Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

In Taiwan you can catch the news practically 24 hours a day. There’s news in the morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night. Stories are aired and re-aired. As a result I think people become overly engrossed in the latest story and the graveness of the story may even be blown out of proportion. The other day I was stricken by how confrontational and negative the news coverage in Taiwan can be. The media in Taiwan is not unique in this respect.

Friday’s top story: Seven newborns requiring hepatitis B immunizations were accidentally injected with Atracrium, a muscle relaxant. One had already died, but the parents of the remaining six unfortunate babies weren’t being clearly informed of their baby’s status. Shortly after the story broke, the characteristic aggressive coverage began. The play by play updates began, how many babies remained, what were their conditions, parents were asked to comment, and the clinical director made a statement. He said that each family involved would be offered NT$100,000 in compensation. To me these initial comments reflect the shortsightedness of many Taiwanese people and the lack of value placed on human life. I haven’t heard about any outcries from families or parents regarding the appropriateness or inappropriateness of offering monetary compensation. I think that such a statement would hardly be seen as appropriate or helpful at such a delicate time. Early investigations indicate that the muscle relaxants and hepatitis B vaccines were kept in the same freezer and that a nurse accidentally administered the muscle relaxants instead of hepatitis B vaccines. But I haven’t heard anything discussion about suspension or disciplinary action against this nurse.

There was a cloud of secrecy; parents were being kept in the dark about their infant’s condition. As I flipped through different channels, practically every channel was reporting on the same story and airing similar footage. At this point, I threw up my hands in the air. And being in particularly cynical frame of mind, I thought, here we go again… I know what’s doing to come next, tonight there will be a panel discussion by so called “experts” on the incident, but no concise resolution or reform of hospital procedures will come about. Pessimistic as it may to say this, I have observed that all too often the HOT topics in Taiwan get over reported and discussed, and we never hear about the solutions or outcomes. There are so many stories that get overexposed and discussed with no strong resolution. What ever happened to the KMT politician who was recently murdered, What ever happened to the opposition’s recent challenges regarding whether the current flag (which is also the flag of the KMT party) used by the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) truly represents the Republic of China?

Is it simply that people do not have enough resolve to implement a solution, or that the press simply does not report on reforms or outcomes because those stories don’t have novelty or tragic shock value? Too many of these hot topics seem to have fallen by the wayside as the public gets distracted by the next story.

I suppose that it’s not unusual that people seem unusually engrossed in shocking, tragic human stories. But it’s frustrating to see the media’s predictable reporting format, which doesn’t seem to yield any satisfactory results. I sometimes hope that the media could be an impetus for change, but then again, who ever expected the media to solve society’s problems?

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