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Bertha Henson criticised The Straits Times for avoiding hard commentary on Singapore issues

Veteran journalist Bertha Henson expressed her disappointment in a Facebook comment regarding The Straits Times journalists’ reluctance to engage in hard commentary on local issues and remaining mute on topics that challenge the status quo. She criticized the lack of independent editorial voice, implying that ST is merely a government mouthpiece and suggests it to be placed under the Ministry of Digital Development and Information.

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SINGAPORE: Bertha Henson, the former Associate Editor of The Straits Times (ST), recently expressed her disappointment in a Facebook comment regarding ST journalists’ reluctance to engage in hard commentary on local issues.

She suggested that instead, they tend to remain mute, particularly on topics that may challenge the status quo.

She reiterated her concern about the lack of independent editorial voice and critical commentary within the newspaper, implying that ST is merely a ruling government mouthpiece, sarcastically proposing that ST should be placed under the Ministry of Digital Development and Information.

In a Friday (31 May) Facebook post, Ms Henson brought attention to the discontinuation of the daily editorial, also known as the leader, in the ST, a tradition upheld for over 170 years.

Henson explained that the editorial serves as a platform for ST to express its thoughts on various news topics, ranging from local, foreign, economic, political, to lifestyle and sport news.

“It’s one thing which distinguishes a mainstream media from other smaller outfits – the ability to give its thoughts on a daily basis, show off its intellectual heft and grasp of current affairs. ”

She personally found editorials predictable, often with vague or safe conclusions but recognizes their significance as a means for foreign missions to gauge the government’s stance.

She reminisced about a time when editorials led societal discussions, particularly in the fiery decades of the 60s and 70s, but lamented that today, there seems to be a lack of fuel for such debates.

“Nevertheless, I was still horrified by the change. Because it’s inconceivable that journalists have no opinion on anything at all. The media can’t find a single topic to write about. ”

Ms Henson highlights lack of hard-hitting local commentary from ST journalists

Ms Henson argued that the absence of this platform deprives readers of a space to engage with the thoughts of the media outlet.

She suggests that even if constrained by external factors, such as government influence or editorial guidelines, there should still be room for the media to express its views.

She suggested that editorials have the potential to offer insightful perspectives on controversial issues, drawing on the collective expertise of the editorial team.

This stands in stark contrast to the current situation where the opinion pages of ST are primarily filled by contributors rather than the newspaper’s own journalists.

She criticized ST journalists for shying away from providing hard commentary on local issues, instead opting for personal columns that focus on their own experiences.

“Correction. They don’t shy away from tackling issues in foreign lands, or pontificating about the current affairs over there. Here, not even a day in Parliament is worth a commentary.”

Ms Henson further criticized the trend of silence within Singapore’s mainstream media, noting a preference for remaining mute on topics unless they are considered “big picture” issues like AI ethics or climate change.

She observed a tendency to grumble about mundane matters, possibly because they are perceived as unlikely to challenge the status quo.

“I keep quiet about most issues as well, preferring to tackle the reporting and writing aspects of reports. One reason is I sometimes find I lack information to form an opinion. This is happening more and more often because the media isn’t doing its first job: disseminating enough info for readers to lead their lives. ”

Furthermore, she noted another departure from tradition at the Straits Times, where the names of section editors are no longer prominently displayed on the masthead of the print edition, indicating a decline in transparency.

In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion, she proposed that the Straits Times should be brought under the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).

“Or, wait, it’s going to be called the Ministry of Digital Development and Information. No communication.”

Bertha Henson’s critique of Singapore mainstream media

Ms. Henson has been a vocal critic of Singapore’s mainstream media. Her earlier criticisms emphasized the need for high-quality content and the importance of providing accurate and timely responses instead of engaging in speculative reporting, even at the risk of being “POFMAed.”

In January, she also criticized the quality of reporting and the lack of local analysis in mainstream media. She shared her initial hope that restructuring at Singapore Press Holdings would improve journalism but now believes that the standards are unlikely to improve.

Henson argued that if readers must undertake critical thinking and analysis themselves, journalists are failing in their roles.

She suggested that mainstream media should face consequences, such as funding withdrawal, but doubted any changes would occur without governmental impetus.

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Do U think they would put their annual rice bowl of SGD 180,000,000.00 of taxpayer’s money on stake?

Why even bother, … seriously.

The ST’s is merely this regime’s propaganda tool, … just like the PA is.

Both entities promote and perpetuate this regime’s narratives and objectives !!!

To expect and hope for anything different, … would be not understanding SillyPore’s history and being entirely ignorant, blind and deaf to the reality of it all !!!

Forget about “Singapore” issues. I am still waiting for ST’s critical piece on the various government-led investments in foreign countries.

1) Tianjin-Ecocity
2) Suzhou Industrial Park
3) Amaravati
4) Temasek and GIC’s large investments into Chinese tech and education companies (This sector experienced a crash back in Dec 2022 and has not recovered).

Last edited 11 days ago by Blankslate

Ms Henson, the world knows Singapore is ranked 126 (out of 180) in World Press Freedom Index. Hence, don’t you think you are barking up the wrong tree here?

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