The Straits Times in a post titled ‘Why Dr Lee’s column was not published’, published on 9 Apr 2016, explained why they refused to publish Dr Lee Wei Ling’s column on hagiography.
ST’s main reasons for not publishing one of their more prominent columnist’s work were because:
- Dr Lee was adamant that her column be published unedited.
- ST does not run columns which has been published online.
- Her work contained plagiarism.
It is rather hard to believe that a well-known columnist who has worked with the newspaper for several years will suddenly go rogue. The newspaper’s editor himself had said that there were over 40 email exchanges between himself and Dr Lee centered on edits to her piece, suggesting that Dr Lee was amenable to edits to her work. Dr Lee in one of her posts further said that she decided to publish her work in her Facebook because of the ST editor’s insistence on “sticking with the original edited version”.
Newspapers invite writers to contribute columns to their publications because they value such writers’ strong opinions on various topics. A good editor should master the art of negotiating with their columnist and not resort to blaming writers, that they were not amenable to edits.
The second assertion for refusing to publish Dr Lee’s commentary is even more incredulous. In 2009, ST published playwright Alfian Sa’at’s commentary titled, ‘Is Hokkien my “mother tongue”?’. The article was first published by an online publication, The Online Citizen. (http://news.asiaone.com/News/Education/Story/A1Story20090924-169657.html)
Why, even in the ongoing tit-for-tat allegations between Dr Lee and ST, ST chose to publish its former associate editor (current Chief of Government Communications) Janadas Devan’s rebuttal of Dr Lee, when Mr Devan’s rebuttal was first made online and in Dr Lee’s Facebook.
The accusation of plagiarism is the most ridiculous of ST’s reasons for not choosing to publish Dr Lee’s column. In a Facebook post yesterday, Dr Lee had asserted that she did not plagiarise but had simply forgotten to acknowledge the source for information regarding Mao and Churchill.
Considering that Dr Lee’s dyslexia may affect her writing skills, and that as a medical doctor she would be more used to writing for medical journals where sources are indicated as a footnote, Dr Lee’s claim that she had ‘simply forgotten’ is indeed believable.
Any good editor would have asked his writer if he (she) had forgotten to include a footnote or to acknowledge the source for information, rather than publicly accuse the writer of plagiarism.
Dr Lee’s various Facebook posts are consistent with one fact and she has not deviated from it – she is uncomfortable about the hero-worship of her father, which she thinks ST is fanning.
She feels that her father would not have wanted such things done in his memory as well.
Sadly, this appears to be totally lost in all of this.
In her posts, Dr Lee had further asked if “the powers that be”, had instructed SPH to publicly criticise her. Considering the fact that SPH’s publications are closely supervised by the leadership of the ruling political party, it is important for the publisher to address this important question of Dr Lee’s.