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Bertha Henson critiques use of ‘experts’ and ‘observers’ in shaping news narratives

Bertha Henson questions the roles of ‘experts’ and ‘observers’ in Singapore’s mainstream media interviews. Her post reflects concerns about the reporting style of the city state medias which often emphasizes positivity in coverage of potentially negative issues.



Bertha Henson, former Associate Editor of the Straits Times (ST), recently shared her insights on media literacy in a Facebook post, raising thought-provoking questions about so-called ‘experts’ and ‘observers’ interviewed by mainstream media.

She emphasized the need for journalists to substantiate the credentials of individuals labelled as experts or analysts and expressed scepticism when self-proclaimed “experts” refuse to be named and account for their views.

Furthermore, she observed a peculiar phenomenon in Singapore where individuals expressing controversial views are considered ‘brave’ when fully named in the media.

“Experts,” “analysts,” and “observers” in MSMs’ headlines

Ms. Henson, who aims to enhance media literacy, consistently shares her thoughts on fundamental journalism principles.

In her latest post, she questioned the criteria for being labelled an ‘expert’ and the proximity required to be considered an ‘observer.

“Unlike ‘sources’ who leak news, they give views, which are supposedly weightier than those of the hoi polloi because of their expertise or constant monitoring of a specific domain. ”

“Just see them as catchall terms, a shorthand for saying ‘these people are worth listening to’. ”

Ms. Henson stressed that journalists bear the responsibility of showcasing the worthiness of these individuals through full names, designations, or years of experience.

However, the challenge arises when interviewees decline to be named. She questioned the credibility of experts who are unwilling to account for their views.

“I have always thought an expert can’t be very expert if he can’t or won’t account for his views. And that analysts whose comments are more anal than analytical should go back to whichever school they came from. ”

She also discussed the role of political observers and questioned “how closely should they be observing” and suggested that the term is often used for those with a study of politics, in politics, or former politicians.

She recalled that during her time in ST, she always told reporters to expand their pool of contacts to avoid predictability and staleness in views. This involves finding new political observers willing to be named.

“As for another popular term, ‘industry’ observers who are unnamed, I wouldn’t give their views much credit. It strikes me that it must be a very small industry if reporters cannot find someone who will be named.”

She added that these general descriptions of unnamed people are judgment calls made by journalists and work only if readers believe that the journalist has done the due diligence on the level of expertise and experience.

“In Singapore, I doubt readers ask many questions like whether the unnamed analyst is talking up something that is in his personal or corporate interest.” She also questioned whether readers consider if experts decline to be named due to fear of criticism from fellow experts.

Ms Henson also highlighted the tendency to label someone as ‘brave’ when they express controversial views and are named fully on MSMs.

ST’s use of ‘observer’ views to shift negative narratives

Ms Henson’s recent post appears to be prompted by the reporting style of the Singapore state media the ST, which tends to accentuate positive aspects even when exploring potentially negative issues.

For instance, she shared a screenshot of The ST’s coverage of the recent court charges against former PAP Minister Iswaran last Thursday (18 January).

Despite the PAP being embroiled in another scandal, the article prominently featured “observers” expressing the opinion that public trust could be restored.

Simultaneously, in another piece covering the Ministry of Transport and LTA’s U-turn on the original transition plan to SimplyGo due to severe public backlash, The ST again highlighted the opinions of “observers.”

Ms Henson pointed out the peculiar situation where criticisms are not adequately reported in the media, but when there is a change, suddenly people express their wisdom, saying, “Ya lah,” and so forth.

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It’s comprehensively corruption whatever way is interpreted if so wish – the PAP Administration OUTRAGEOUSLY uses tax money RELENTLESSLY unhindered to further ITS OWN POLITICAL hegemony, Manipulation of people’s lives all in their definition of order and fencing domestic politics against foreign powers. Which Foreign Power IS SO KEEN on a Red Dot that isn’t rich on its own, creative on its own – EXTREMELY DEPENDANT on Foreign Trash, from investment to property development to retail, to houaehold labour? How much a Foreign interference CAN EXTRACT from SG when there ARE NO RESOURCES TO SPEAK OF and HUMAN Talents –… Read more »


The recent pandemic has shown us not to trust even those named scientists, experts, officials, governments and international organisations.

There is no safe space now in the information war. Soon there will be AI generated discrimination to deal with.

Beware! Someone or some groups are always trying to mislead us!

One more I wish to add – is ‘Spokesman’.

Observers, analysts, sources, SPOKESMAN, ALL ARE NAMELESS, ANONYMOUS – plucked from nowhere, except hidden ready to spring into action, to be namelessly quoted, PAP’s reservoir of ‘propaganda enhancers’ OR ‘influencers’.

Exactly – hahaha Bertha plagiarise my writings, hahaha. I have always questioned who are the experts, analysts the State Controlled Papers refers to so very often, so liberally to support enhancements their news credibility.

THE OTHER MAIN BEEF is ‘sources’.
What is this source? Who are the sources?

This State Controlled BUT citizens Owned news paper is nothing more than GHOST 👻 OPERATED, mouthing ghost language to FRIGHTEN, yet trying to appear TRUTHFUL.

I also Expert

I also Observer

I also Dr .