States Times Review article on SBSTransit’s Profit: Downright Dishonest or Severely Stupid?

So there was an article in the States Times Review that originally stated that SBS Transit’s profit was a whopping SGD1.02 BILLION:

Screen Grab from States Times Review Facebook Page

Screen Grab from States Times Review Facebook Page

The headline of the article is extremely misleading. SBS Transit did not make a profit of SGD1.02 billion. That was its revenue. The profit (after tax) that the company made was a meagre SGD16.7 million or 1.5% of its revenue.

When I first saw the headline for the States Times Review article, alarm bells rang. Because I’ve read the report on CNA and Straits Times about SBS Transit’s revenue and profit. My immediate thought was that the article was either downright dishonest, written with the objective of misleading the public, or severely stupid, mistaking the word “revenue” for “profit”, never mind that they are spelt differently and mean completely different things.

The States Times Review later claimed that it was an “oversight”. The error has since been corrected. It still doesn’t answer the question about how anyone could have made such an error. A quick scan of the news websites, or simply going to read the financial report on the website of SBS Transit is all it takes to find out that the SGD1.02 billion is the revenue, not profit.

Now if the mistake was made by any simple armchair critic of a blogger (e.g. me), I think one could get away with claiming that the oversight was an honest mistake and move on. But the States Times Review claims to be a site with “Quality independent credible journalism based in Sydney.”

Screen grab from States Times Review Facebook Page

Screen grab from States Times Review Facebook Page

Maybe it’s my england standard too lao-ya. Don’t understand proper england. But I would have thought that anyone who claims to provide journalism that is of “quality” and “credible” would at least check to make sure that he doesn’t make such simple and fundamental mistakes.

Let’s assume that this was indeed an honest mistake rather than an act of downright dishonesty. If that is the case, then I think this is symptomatic of a bigger issue. There are certain segments of Singaporeans who would automatically jump into government/establishment/PAP bashing mode at the slightest trigger: Wah! SGD1.02 BILLION ah! No need to read carefully! No need to do any further research! No need to do any sensibility checks (how can anyone pay just SGD2.8 million in taxes on a SGD1.02 billion profit???)! Must be SBS Transit doing something terrible to boost their profits at the expense of ordinary Singaporeans who have to take the public transport!

I saw this symptom some time ago. An MP wrote a letter to a government agency about something that seemed quite silly. Somebody immediately assumed that it must have been a PAP MP. It wasn’t. It was Pritam Singh. WP MP.

How did we come to this? If we do not arrest this problem now, I fear it will escalate. If we do not maintain a healthy level of skepticism and question everything we read, if we do not bother to find check what we read against other sources we know to be likely to report the news from another perspective, then we would end up polarised like USA. Then there can be no constructive discussion. We end up shouting at one another without actually solving any of our problems.

I hope that we won’t get to that stage.

[Featured image: Profile image of States Times Review Facebook Page]


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