A letter from Singapore by Pranay Gupte, former global-affairs columnist at the Straits Times.
Maybe this is what Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, meant when he said our media function under "special circumstances", a media that is sensitive to national interests.
All I can say is, ouch.
Like newsrooms everywhere, the newsroom of the Straits Times has its share of jealousies, resentments and fiefdoms.
It is also a poorly run organization. For example, my editor, Ms Lee, killed a substantial quote that I obtained from Mr. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, chairman and publisher of the New York Times, on the grounds that he was "distracting." When I wrote an e-mail note to Arthur, whom I've known for a long time, to explain why his generously given quote to me was not used, here's what I received from Mr. Cheong Yip Seng, the editor-in-chief of the Straits Times:
we do not do this on this paper, namely apologise to a newsmaker whose quote we did not use. if i were the newsmaker, i would think poorly of the paper. if the nyt uses every quote of a noteworthy newsmaker, they will need to double the pages they use daily.
----- Forwarded by Cheong Yip Seng/SPH on 14/11/2004 06:37 PM -----
Needless to day, Mr. Cheong missed my point entirely. Arthur Sulzberger had made a special effort to communicate with me from 13,000 miles away to give me a long personal statement about the New York Times and its directions. I used the quote in a column on the media, but, of course, it was edited out. I felt that in view of my own long tenure at the Times, and my friendship with Arthur, I owed him an explanation, at the very least. It was common courtesy on my part, not brown-nosing to Arthur, who doesn't take to kindly to obsequiousness anyway.
Ms Chua, my editor, also killed two other exclusive interviews I'd obtained in recent days, mainly through my access to important people gained over four decades in international journalism. She said that what was said by Dr. Supachai Panichpakadi, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and Mr. Peter G. Peterson, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations - and the author of a recent best-seller - was "boring."