The newsroom challenge
Published on Sep 21, 2011
At the launch of former president S R Nathan's memoirs, An Unexpected Journey: Path To The Presidency, on Monday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recounted how Mr Nathan was asked to be the executive chairman of Straits Times Press after his retirement from foreign service. PM Lee observed: 'Mr Nathan spent six years there, gaining the trust of journalists, helping them appreciate our unique context as a young nation, and giving them the support to run a high-quality, successful newspaper. I read this chapter carefully and it reminds me very much of the same challenges we face in the new age, with a new generation and with new media and new technologies. But the objectives, conflicting roles, imperatives, remain the same.' Below is an edited excerpt from the chapter 'Entering the newspaper world'.
IT WAS around the end of October 1981. I was still working as first permanentsecretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One Saturday evening, I had a phone callfrom Peter Lim of The Straits Times. I had known Peter for many years, since the1960s, when I helped service the Singapore National Union of Journalists (SNUJ) toresolve disputes between the journalists and the newspaper company'smanagement. Peter had progressed in his career - since 1978 he had been editor-in-chief.Peter went straight to the point. He and his boss, managing director Lyn Holloway,had had a meeting with the prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, at the Istana thatafternoon. The meeting, one of a number, was to discuss the government'sunhappiness with the slanted aspects of the paper's news coverage and editorialcomment, unfairly critical of the government and its policies on domestic issues.