By: Mary Lee
Ambrose Khaw is gone. He’s lived a long and full life. Ambrose, with Francis Wong and Jimmy Hahn, started The Singapore Herald in 1971. It was my first job — hired out of university because Francis was a friend of my professor, Dennis Enright. Francis thought enough of prof to speak to his class of final year students.
I loved being a reporter — it enabled me to continue my undergraduate lifestyle. We junior reporters didn’t have much to do with Francis, but Ambrose was there every day, sitting at the centre of the “horseshoe” where the paper was put together.
The Herald’s office was in People’s Park Complex in Chinatown — the first such mall then. It was busy, full of foodstalls, shops and people and Ambrose’s voice rose above it all.
He was a charismatic leader of men and women, and had a strong social conscience: he introduced the concept of an Ombudsman to the paper, and that drew a lot of attention from the government, which was uncomfortable.
National Service was in its early years and the Herald had a flood of letters from parents about why some and not other boys were called up. As a result of the attention which the Herald threw on National Service, laws were introduced to ban all discussion in media.
As a rookie reporter, I also learned about thepower of government — government notices and advertisements were withheld from the Herald, so funding of the paper became a problem. Francis and Jimmy turned to Aw Sian in Hong Kong and Donald Stephens in East Malaysia for funds and that led the government to ban all foreign funding of media since.
Ambrose was so charismatic, he encouraged us to go to the streets to sell the paper, which we were more than happy to do. But we were not able to save the Herald.
I lost touch with Ambrose, and went on to work with The Guardian in London and the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hongkong, and remained in journalism most of my working life.. But my memory of Ambrose stays strong with me and I know he is now at peace. — Mary Lee
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