Chinese character "霾" sums up 2013: Zaobao readers

SINGAPORE - After three weeks of voting, Lianhe Zaobao readers have chosen "霾" (haze) as the Chinese character to sum up 2013. For the third year running, Lianhe Zaobao, the Chinese flagship daily of media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), has organised "Character of the Year" (字述一年)- a review of the year through 10 Chinese characters via a readers' poll to determine which character best characterises major local and international events of 2013.

Ms Han Yong May, News Editor of Lianhe Zaobao, said: "This being the third year we're organising the poll, we are doing it on a bigger scale and across more platforms. We tried out new ways to conceptualise the project, write the articles, produce the online videos and design the webpage to attract more participants."

She added: "More people took part in this year's voting. This goes to show that our new attempts have attracted more people to participate in our project. It is challenging to sum up a year's events with just one word, but this process lets us reflect on the past and the future, and is a worthwhile venture."

Readers chose "色" (lust) as the character for 2012, amidst a series of high-profile sex scandals last year. When the poll was first launched in 2011, readers picked "涨" (rise) as the character, as inflation, rising property prices and cost of living became the talk of the town.

The editorial team of Lianhe Zaobao, together with a panel of professionals comprising experts and academics from different fields, short-listed 10 Chinese characters for the poll this year. The characters are "人" (people)," 权" (power), "怀" (care), "政" (politics), "霾" (haze), "贪" (greed), "调" (adjust), "僵"(stalemate), "盼" (anticipation), "网" (internet). (Refer to the Annexes for a list of panelists and the votes garnered for each character.)

In June this year, Singapore experienced its worst haze situation in decades, with PSI level crossing beyond 400. This year, China's air pollution is at its worst for half a century, with nearly half the country hit by smog. Nearly one third of the total votes went to the character "霾" (haze), making it the top character for 2013.

Against the backdrop of high-profile public servants or politicians embroiled in law suits for corruption, another character that caught the attention of readers was "贪" (greed). It came in second, garnering 24% of the votes."盼" (anticipation) came in third with about 18% of the votes.

Mr Goh Sin Teck, Editor of Lianhe Zaobao, said: "From a news perspective, 2013 is an eventful year, with many news events that warrant reflection. By the choice of the character 'haze', Zaobao readers showed that they are concerned that our Mother Earth is sick and requires our care and protection."

From December 2 to 11, Lianhe Zaobao featured each Chinese character in a full page special report for 10 consecutive days. Each article, written by some of Zaobao's best writers, expounded on the various definitions of the character and how its various meanings could be linked to major local and international events of the year.

Readers were invited to vote from December 2 to 22 on various platforms, via zaobao.com, Facebook, SMS or by mail. Participants of the poll stand to win 20 pairs of Chingay tickets in a lucky draw.

This year collected about 130,000 votes, 40 times that of last year. The poll, which was uploaded on Zaobao.com for the first time, attracted a huge group of online readers.

Also for the first time, Zaobao organised various community outreach events to increase the public's awareness of the poll. Exhibitions were held at Woodlands Regional Library, Central Library and Tampines Regional Library, where the public could vote on the spot. Zaobao also facilitated discussions on the topic of "A Year in Review" at three Chinese language reading clubs, and collected their votes there.

The Zaobao team even conducted interviews at Toa Payoh, Bugis and Orchard Road to ask the public to pick their favourite character and the reasons for their choice. Their heartfelt and candid responses were captured in an video uploaded on zaobao.sg.

In addition to the 10 pages of special reports in print, Zaobao also produced digital content for a microsite specially dedicated to Character of the Year 2013 voting. http://www.zaobao.com.sg/special/report/supplement/word2013

Readers could watch eight videos online, directed, filmed and edited by Zaobao's editorial team. The videos featured various personalities including UFM100.3 deejays Huang Wenhong and Anna Lim, taxi driver Mr Colin Neo and local theatre group The Finger Players' Company Director Chong Tze Chien talking about their choice of characters. Another video explained the concept and production of this year's campaign.

The unveiling of the winning character in this year's poll was also captured on video. Zaobao collaborated with People's Association to unveil the winning character through the Indian folk art of Rangoli on 22 December near a wet market in Jurong West. About 20 people participated in the floor drawing of this character using coloured pebbles.

To further extend the community outreach, Zaobao collaborated with 6 organisations to promote the Character of the Year project via their social media and internal platforms, reaching an audience group of about 78,500. These organisations are People's Association, North East Community Development Council, North West Community Development Council, South East Community Development Council, South West Community Development Council and Chinese Development Assistance Council.

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