Generation 40s – 四十世代

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The rise and fall of Canto-pop and, with it, Hong Kong’s cultural identity

CommentInsight & Opinion
2018-01-06

Vivienne Chow says the Ultimate Song Chart Awards reminded her of how Canto-pop once brought a thriving Hong Kong together. But, with its glory days long gone, she wonders if the uniquely Hong Kong genre can once again find that power to unite

 

On the first day of 2018, Hongkongers were delightfully surprised by Nicholas Tse Ting-fung’s appearance at the 30th annual Commercial ­Radio music awards show. Dressed in a black top and armed with an electric guitar, Tse joined local bands Supper Moment and Chochukmo on stage as a guest performer, driving the crowd wild, singing Jade Butterfly and Living Viva, two of his most memorable hits from the early 2000s, and a brand new Canto-pop song, (I) Have Fire. The last time he ­released a Cantonese full length album was in 2005.

It’s been a long time since any of the year-end music awards shows was the talk of the town. Not only were those watching Commercial Radio’s Ultimate Song Chart Awards presentation at the Convention and Exhibition Centre enjoying themselves, many who had long given up watching such awards shows found themselves tuning into the mini showcase online. The video clip appearing across various media platforms, including the official account of Commercial Radio and popular entertainment gossip page King Jer Entertainment Channel, has ­already garnered nearly a million views.

Adding to the Canto-pop memories of the night was Eason Chan Yik-shun’s performance of his old favourites and Hacken Lee Hak-han, a veteran of 30 years, bagging the gold male singer award for the first time. It was a nostalgic kick-start to the new year.

The return of Tse to the Canto-pop stage was ­unexpected, largely because, like many established Hong Kong stars, he shifted his focus to mainland China many years ago. Long gone was his Canto-pop bad boy image, as Tse reinvented himself as a successful entrepreneur and the most talked about TV chef. The glory days of Canto-pop seem to be the past life of not only Tse, but of Hong Kong as well.

Canto-pop is an integral part of Hong Kong’s cultural identity. It all started in the mid-1970s when Sam Hui Koon-kit began singing pop in Cantonese. It was a time when most people were still playing pop music in English. Hui’s songs were like a fresh breeze that stirred the souls of many Hongkongers whose mother tongue was Cantonese. This coincided with Hong Kong’s growing economic prosperity and rising public demand for leisure and entertainment.

The intense rivalry among TVB, Rediffusion Television (which became ATV in the 80s) and the short-lived Commercial Television set the stage for the Canto-pop boom. Not only did they produce a number of hit TV series that captured the hearts of an audience seeking emotional refuge after a long day at work, the Cantonese theme songs of these TV series gained wild popularity, particularly title songs from wuxia martial arts epics, such as those adapted from Louis Cha Leung-yung’s novels.

Along with the kung fu cinema made popular by Bruce Lee in the early 70s, it was the beginning of the golden era of Hong Kong, which produced a unique brand of pop culture that was not borrowed from the West – an array of songs, TV shows and movies that made Hongkongers proud.

Records of theme songs for TV Series adapted from the novels of Jin Yong (the pen name of Louis Cha), are displayed at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin, last March. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

The rise of Canto-pop led to the launch of annual music awards shows in the 80s. TVB, Commercial Radio and public broadcaster RTHK each produced its own year-end shows, joined later by Metro Radio. These shows have played a vital role in promoting not only the music industry but also the melodies and sentiments that Hong Kong people identify with.

Canto-pop brought Hongkongers together. During the heyday of the local music industry in the 1980s and 90s, watching live broadcasts of the year-end awards shows was a must. Those were the only occasions when not just fans but also general TV viewers had the chance to experience the live performances of the biggest and brightest stars, from the comfort of their homes.

The awards could easily cause heated debates among friends and family: arguments over whether Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing would be able to beat Alan Tam Wing-lun in the best male singer category could trigger a war of words among siblings at the dinner table in the 80s. And in the 90s, arguments over who was the best of the “Four Heavenly Kings” – Jacky Cheung How-yau, Andy Lau Tak-wah, Leon Lai Ming and Aaron Kwok Fu-shing – could easily end a friendship. But no matter who was most popular at the time, people could sing along to most of the hits.

As the top stars retired from these music awards shows, a younger generation of Canto-pop stars, like Eason Chan Yik-shun, Miriam Yeung Chin-wah, Nicholas Tse and Joey Yung Cho-yee in the 2000s, was given the ­opportunity to shine. The dramatic rivalries were gone but the music awards shows still managed to capture many people’s attention.

Fans of late Canto-pop diva Anita Mui Yim-fong attend her memorial concert, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in December 2013. Photo: Felix Wong

But all of that is now history: Canto-pop is struggling. In 2008, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (Hong Kong Group), the ­industry association, slashed requirements for ­album sales awards, from the original benchmark of 25,000 for gold and 50,000 for platinum – down to 15,000 for gold and 30,000 for platinum.

Top-selling Canto-pop singers and albums of the past 20 years.

Source: Hong Kong Top Sales Music Award/SCMP

There is also a serious lack of new Canto-pop ­forces with the power to bring people together. While many of the established stars have either retired or shifted their focus to mainland China, appearing in reality shows such as I Am A Singer, the decline of ­traditional media and the rise of digital media, particularly the algorithm-based social media, has fragmented the audience base.

Even political groups have trouble finding new songs that can unite people at protests

The gap between reality and what is perceived as reality has never been so wide. Some traditional Chinese entertainment media expressed bewilderment at the result of the “favourite song of the year” category at the Ultimate Song Chart Awards, which went to local band ToNick’s Cheung Seung See Sau (“Stay Together Forever”), a song they claimed many had never heard of. But, in reality, the music video has had nearly 7.7 million views on YouTube, more than most other songs from 2017.

The truth is that Hong Kong is still living in the past. Even political groups have trouble finding new songs that can unite people at protests: the song that was sung probably the most at protests over the past five years was Beyond’s Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies, and that was released in 1993.

Over two decades on from the handover, the rise and fall of Canto-pop mirrors Hong Kong’s struggles with its cultural identity. And as long as Hong Kong is still caught up in its internal battles, the chance of getting people to sing along together to new Canto-pop tunes seems to be slim.

Vivienne Chow is a journalist, cultural critic and founder of Cultural Journalism Campus

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報紙數碼轉型的3個案例

明報
觀點
2017-12-28

蘇鑰機

最近參加了兩個研討會,內容有關新聞界在新科技環境中如何經營,特別是報業的轉型步伐。其中幾位講者介紹了兩岸三地的一些報紙個案,值得大家參考。

《南華早報》走向國際

個案之一是香港的《南華早報》。該報的總編輯譚衛兒說,自從阿里巴巴集團於2016年收購《南華早報》後,即時取消網上的「付費牆」,並提出改革轉型方向。該報希望立足香港,利用數碼技術走向國際媒體品牌,重點是着眼美國及東南亞市場。現時該報在區域的影響力頗高,但海外用戶比例仍有待提升。

《南華早報》配合中國近年的崛起,其使命是「引領全球關於中國的對話」。它正努力改革,首先是在體制文化上把編輯部全面數字(數碼)化。其次是在結構上將製作傳統報紙的人手縮減至編輯部全體員工的一成,而且將紙媒的重點放在提供獨家原創新聞和深度報道。第三是在技術上成立了數據分析部門,幫助了解讀者流量和熱門話題、優化工作決策,及尋找更有效的文章標題,以提升搜索引擎中的排名。最後是在內容上着重多媒體及互動性,從文字和圖片邁向社交媒體、facebook live、虛擬現實等內容。

它致力在流量與品質之間取得平衡,為讀者增值和提升閱讀體驗,並尋找可持續的經營模式。《南華早報》將來希望拓展在線上的分發渠道,集中管理合作關係,從自身的發放平台推展至社交及討論區,再發送到其他平台,構成由內到外環環緊扣的信息傳播圈。

《聯合報》經營多元事業

個案之二是台灣的《聯合報》。其「內容長」(chief content officer)柔美月表示,該報的方向是強化數位戰力及擴大品牌價值。他們在2008年提出「雙引擎策略」,包括「數位回流」和「多元營收」,希望用多元事業經營來支持媒體的永續發展。「數位回流」是指不同部門互相協作,其中包括影音、行動服務、數據發展、詮釋數位及新媒體中心。而「多元營收」的單位包括聯合數位文創、健康、教育、娛樂生活、「udn買東西」。

《聯合報》數碼發展部的設立,旨在掌握不同客戶情况,提供全方位精準服務。新聞部經歷了3個階段的轉型:第一階段是在2015年初的「數位協作」,設立了數位製作人中心;第二階段是「數位合作」,在2016年初成立新媒體中心,並設立「內容長」一職;第三階段是「數位原生」,在2017年全面以數位為本,建構「大編輯枱」和全滾動新聞,重新界定員工職能,深化各項轉型,改變紙本與數位的比例,強化與讀者溝通互動。《聯合報》推出多媒體數位敘事,以更貼近讀者的要求和感受,透過深度報道和創新的說故事方式來吸引讀者。

該報推出遠景工程,綱領是「報道、行動、合作」。除了報道之外,還希望尋找解決問題的辦法,促進社會改變,付諸行動令社會變得更好。他們做了數十項大型專題報道及過百場講座和活動,並持續追蹤改革的進度。《聯合報》努力打造未來媒體,並表示未來媒體已是「現在進行式」。

《羊城晚報》發展創意產業園

個案之三是中國大陸的《羊城晚報》。它的轉型首重數字(數碼)化的體制和科技創新,特別是報紙和互聯網的關係。從之前的互動走向互通,由融合走向數字(數碼)統合,信息經過加工及多次生產,利用不同平台發放。

它努力在5個方面轉型﹕在形態上從報紙重點轉向網媒,在渠道上建立不同平台,在內容上將報刊資訊深度化和網上「快餐化」,在功能上參與社會事務管理,及在營銷上做到報網整合及分享收益。

《羊城晚報》提出要建立「8+1」的「全傳媒」,包括8個縱向媒體:金羊網、微博、手機社區、旅遊服務、手機視頻、網絡電視、親子教育、超市用品送買;「一橫」是建立廣東網絡聯盟,令不同報紙之間可以互換信息和流量、技術支援和業務代理。將來該報還打算發展數字(數碼)家庭服務市場及網絡新聞電視。

該報另一個重點是發展羊城創意產業園。這個產業園在2007年建立,面積達17萬平方米,鄰近廣州國際金融城。它是國家文化產業示範基地,也是廣東省重點建設項目。產業園由一些舊廠房改造,現有百多家企業進駐,業務範圍包括文化傳媒、信息科技、藝術設計等。在2010年,所有產業的總產值只有7億人民幣,到了2015年上升到90億人民幣,而將來的目標是要達到1000億人民幣。它的重點是結合文化創意、移動互聯網科技及網絡金融。

國內一些報社近年大搞「非報產業」,利用報紙的公信力和品牌優勢,進行跨行業經營:除了傳統媒體外,還涉足文化創意、會展旅遊、體育健康、資產資本運營等,其中包括銷售、電影投資、藥品,甚至提供牛肉速遞上門服務。報社借助其他產業獲得資金,協助其本身進行互聯網轉型,《羊城晚報》透過產業園每年獲得上億人民幣利潤,便是一例。當然在過程中報社要掌握行業趨勢,了解自己的定位和優缺點,並能和別人合作。

全面數碼 跨越報業

透過上述3個報紙個案,我們可看到一些轉型的共同點及各自的特點。首先是大家均在做全面的數碼改革,在思維、文化、體制、技術和內容同時深度進行。特別是要理順紙媒和網媒之間的關係:前者強調深度報道分析,透過不同途徑緊貼讀者需求和社會脈搏;後者提供快速新聞,和海量讀者瀏覽。

報紙要能分析自身的市場定位、訂立明確目標、思考適切策略,並作出合理計劃。過程中可考慮和其他公司及產業合作,取長補短,達至雙贏。報業要擴大自己的影響力,借助本身的品牌優勢,跨業界經營,從而獲得資金以支持報業發展。

報紙的職能也可以適度擴展,更多投入社會,不單扮演報道和監察角色,甚至可探討解決社會問題之道,採取行動促進改革,從而增強報業的公信力和重要性。當然還要尋找可持續的經營模式,令報紙可以繼續生存,這對行業有迫切性。

作者是香港中文大學新聞與傳播學院教授、社會科學院副院長


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A crusading US media in the age of Trump is a recipe for disaster

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-08-01
Tom Plate says with even quality US media turning private eye on Donald Trump, the incessant drumbeat on North Korea, and more military men inducted into the White House, the president may well be inspired to try on a new role

Recall Shakespeare’s ­Falstaff, that boastful cowardly knight, and imagine him cavorting at golf resorts on the dime of a dodgy career driven by money borrowed from wherever.

Yes, imagine President Donald J Trump as a Falstaff rather than as, say, an unhinged King Lear. As ­Falstaff, his conceited self-absorption blocks awareness that the world’s laughing at him. Let’s face facts: firing the White House chief of staff amid rumours that the US ­secretary of state might be next out the door makes it more difficult by the day for his presidency to be taken seriously, especially by the US news media that takes it all in and immediately spits it all back out.

By imprisoning himself in twitchy tweets, comedic illogic and loopy facts – and then crying foul when the media transforms nearly every tweet into an overdrawn newspaper headline or an overheated TV panel beating anew some politically dead horse – Trump winds up generating laughs but not hits. And in making his case that the news media is the “enemy of the people”, he tends to show less attention to detail than the average high school debate team.

Even so, Trump is not the only one worrying about the US media in the age of Trump. Many fear the media has become its own worst enemy, as much at risk from its own excesses as Falstaff himself.

The job of the US news media is to speak truth to power, but not in a relentless or careless way. A seriously helpful media in an open society must maintain its cool and balance – and thus its constitutional utility. But has it? In a recent essay in the London Review of Books, David Bromwich, Yale University’s Sterling professor of English, is ­unnerved by the “descent into brashness, which teeters on the edge of open contempt [and] has been a feature of American media coverage of Trump ever since January; it is growing shriller and more indiscriminate, working up to a ­presumptive climax no one has imagined with clarity”.

Perhaps Bromwich’s argument in “The Age of Detesting Trump” might sound less alarming if even the quality media hadn’t been converting reporters into little more than private investigators labouring for the prosecution in the unseemly annual scrum for Pulitzer Prizes.

In the back of any journalistically ethical mind needs to be a deeply sincere worry that diminishment of the occupant of the office might serve to erode that office itself. Bromwich, in one example, points out that the possibility of improving relations with Russia on its merits has been mass-mediated only against the backdrop of this shady secret meeting or that. As this noted biographer of Edmund Burke ­narrates: “The Democrats tossed his idea that better relations with ­Russia ‘would not be a bad thing’ into the general stew of his repulsive ideas on taxes and immigration, and Republicans ignored it as an ­indigestible ingredient.”

Regime change is always a dream story for the imperial American press, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union, which indeed was a regime manifestly meriting change. But the outcome of more recent regime-change campaigns cheered by the US news media, such as Iraq (the sorriest example) and Libya (runner-up in the ­Department of Miscalculation), might suggest the need for more ­reporting and less crusading.

Consider even the incessant US media drumbeat about North Korea, in the face of whose missile provocations careful caution has been the consistent recommendation of China. But what could a nation so much closer to the North’s missile sites, so much closer to its ­reportedly restless population of 25 million possibly know, compared to journalists on the US east coast?

From the American media you also get the sense that regime change of some sort could prove as miraculously transformative in Washington as well as in Pyongyang. Though no one knows who might succeed a fallen Kim Jong-un, in the US you’d wind up with oleaginous Mike Pence, next-in-line as vice president, or Paul Ryan, the next next-in-line as House Speaker. Is this what our media want?

Pinning down Trump with unremitting fire also handicaps the entire US government executive branch, which is constitutionally best equipped to handle America’s role globally. Moving into the growing void is Germany’s Angela Merkel, filling in reluctantly, and, less reluctantly, China’s Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ). For China, the opportunity to expand its global space is now ­extraordinarily immense, but for starters, Beijing’s wisest heads might wish to have their inner circle appreciate the magnitude of their South China Sea gains and put a hold on more pushing and shoving for the time being.

Note well: the powerful US Pacific Command’s Seventh Fleet won’t fall back to Hawaii without a fight, no matter who is in or out of the White House. If the concept of “soft power” offers tangible utility, it has to mean resorting to “hard power” less. Leading the global charge on climate change will show Beijing acting like an adult and lower the overall political temperature.

By contrast, every time someone unceremoniously exits the Trump administration – seems maybe weekly – the replacement looks to be military (the just-named White House chief of staff is a retired ­marine general.) The world should take note. Falstaff is no Coriolanus but, surrounded by all that “oorah”, Trump might be tempted to try on a new role for size. One thing Trump and our media have in common is a problematic penchant for drama and excess. Beware.

Loyola Marymount University Professor Tom Plate is author of “Confessions of an American Media Man”, on his career at the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and other premier US media institutions


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假新聞當道與我無關 ?

信報財經新聞
經管錦言
2017-5-13

陳智健

傳媒報道一向是近代社會的重要訊息來源。隨着科技發展,資訊更為廣傳,公眾應更容易了解真相,作出更有理據的決定。然而資訊爆炸及碎片化,卻令我們無法有效處理太多太快的資訊。

當資訊接收不能改善人類生活,反而帶來反效果時,就出現所謂的「資訊煙霧」(Data Smog),令人無法分辨真假,不同意見的人亦無法達到共識,反而被其他不重要的、不正確的訊息模糊誤導。這情況令假新聞應運而生,對社會帶來的影響不容忽視。

假新聞大行其道,「同溫層」現象是其中一個主因。「同溫層」原本是氣象學名詞,又稱平流層,屬氣流相當穩定的大氣層。後來這名詞引用到社交媒體上,形容在一些議題上,彼此有着共同或類似信念、立場及主張的人,會較容易不自覺地聚合一起,從而更令其誤以為自己屬於「大多數人」的一群,因而出現錯判現狀的情況。

「同溫層」令人看不見真相

「同溫層」出現的其中一個重要原因,是由於社交媒體的演算法(Algorithm),會根據用者喜好,提供他們感興趣的內容,久而久之,用者能接觸到、有別於其認同的內容會愈來愈少,相反只看到自己喜歡或同意的內容。這種做法,用者可能得到更針對性、更符合其需要的內容,然而用者只會聽到一種聲音,造成迴響效應(Echo Chamber Effect),不論真假都照單全收。

加州大學戴維斯分校政治系教授Robert Huckfeldt教授曾於其著作Political Disagreement中指出,新出現的資訊能夠影響一個人改變原有立場的機率,與其身處的社會網絡裏意見分布息息相關。套用在社交媒體的例子,在「同溫層」裏的人,被新資訊說服而改變態度的機會,會較其他身處意見不一群體的人為低。

自去年的英國脫歐公投,至美國總統選舉,假新聞和「同溫層」均被認為對結果有一定影響,不但令人錯判形勢,誤以為脫歐必敗、特朗普不敵希拉莉,假新聞更一定程度上影響了不少人的立場。

別以為假新聞只會影響政治,雖然現時似乎尚未有就假新聞對工商業或市場運作影響的全面研究,然而可以想像的是,當假新聞製造不利流言,令企業運作受壓,甚至盈利受損,絕非難事。同時,正常的市場宣傳、品牌推廣和公關工作等,也會因假新聞的影響,成效大打折扣。

「後真相」(Post-Truth)是英國牛津辭典選出的2016國際年度字,顯示這現象對社會帶來重大影響。假新聞的興起和流行,是後真相時代的其中一個明顯例子:在輿論方面大眾不再信賴客觀的真相,不會以邏輯思考衡量篩選所有資訊,只靠個人情緒及認定的影響力。再加上「同溫層」互相加強對某項資訊的信念和取向,不利尋求真相和了解不同意見。

網上資訊辨識力須加強

要避免出現誤判,打破「同溫層」是其中一個重點,包括如何了解分辨網上內容的真偽,以及如何接收更多不同立場的資訊,其中年輕一代的資訊接收情況尤其需要重視。

史丹福大學去年一項針對年輕人如何分辨網上資訊的調查發現,82%的中學生無法分辨網站上的贊助內容與真實新聞,而很多學生亦只依據推特(Twitter)內容是否詳細、是否有照片等來判斷內容真偽,而非資料的來源。可見「數位原生代」(Digital Natives)——即一直活在互聯網世代、以網絡世界作為資訊來源和日常生活的主要平台的一代——在接收和判斷網上資訊的能力問題,實需要正視。

今年年初,經濟合作及發展組織(OECD)宣布,將在學生能力國際評估計劃(The Programme for International Student Assessment,PISA)中,增加「全球競爭力」(Global Competence),測試學生批判思維及辨識失實資料的能力,對社交媒體的資訊分析亦包括在內。

OECD的教育及技能主管Andreas Schleicher更進一步表示對社交媒體引致相同意見的人互相「圍爐取暖」的憂慮,希望提升學生分辨網上資訊可信程度的能力,以及開放接收不同立場的內容的態度。

另外,業內一眾科技企業有見假新聞的影響,已開始着手解決問題,如由Facebook及一些學術單位和非牟利組織發起的「新聞誠信倡議」(The News Integrity Initiative)計劃是其中一例。最近不少網上媒體或智庫等亦推出了「即時查核」(Fact Check)的網上功能,在重要的事件上發揮分辨消息真偽的作用。

當社會大眾漸漸慣於由網上或社交媒體獲取資訊,其便捷固然有助資訊流通,但如何了解當中的真偽就變得更為重要。若沒充分了解事實真相,加上排除與自己不同喜好立場的資訊內容,其造成的網絡偏見反映至現實生活中,將無助於我們作出理性決定。

作者為香港科技大學工商管理碩士校友會會員


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新聞報道與社會禁忌

明報
觀點
2017-05-04
陳智傑

台灣年僅26歲的女作家林奕含自殺身亡。其遺作,亦是唯一的小說作品《房思琪的初戀樂園》,頓成社會熱話。最為人驚訝的,是在林奕含過身後,父母披露其年輕時被補習老師誘姦,以至患上抑鬱症的內幕。這背景跟小說中的女孩子的遭遇,不謀而合,並激起社會對性罪行和精神病的辯論及反思。

不過,如果讀者現在往台灣媒體蒐集關於林奕含的資訊,會發現一個奇怪現象:幾乎所有台灣主流媒體,都會以「林××」或其他稱呼來表達林奕含的身分,而且不少還以馬賽克(格仔)遮蔽林奕含的樣貌。相信林奕含亦大概想不到,自己的名字及樣貌,會於身後成為台灣主流媒體的禁忌。原來,由於林奕含遭性侵一事曝光,使她成為台灣相關法律的保護對象,儘管這位女作家的故事,連同《房思琪的初戀樂園》一書,已讓台灣輿論泛起一陣陣發人深省的漣漪,但「林奕含」這名字卻讓寶島的新聞工作者「欲言又止」。

新聞報道的法律及道德要求

新聞公信力的重要條件,是資料整全、文責自負。資料整全,是新聞工作者對讀者要負的基本責任,亦是考核新聞質素的基本要求。新聞是公開資料,亦有一定的社會影響力,故此亦要文責自負——記者、編輯、新聞機構,都要為報道負上法律及道德責任。所以,不具名的消息來源,是新聞中極具爭議的內容;處理不慎,便有誤讀者、害社會之嫌。資料整全、文責自負,是新聞成為有公信力的公開資料的重要元素。

然而,社會在高舉新聞自由及公信力的同時,亦要顧及其他社會價值。其中一項爭議,就是如何在報道新聞之際,避免催化一些傷害社會整體利益或群體的信息。性侵案的受害人,身心飽受摧殘,偵訊及審判時亦要面對痛苦的程序,如果再加上社會輿論的目光,則要面對三重的不公義。是故法律和法院往往會要求不可披露性侵受害人的身分。

除了法律要求外,社會輿論亦會基於不同的道德基礎,要求新聞報道刪減一些爭議內容。例如,傳媒是否有必要詳細描述性侵的細節?這對公眾知情權有何重要性?此外,自殺新聞亦是重要的爭議所在。經過多年討論,傳媒自己亦對自殺新聞小心處理——盡量只報必要的事實,而且一定附上求助熱線。其他的例子還有:精神病議題(早前港鐵尖沙嘴站縱火案,傳媒大多如實報道縱火者有精神病患紀錄,但未有因此事大肆評論精神病政策)和涉及種族的消息(有新聞報道以「非華裔」取代「南亞裔」一詞,淡化南亞裔人士跟罪案消息之間的關聯)。

集體制約與個人意志的矛盾點

不過,即使新聞從業員如何克制,性侵、自殺、精神病、種族等話題,還是會繪聲繪影地不脛而走。在社交媒體發達的「自媒體」世代,人人都可以是傳播中介。愈是「不准報」的消息,有時愈是弄得街知巷聞、疑幻疑真。我無意在此簡單地作出「應報」或「不應報」的結論。不過讓我好奇的,是新聞報道與社會禁忌之間的關係。

社會禁忌是游走於道德與法律的灰色地帶。每個社會,總會有一些當地人不想談、不敢談,但又想知以至想試一試的事情。男女之間的性與情,讓人想入非非,但往往會踰越道德界線(禮)以至是法律規條(法)。死亡,可謂人之常情;但人是否有權終結自己的生命,又會涉及自殺和安樂死等挑戰禮法的討論。精神病議題,帶出什麼叫「正常」,以及人們為何會偏離「正常」等知識及權力的爭議。以至種族,則關係到誰人是「自己友」以至是社群意識等社會學課題。故此,社會禁忌是集體制約與個人意志的矛盾點。一個社會必然要有集體制約,才可以讓來自五湖四海、價值不同的人一起有秩序地生活。然而,人亦有七情六慾。個人意志時而遵從集體制約,時而卻希望擺脫禮法束縛。不同時空和地域,都有不同的社會禁忌,這可謂是集體制約與個人意志的某種平衡點。

客觀平衡報道 反映社會對「公器」期望

同樣,相對於文學創作和坊間傳聞,新聞是一種帶有集體制約的社會資訊。文學創作不時天馬行空,讓人們有更豐富的想像空間和精神生活。坊間傳聞則是「真亦假時假亦真」的「小道消息」,其社會威力不容忽視。然而除傳播信息外,它的另一主要作用是建立社交圈子和私密關係。同學之間、同事之間以至街坊之間都有不少耳語,諸如:某人很「八卦」、某上司很好人,又或某個店家不「老實」。「收風」固然重要,但這些耳語亦是人們重要的社交關係,維繫了同學、同事和街坊之間的互信。

反之,新聞價值中的客觀和平衡報道,則反映了社會集體對新聞「公器」的期望。「講真話」是新聞工作者的個人操守,更是新聞行業跟社會之間的契約。是故新聞容不下天馬行空的個人想像,新聞從業員的使命感亦不願新聞淪為沒有文責的「小道消息」。故此,新聞報道一旦牴觸了社會禁忌,往往會招致社會輿論的反彈以至是法律制裁。最近香港出現一宗人獸交和一宗亂倫的報道。性快感、動物與人倫定義,不時出沒於古代神話、近代歷史和現代社會中。然而法庭新聞要嚴守法規,其內容亦只能點到即止。

「社會重要性」理順禁忌內容

不過,集體制約有時難敵人性。社會禁忌可以讓新聞機構和從業員犯眾怒,但亦可以是收視的催化劑。正如上文提及,社會禁忌是一些讓人既不想、不敢說但又想知的矛盾點。傳媒難以大談「尋歡指南」等露骨資訊;但換個角度,詳細描述「兼職女友」的現象,亦可收引人入「性」之效。說到底,新聞價值不是自然科學,可塑性高。客觀和平衡報道的原則,同樣亦可以轉化為「社會重要性」,理順有關社會禁忌的內容。新聞道德標準及法規如何處理社會禁忌,可看出這個社會的集體制約和個人意志磨合的足迹。

作者是恒生管理學院傳播學院助理教授