SINGAPORE: The Straits Times appears to have neglected to cover its former chief editor Warren Fernandez’ recent appointment to the Public Service Commission (PSC), in a surprising omission that has some speculating whether Mr Fernandez left Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) on bad terms.
The 57-year-old, who joined SPH in 1986, was a rising star within the media conglomerate after becoming the first recipient of the SPH Undergraduate Scholarship in 1987 and the first SPH Master’s Scholarship holder in 1999. Over the next several decades, he held various positions within the organization, steadily climbing the ranks.
In 2012, Mr Fernandez was appointed Editor-in-Chief of The Straits Times. He was also named editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) English, Malay and Tamil Media Group. He served as Chairman of the World Editors Forum and the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, as well.
A decade after he clinched the top role, Mr Fernandez left SPH in 2022. On 11 Oct, SPH announced that he will be “leaving the company to pursue other professional opportunities.”
A week later, it was announced that Mr Fernandez had been made CEO of global communications firm Edelman’s Asia-Pacific region and would oversee over 1,300 Edelman employees across the firm’s 21 offices in the Asia-Pacific region.
Last Monday (5 June), President Halimah Yacob announced that she has appointed Mr Fernandez as one of the members of the PSC. The appointment triggered speculation online on whether the position may be a precursor to a potential entry into politics for the media man.
But The Straits Times has failed to cover the PSC appointment, even though it has been a week since the news broke. The conspicuous silence has led to questions on whether the development was deliberately excluded because of who it involved and whether the ex-chief editor and the leadership of SPH had an acrimonious parting.
This is not the first time the national broadsheet has neglected to cover developments in Singapore. The paper is notorious for failing to cover positive news involving Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s estranged younger brother Lee Hsien Yang and his family.
Covering the achievements of the younger Lee’s family appears to be a self-imposed out-of-bounds (OB) marker for The Straits Times.
The actual OB markers governing The Straits Times coverage remain shrouded in mystery. Former chief editor Cheong Yip Seng said in his book, ‘OB Markers: My Straits Times Story,’ that journalists at the national broadsheet are constantly trying to negotiate these markers.
In his book, Mr Cheong said that one of the most important OB markers was then-PM Lee Kuan Yew’s argument that the press could not function as a fourth estate because it was not elected.
Other OB markers which Mr Cheong found “bewildering” during his time at SPH apparently included stories on Stanley Gibbons, a stamp dealer; carpet auctions; monosodium glutamate or MSG; feng shui; unflattering pictures of politicians, and scoops.