Update: Mr Ng issued an apology on the subject on Saturday (May 8). He told The Straits Times: “I had stood up for SPH Media’s long-cherished editorial integrity and will continue to do so. Being a direct and blunt-speaking person, I apologise for any offence I might have caused and regret any distraction from the merits of the proposed restructuring.”
Singapore — Many brands and netizens have caught the “take umbrage” fever, making it the hottest catchphrase online.
Video clips of the incident where Singapore Press Holdings CEO Ng Yat Chung’s response to a Channel NewsAsia journalist’s question at a press conference on Thursday (May 6) captured the attention of many.
SPH said during the press conference that the revenue from the company limited by guarantee will now be channelled into the new constitution of the company with new goals. Responding, a -owned Channel NewsAsia journalist asked what the goals might be, adding: “Does this mean that the media business will now pivot to emphasise editorial integrity, for example, ahead of advertiser interest?”
The journalist also asked if it was safe to say this move comes after various corporate initiatives to improve the sustainability of the business failed.
In response, Mr Ng said he “took umbrage” at the journalist’s first question.
Netizens had a field day with comments about the word “umbrage”.
Even Makansutra founder KF Seetoh commented on it.
In response to TISG’s queries, veteran journalist P.N. Balji said:
“It just tells me that there is a serious issue. This is the longest-lasting newspaper in Singapore with a history of about 200 years and it is one of the biggest shakeups – a major shakeup in recent times.
And instead of examining the deeper issue which is change, people are using this to make fun of things, which is in a way kind of typical of a society that dares not bring up the big issue.
And the real big issue here is the government. By that, I mean the government controls of Straits Times. The government control of the media, that is the bigger issue. That’s the one that should be discussed”.
He continued: “If you want to go into the specifics then I would say both parties were wrong. The reporter was wrong in the sense of not asking a good question. I mean I watched the video and she was not direct.
I think our journalists suffer from this. They don’t ask direct questions. When I mean direct question – she should have just asked a question.
Her question should have been short and sharp which is something like what does this shakeup mean to the way that SPH will deal with its advertisers. And I don’t think Ng Yat Chung would have gotten upset.
So I think that the reporter was kind of at fault here. Secondly, of course Ng Yat Chung is at fault here, definitely, because he just flew off the handle right. Which no newsmaker should”.
Businesses were quick to jump on the ‘umbrage’ bandwagon, including popular restaurant Tim Ho Wan.
Even t-shirt company Tee Hub got in on the action.
Responding to the CNA journalist, Mr Ng said: “There are reporters here who have received substantial funding from various sources, and I don’t believe that you will describe yourself as bowing to the needs of advertisers in doing your job”.
Mr Ng added that SPH has always had advertising and it has never conceded to the needs of advertisers. In fact, it will always continue to provide fair, reliable and credible reporting.
“The fact that you dare to question an SPH title for, in your words, conceding to advertisers, I take umbrage at that comment. Because I don’t believe that even where you come from, you do not concede to the needs of advertisers,” Mr Ng said.Follow us on Social Media
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