. It’s not a need or some form of staple good, but on some level it may solve some unbeknownst social problem as yet unaddressed by society as a whole. (i.e. lack of global politics awareness of low-income families) It’s hard to say that without an element of superbity.
    Perhaps the term ‘charity’ is incorrect, but rather ‘philanthropy’ is.
    If you’re saying that a free newspaper won’t, in some way, act as a benefit to even one of said 300 households that would be the true exaggeration.

  7. This needs to be publicized to the international press so that this stunt is publicized worldwide and ST can reap the benefits of their stunt. The international ridicule is certain to be deafening.

  8. This stinker of a charitable dispensation is akin to what LTK said recently of PAP using taxpayers’ money to upgrade PAP wards: using other people’s money to paste gold on your own face.

    This, totally unethical tactic, is only win-win (for some) leh…

  9. PR is a game of words.

    This bring a very important question to mind. Why inflate the value of the “donation” when they simply could write of the donated subscriptions as pro-bono in their accounts?

  10. When someone writes an post he/she maintains the image of a user in his/her mind that how a user can understand
    it. Therefore that’s why this article is outstdanding. Thanks!

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