I found my reply to Gabriel's post on tomorrow.sg oversized for his comment box, and so post it here:
I think some have mentioned that tomorrow.sg is a victim of its own success. It's a bit hard to push the blame on its audience and participants when (despite all the disclaimers) the site engages in activities that do make it a 'banner' of sorts for a portion of the local blogging community (e.g. the site's involvement with the BlogCon, the fund-raising drive and involvement with other 'worthy' causes).
So the de facto result is that a kind of 'authority' or aura of respectability is accorded to tomorrow.sg, and when that is shattered (e.g. the way some editors handled and defended their decisions to publicise very 'personal' blogs as well as handled criticism with rude and off-putting remarks) you will inevitably find a certain polarisation. Granted, with any organised group, the most bitter critics also tend to be the loudest (while a vast majority of well-wishers or neutrals may remain silent for want of the right words or plain disinclination). But the inaction of the site’s editors to reassess their methodologies and recognise the real, if unintended impact, of their choices, does tomorrow.sg no favour and only gives future ammunition to critics.
It’s hard to tomorrow.sg to justifiably underplay its significance. The press already deems it a site whose affairs are a matter of public interest. And the very act of editorial decision-making is a responsibility (which excuses like not being paid, it’s spare time work etc don’t cover) that requires a certain ability to evaluate the broader impact or fallout of a 'yes' vote.
Although I dare say a fair majority of tomorrow.sg’s links and post are interesting at best or mundane at worst, it took just a handful of high impact blog exposures to resulted in a (not entirely) unjustified view of tomorrow.sg being more akin to the gutter press than a mere innocuous bulletin for bloggers.
At the very least, tomorrow.sg is a proto-publication, and journalism, for all its claims to champion freedom, is not a laissez faire affair. What a journalist or editor publishes in his rag, be it online or off, reflects the thinking, slants, implied criticism (this could be a future problem, should people don’t find tomorrow’s claim to be political neutral convincing) and personal inclinations.
Granted, tomorrow.sg's lowest common denominator is relevance or interest to Singapore-based bloggers. But this is still a very wide field and spans the entire spectrum of individuals, personalities and grotesqueness that make up the local blogging scene. A first, or even second ‘misjudgement’ (which may result in simple mass comment spamming to a blog closure or real trauma to the individual concerned) may be forgivable, but it is arguable that tomorrow.sg has not addressed this concern to the satisfaction of many interested and credible commenters.
Compounding the perception of a problem is the visible fact that a certain few individuals (and their clones/trolls) seem to dominate discussion at tomorrow.sg’s comments section. It would not be right to impose outright censorship, especially since many of the views, though strident, are probably valid and could serve as fruitful platforms for extended debates (at least for those who are sufficiently involved and interested). But often, the result is a farce (e.g. sisteocho and his clones) of meaningless personal attacks, baiting and contentless jingoism.
You could argue that one can simply ignore such idiots, but their overwhelming presence (in using tomorrow.sg as their ersatz stomping ground rather than their own blogs, if any) is at best an irritating and time-wasting distraction and at worst an effective hijacking of tomorrow.sg for the amusement of a few hardcore trolls and troll-baiters. As in online discussion forums, the decision to moderate, or even censor, should be not be a readily turned-to option, but as far as any forum or site that invites comments and feedback is concerned, the abrogation of will can lead to a kind of anarchy that only a few can enjoy.
One suggestion I have which may (or may not) solve issues of conflict of interest: that editors do not submit for consideration blog posts by fellow editors. I dare say most of the editors are already well known and frequented by a good majority of bloggers. I am unsure, though, whether a third party should be permitted to nominate an editor’s personal blogpost – here, it becomes very hard to assume a mantle of objectivity.
Many editor blog posts will of course be harmless write-ups; but the fallout from the nomination (and worse, the withdrawal) of more ‘controversial’ posts will be extremely difficult to manage, as shown recently. The comments by some editors that downplay the valid concerns of tomorrow.sg’s readers, both friends and critics, in querying why there is such a fuss at all, and implying that it is all much ado about nothing, do little to help reinforce even the site’s claim to be without any agenda.
Tomorrow.sg might not claim to be ambitious. But every publication, by its mere existence, invites assessment from the reading public, and what is printed says much more about than whatever editorial policy (or lack thereof) it professes. Worse is when a publication’s editors lose even the semblance of objectivity (I quibble, but I found it disconcerting that one or two editors openly tried to diss the prospect of the Cat Welfare Society becoming the site’s anointed charity with words that questioned why animals were being favoured over people).
Like justice, journalistic objectivity and editorial integrity must not only be done, but be seen to be done. Even a decision to withdraw a vote is no real problem, if it is stated plainly and promptly (even without reason) as the reason for a post’s disappearance. As the most recent case indicates, the site’s pride in the independence of its editors and reliance on non-consensus can work against its proclaimed lack of high expectations.
One could say that without a stated and adhered-to policy, tomorrow.sg effectively hands its fate over to its readers, commenters and the public at large, including the real, scandal-hungry press corps, to shape and define its nature, for better or worse.