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Posts Tagged ‘scratch my back’

“There is no such thing in America as an independent press.. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares write his honest opinions, and if you did you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid… for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper … others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things… any of you who would be so foolish as to write his honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job… We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks; they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, possibilities, and lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.” John Swinton

I was a banker, not a guy who wrote for a local newspaper, magazine or any other sort of publication. In other words, I had zero media experience. The only thing I used to write were boring bank reports. Despite this apparent disadvantage, I was given my own column in the magazine I wrote for after only 3 months on the job (and I wrote a cover story after only two months at the magazine). A few months after my column, Randolph’s World first appeared, a competitor golf magazine also created (copied is a better word) a column for one of their writers. I guess imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

I did enjoy writing about golf in the slightly more than three years I was at the magazine (on part-time basis). The enjoyment had a lot to do with the freedom given to me to write about most anything. And such editorial freedom can only come about when you have a publisher and a managing editor who are brave enough to face any fallout that can result from tough writing. And there were some fallouts.

Its a “you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours” situation in the local golf media. Let me put this in perspective by asking a few questions. How many times have you read a (golf) equipment review in a magazine or newspaper that said this driver’s no good or that putter sucks? Never. How many times have you read a golf course review that criticized its shoddy maintenance or lousy layout design? Never. And how many times has a golf writer hit out at a golf club’s arrogance or its overpriced food and beverage? Never.

And here’s the reason why. Equipment manufacturers, golf courses and golf clubs advertise in the magazines and newspapers (golf supplements). How can you write something negative about someone who is paying you thousands of dollars in the form of advertisements? I once wrote that S-Yard, a Japanese brand, was overpriced. Before you can even shout “fore!” the local retailer of this overpriced brand stopped advertising in the magazine. Did I write the truth? Of course. Would you call a set of irons that cost RM6000 cheap? Or a driver that would empty your pocket of RM5000 reasonably priced? No, you would say that it is expensive. So did I. It was, and still is the truth. See – its always you scratch my back and I will scratch yours. Except that in this article, I chose not to scratch this arrogant retailer’s back.

Golf writers also receive generous goody bags filled with free golf shirts, golf caps, golf balls and more when they are invited to free media golf games or product launches. They get free overseas trips too. Now, would you write something bad about someone who just gave you some freebies? I don’t have to answer this one.

As keepers of the public trust, no editor or writer should feel they must tow a party line or ruling elite‚Äôs agenda, avoid taboo subjects, or protect ownership’s interests out of fear for their job and professional status. Is this expecting too much?

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