Monday’s edition of Straits Times Life! carried a huge cover photo of a smiley Laurentia Tan with the headline A Real Champ. For those unaware of who she is, Laurentia is Singapore’s most bemedalled Paralympian. An equestrian with cerebral palsy, she has won several medals for this sport including a bronze and a silver at the recent Paralympian Games.
I turned the ST Life! page eagerly to read the story of this amazing Singaporean who, despite her disabilities including deafness, had made our nation proud with her achievements.
And what did I see as soon as I turned the page? Smack on Page 3 was a huge photo of Feng Tianwei preening in a makeover photo. Surprised and curious, I read the story only to find that the entire half page was about her being dolled up for this story and wearing fancy clothes picked out by ST’s stylist. There was, naturally, mention of her winning medals and of Minister Chan Chun Sing looking for a boyfriend for her.
For those who don’t know who Tianwei is, she is the PRC table tennis talent who was scouted by our government a few years ago for the sole purpose of getting her to don our nation’s colours to win medals at world tournaments like the Olympics. She, along with two fellow PRCs-turned-Singaporeans, did win medals including at this year’s Olympics. Unfortunately, the reception from most Singaporeans was cool as many said they felt no pride in imported talents winning medals for our country. This was in stark contrast to the genuine delight that many felt when Singapore-born Laurentia won her Paralympic Games medals recently.
Back to Laurentia and ST Life! I had to turn to page 4 before I could read the story about Laurentia. Ironically, her full-page story was right behind Tianwei’s interview.
This episode left a bad taste and did Tianwei no favours. It made Tianwei look like she was trying to steal Laurentia’s thunder and made ST look like it was trying to use some of Laurentia’s glory to shine on Tianwei.
To be fair to Tianwei, she is very talented and has worked very hard to win her medals and she jolly well deserved them and the accolades. She also comes across as a down-to-earth person in her various interviews. Somehow, I get the feeling that she may be wishing she didn’t have such a crappy story on the same day that Life! ran a meaty profile on Golden Girl Laurentia.
I am pretty sure this big puffy empty story on Tianwei was initiated by an ST editor (perhaps with some egging from persons in high places?). I am also sure that many readers who read this non-story of Tianwei wondered where was the news value that it warranted a half page coverage? This supposed glam makeover wasn’t flattering either as it made her look like a pretty boy instead of a pretty girl!
One wonders why ST ran Tianwei’s story in the same edition as the profile on Laurentia? And what’s with that curious page lineup of Tianwei on page 3 and Laurentia on Page 4? Was it a coincidence?
Seriously, where was the news and editorial judgement in this story lineup? Even if the editors had wanted to raise Tianwei’s profile, they could have been gone about it in less crass and more professional way. Doing what they did just made readers wonder, and not in a good way.