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Former editor Bertha Henson urges Straits Times to focus on quality content, rather than tinkering “newsroom strategies”

Bertha Henson emphasized the need for high-quality content in news media and the significance of providing accurate, timely responses instead of engaging in speculative reporting, despite the risk of being “POFMAed.”

She emphasized the importance of representing diverse viewpoints and delivering valuable information beyond establishment perspectives.



Bertha Henson, former Associate Editor of The Straits Times, underscored the imperative for news media to prioritize quality content and educate newsmakers about the principles of public service journalism, even if it contradicts their preferences.

Moreover, she stressed the importance of delivering accurate and prompt responses to events, rather than indulging in speculative reporting, even though such reporting might expose the news outlet to being “POFMAed” by the Singapore ruling government’s instrument to counter falsehoods.

She also highlighted the importance of delivering valuable and informative statements and being a platform that represents diverse viewpoints, rather than merely aligning with the views of the establishment and its supporters.

“I’d rather have news in all its naked glory than spun to give a positive feel. How do we know what is really happening when news articles tip toe around bad news and don’t answer key questions? ”

Ms Henson made these remarks in response to an article authored by Jaime Ho, the Editor of The Straits Times (ST), who discussed the dynamic evolution of news consumption, the challenges confronted by the news media, and the adaptive strategies implemented by The ST to navigate these changes.

The Straits Times’ strategies in response to shifting media consumption patterns

In his article titled “How The Straits Times is gearing up for rapid change in news consumption,” Mr Ho highlights the decline in direct access to news publications through URLs or apps, as noted by the Reuter Institude; and the rising phenomena of “news avoidance” and “news fatigue” as critical issues needing attention.

Mr Ho then went on to praise the ST for maintaining its trustworthiness (73%) according to the Reuter Institute report, however, he pointed out that “being trusted doesn’t necessarily mean you’re widely read, and being widely read doesn’t always mean you’re trusted. ”

Emphasizing the growing trend of news avoidance, particularly regarding news that feels distant, distressing, or irrelevant to readers’ lives, Mr Ho points out that while some readers may avoid certain types of news, they still consume content, often preferring non-traditional, softer stories such as the recently popular tale of a sun bear in a Chinese zoo.

However, Mr Ho cautions that a professional newsroom cannot rely solely on such soft content. ttempting to do so could potentially lead to a decrease in trust scores.

He highlights The Straits Times’ strategy of addressing contemporary challenges by expanding its coverage and enhancing its relevance while remaining committed to the principles of public service journalism. The newly established ST Now team is instrumental in engaging the audience with current and trending news, showcasing the publication’s unique value through a robust editorial ethos.

“In the opinions we publish, some of you might have seen a growing variety in views and topics that are finding a voice. Some might call this being “softer”. I’d rather see these as being more relevant to, and reflective of, the multi-faceted dimensions of our lives, interests and concerns.”

“This broadening range is already happening across all our coverage. It’s a gradual process, more about progressively widening news diets, rather than big statements about dietary changes. ”

He underscored the ST also emphasizes cultivating a progressive newsroom culture that values data insights while maintaining editorial autonomy, encourages experimentation and creativity, and prioritizes talent development and well-being for sustained growth and success.

Questions surrounding SPH Media Trust’s impact on public trust

Commenting on Mr Ho’s article, Ms Henson first raises a pertinent question: since Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) became SPH Media Trust (SMT), the public remains unaware of the implications for the relationship with readers and the nature of the content.

Taxpayers lack insight into the KPIs or editorial policies, while print readers face a lack of transparency regarding the newsroom’s structure.

“We don’t know why some stories are online only and not in print. We don’t know how/why changes are made to certain stories. ”

Addressing the concept of “soft features” mentioned by Mr Ho, Ms Henson emphasizes that soft features are ubiquitous across various online platforms, challenging their significance and distinctiveness from typical lifestyle content found in magazines or other online portals.

Ms. Henson underscored the importance of journalistic access in producing in-depth analyses and hard-hitting features, expressing concern over the current shortage of analytical content.

“Only a NEWS journalist with access can put together hard features and analyses. Right now, there is a dearth of analysis.”

“As always, I wish that the focus is on better content, getting newsmakers to understand the imperatives of public service journalism (which may not always be to their liking), the need for rapid responses instead of allowing for speculation – which can be POFMAed, how to add value to pronouncements and being a voice that reports all sorts of opinions and not just the establishment and its cheerleaders.”

“I’d rather have news in all its naked glory than spun to give a positive feel. How do we know what is really happening when news articles tip toe around bad news and don’t answer key questions? ”

She asserts her preference for a dedicated team of journalists focusing on editorial content while assigning a separate consulting team to address newsroom strategies.

“As for “news fatigue”, it’s easy to point the blame all sorts of other causes other than the idea that this might be because the content is dull and boring.”

Criticism on ST’s apparent decline in content quality

Commenting on Ms Henson’s Facebook post, Ravi Samuel, a Singaporean lawyer, highlighted that The Straits Times may be perceived as the “Daily Petir,” (a term often used to describe the state media as a “party newspaper”), however, he emphasized that this comparison does not excuse the newspaper’s poor standards.

Mr Samuel expressed that he wouldn’t mind a high-quality “Daily Petir,” even if it led to disagreements. Presently, he observed that the newspaper often lacks substantial content, which he finds to be even more concerning.

Art director Cheyenne Yee commented that features should be recognized for what they are – features.

He pointed out that no other news organization promotes them as a major selling point, highlighting that news is fundamentally about content.

Dennis Ang added that if a newspaper is of high quality, people will read it, whether in print or digitally.

He criticized SPH, suggesting that it has become a mouthpiece for the People’s Action Party (PAP) and is publishing propaganda.


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Bertha Henson is a sore loser. She quit sph cause she was not good enough to be promoted. Now she only writes to attack SPH. What a bitch!

The Real Thing.
From Down Under.

First and foremost, Ms Henson must have realized that the Straits times and the sph zero trust, just like the Straits times of old, are and will perpetually be the “poor prostitutes and running dogs of the pap government” (quoting the honorable late former Chief Minister of Singapore). The Straits Times will forever be consuming tax payers money, while being subservient prostitutes and running dogs of the pap regime, an echo chamber of the pap’s defunct ideas and hot air. This is why the pap’s throwing of 800 millions bucks of taxpayers money to these pigs is such an obscene… Read more »

What??? We paid 800 millions bucks of taxpayers money for this rubbish??? Unbelievable!

Henson= Who is buying papers these day? Sorry I am not buying. Thank you.

CB (cuckoo bird) ask my son a few simple questions ?
1) For donkey years, are the newspapers lopsided?
2) Are the papers more leaning to a pappy papers?
3) Can rename it to Pappy Straightened Times?
4) Monopolize papers?
5) They have to right to POFMA you if you write something sensitive or they considered false ?
6) Is there really a freedom of expression when we write in? POFMA applies?
7) Many questions still go unanswered for me….

What do you think?

Shut it down and save Taxpayers’ monies. Shameless lot being fed by taxpayers but doing propaganda work for the ruling party.

Does Ms Henson realise what $900M, can do???
ST is a propaganda piece. Now more so, albeit the ability of yesteryears spin in lacking tremendously.
They are trying & will soon close shop or Sinkies pay more tax to keep them afloat.

Anyway, better not demean ST too much as my cat requires it to line the litter box. This is a compliment, hor. (Wonder if there is a reason why they seldom feature our million$ monkeys’ faces on ST pages anymore?)

What is the bloody point in “educating” SillyPore’s newsmakers about the principles of public service journalism !!!

Not when, … there’s never been a fair and without fear or favour “paper” on the island !!!

So, seriously, … what is the point and purpose of articles and oxymoronic statements cum opinions such as this !!!

that’s very difficult leh!
they have become a sugarbaby
and it’s understood that they must always please the sugardaddy
otherwise …

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Mesmerising question is what were she doing while on SPH payroll over the moon’s ages?

Who reads Shit Times anyways??? Everyone know it is a PAP propaganda machine!!!

Never trust anyone who has worked in SPH.
Even as security guard, toilet cleaner.
More so when they are drawing executive salaries

It is a nest of wasps.

ST behaves corruptedly, owe a responsibility to citizens, why their money is misused to only mostly speak false truths of the PAP Administration.

The PAP Administration also behaves CORRUPTEDLY forcing citizens to support with money, to sustain the loosing money ST. Is this GROSS INJUSTICE, MAMIPULATION of citizens rights?

ST must be desperate to be PAYING Yahoo news site to carry their pap-centric articles. Just go to Yahoo and see ST articles are labelled as “Ad”, not under “News” or “Politics”. A news organization paying ppl to read their articles – how dysfunctional is that?