SPH to review Stomp website

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will review its citizen journalism website Stomp to see what needs to be changed, but the website is unlikely to be shuttered.

Mr Patrick Daniel, editor-in-chief of the company's English and Malay Newspapers Division, said in an interview at the World Association of Newspapers conference in Hong Kong on Thursday that the review comes in the wake of an online petition by a 26-year-old retail executive to close down the website.

The petition has apparently garnered more than 23,000 votes to date.

"I can't say that it (the campaign) doesn't have impact on us: We will have to review it," said Mr Daniel. "After all, we serve an audience."

He added: "Everything people accuse Stomp of, you could say the same of a dozen sites on the Internet. We have to decide what the best response is."

"We are looking at it calmly - I think there has been a little bit of astroturfing on the numbers (of backers of the campaign)," he said. "But we have to accept that these are genuinely held views."

However, the negative sentiment has to be measured against the website's solid following, Mr Daniel noted.

Last month, the news site drew 120 million page views and had 1.68 million unique visitors. It also has more than 204,000 likes on its Facebook page.

Mr Daniel said that he was still working through what the review of Stomp would involve, whether that is heavier moderation of the site or more stringent fact-checking.

But he added: "We do not foresee that the review will result in closure of Stomp."

It was reported last week that regulator Media Development Authority said it will not influence the editorial slant of websites, but will take firm action if there is a breach of public interest or the promotion of racial and religious hatred or intolerance.

In a statement on its Facebook page, it wrote that netizens can and should continue to signal to Internet content providers the standards expected of them as part of efforts to promote responsible online behaviour.

The authority also invited netizens to propose how standards should be tightened, if they were of the opinion that stronger regulation was necessary.

Petition creator Robin Li had told The Straits Times that he had launched the campaign after seeing a March 24 post on Stomp in which an NSman was accused by a Stomp contributor of failing to offer his seat to an elderly woman in front of him.

But one picture in the post's photo gallery showed a reserve seat near the NSman that was empty, which Mr Li called "the last straw".

The petition accused Stomp of picking on national servicemen and publishing fabricated stories contributed by netizens, among other things.

Mr Felix Soh, digital media editor of SPH's Digital Division which oversees Stomp, denied Mr Li's accusations, and pointed out that there was no attempt to hide any information in the story.

Added Mr Daniel: "If a citizen journalism site is very heavily moderated, then you will lose the character of the site, (so) we need to think that through.

"People have flamed Stomp for a long time - we are used to it."


This article was published on April 26 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.