The Straits Times – Singapore's only English-language broadsheet – recently announced that it would be auctioning a Volkswagen car for charity. However, Singaporeans were enraged to find that the money raised would not go directly towards low-income families, but towards sponsoring one-year subscriptions of The Straits Times for them instead.
The Straits Times’ editor Warren Fernandez was quoted as saying: ”We want to give the young in these families a precious gift: access to information and a window to the world and all its possibilities. That will help them get ahead in life. We sincerely believe a daily copy of the ST delivered to their homes will do that.”
Some pointed out that by doing this, The Straits Times was not actually doing any charity or donating anything to low-income families; instead they had simply sold 1,000 subscriptions of their newspaper, paid for by the auctioned car which was in turn donated by Volkswagen.
Gwee Li Sui wrote on his Facebook page that if the paper was really sincere in helping low-income families, it should offer the subscriptions for free:
Dear Warren Fernandez, if you truly believe that The Straits Times is a precious gift to the young of low-income families, then you should put your own money where your mouth is. Sponsor your own free subscription.
Lee Kin Mun tweeted an image of the online news report, showing that 90% of the readers felt disgusted by the news:
@mrbrown: Readers let SPH know what they think about their “charity” auction.
In response, New Nation has launched its own charity drive to benefit the Singapore Children's Society:
…starting today, we’re launching a charity drive of our own, and our chosen beneficiary is the Singapore Children’s Society.
We’re doing this because we believe charity drives should be sincere, and not borne of a desperate attempt to market your own products.
They are aiming to raise $107,500 – the value of the car donated by Volkswagen to The Straits Times.
We’re not sure how much we can raise, but we’re going for broke: $107,500, which is the cost of the Volkswagen car. The campaign will last until 15th July, the same time Straits Times will announce the winning bidder.