SINGAPORE: Former Associate Editor of The Straits Times (ST) Bertha Henson asked in a social media post on May 31 why the broadsheet has changed its practice of publishing editorials, also called the daily leader, which ST has been doing for over 170 years.

“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 noted.

Ms Henson, who had also been news editor for ST and desk editor at The New Paper, who also taught media at the National University of Singapore, added that she had not noticed that editorials were no longer published daily until a friend pointed it out.

And while she wrote that more recently, ST’s editorials were no longer what they had been in the 1960s and 1970s when they “led the discussion in a society,” she was still bothered by their omission.

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“Because it’s inconceivable that journalists have no opinion on anything at all. That the media can’t find a single topic to write about. Even if constrained by whatever forces, it’s a space that readers who want to read about its thoughts, can turn to.

It’s like Parliament live proceedings. Not many watch but it’s there if some topic of interest to them surfaces,” Ms Henson explained.

She added: “And who knows? Maybe there will be an editorial on a controversial issue which gives an insightful point of view backed by the might of the editorial team.

This is far better than a columnist being hung out to dry for some impolitic writing.”

She also noted that their editorials these days seem to steer clear of commentary on local issues, except for topics such as the environment and Artificial Intelligence.

“We grumble about issues like the MC or flexiwork arrangements as if these were debates that have been officially declared ‘open’ because they are unlikely to unsettle foundations of society,” she wrote.

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As for herself, the veteran journalist added that she also no longer writes on many issues, at times due to the lack of information “to form an opinion,” and prefers “to tackle the reporting and writing aspects of reports.”

This can often be seen on her Facebook account, where Ms Henson picks apart ST’s headlines or stories and sometimes compares the broadsheet’s reporting with that of other mainstream media outlets.

Her posts spark discussions among netizens. And when she feels that ST’s writers get their stories right, she gives credit where it’s due. /TISG

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