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Books India Media Singapore

Raffles, Singapore, Calcutta and Bengal

When a young man came to Singapore from Calcutta many years ago, he didn’t know he was following in the footsteps of Sir Stamford Raffles. The one difference: He came by air. Raffles came by sea — on the ship Indiana, with his deputy, Major William Farquhar, on board another vessel, the Ganges.

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Media

Tim Berners-Lee and his World Wide Web

Google tweeted today: “27 years ago today, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau published their proposal for a little something called the ‘WorldWideWeb’.” That was the first web browser.

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Media

Anthony Howard and the old New Statesman

I just came across Anthony Howard on Wikipedia. He was the editor of the New Statesman when I used to look forward to every issue of the weekly.

Just out of high school, reading English as an undergrad, I had a thing about newspapers and magazines back then. Shakespeare and Wordsworth were all very grand but, to keep up with the language, one had to read new books and periodicals too. And top of the pops for me were the New Statesman and Time.

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Media

Feedbin, Feedly, Inoreader, Newsblur: News aggregators compared

The Readability bookmarking service was shut down on September 30. But Readability’s armchair icon can still be found in the Feedbin news aggregator. It’s what makes reading articles in Feedbin so simple and easy on the eye. Click on the armchair icon and you get to read the entire article from any website  in a clear, easy-to-read format without having to go to the website itself.

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Media

Hicky and Aveek Sarkar, Hastings and Mamata Banerjee

Reading about the first newspaper in India reminded me of Aveek Sarkar, the colourful newspaper proprietor.

He is also based in the same city, Calcutta (now called Kolkata), where the Irishman James Augustus Hicky launched the Bengal Gazette or the Original Calcutta General Advertiser in 1780.

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Media

The internet before Google

What was the internet like before Google? It’s time to look back because we just crossed a milestone.

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Books Media

William Zinsser: On Writing Well

Journalist and writing teacher William Zinsser says in his book, On Writing Well: “I’m occasionally asked if I can recall a moment when I knew I wanted to be a writer. No such blinding flash occurred. I only knew that I thought I would like to work for a newspaper.”

Zinsser, who was born on this day 92 years ago, on October 7, 1922, got his wish. He worked for the newspaper of his dreams – the New York Herald Tribune – before teaching writing at Yale, at the New School and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His book, On Writing Well, is a classic guide for non-fiction writing. First published in 1976, it’s still relevant today.

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Media Singapore

Straits Times began with call for press freedom

The Straits Times is marking its 168th anniversary today with a cornucopia of gifts. Lucky readers stand to win among other things a trip for two to London while another lucky pair will go to Munich to test-drive the latest BMW. The birthday bash behoves a golden goose of a newspaper which as the only English-language daily newspaper of record in Singapore commands an average daily circulation of 389,700, according to its parent, Singapore Press Holdings. The big fat newspaper now, often running to more than 100 pages, is very different from the slim inaugural issue which had only advertisements on the front page (see below).

Front page of the Straits Times' inaugural issue, July 15, 1845
Front page of the Straits Times’ inaugural issue, July 15, 1845

The Straits Times launched with a clarion call for freedom of the press. This is what the historian CM Turnbull wrote in Dateline Singapore, the Straits Times’ official history published to mark the newspaper’s 150th anniversary:

The first issue of the Straits Times and Singapore Journal of Commerce appeared on the morning of  July 15, 1845, published from No 7 Commercial Square. It was a weekly paper of eight folio pages, printed with new type and on “fine English paper”.

However obscure the origins of the paper might be, (Robert Carr) Woods was clear about his aims. The print run comprised only a few dozen copies, but he wanted to impress on his readers the grand design and lofty principles behind his publication. As his first editorial explained:

“Good morning to you kind reader… We proceed to declare our sentiments whilst we aver the honourableness of our intentions…

“We need not seek out arguments in support of the unfettered liberty which the Press should possess, because there are few in whose breast a doubt is entertained respecting the benefits derived and derivable from Public Journalism. The Press is allowed to be ‘the fourth estate’ and ought never to be wanting in an unequivocal and zealous maintenance of its object, since it embraces a defence of the immunities and privileges of a free people. A knowledge of the fact that the Press is free serves to deepen the conviction that its end is fulfilled so long only as it upholds fearlessly the integrity of national institutions, laying bare to the eye whatever abuses spring up or exist , and by its faithful advocacy of public rights secure to the governed protection against the innovations or misrule of the governing. These are the primary uses of the Press, to which the communication of intelligence and miscellaneous information are merely secondary… “

You can read the whole editorial online on NewspaperSG maintained by the National Library.

Editorial in the Straits Times' inaugural issue, July 15, 1845
Editorial in the Straits Times’ inaugural issue, July 15, 1845

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Books Media

Rabbit Redux: From hot metal to cold type

From hot metal to cold type to online, newspapers have undergone two revolutions since the Cold War.

The news used to come hot off the press, the words set on stone.

It was a noisy business.

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Books Media Singapore

Cheong Yip Seng: Inside The Straits Times

Cheong Yip Seng
Cheong Yip Seng

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

Those lines from Julius Caesar certainly apply to Cheung Yip Seng, who loves Shakespeare. His musician father brought the family over on a ship from Penang to Singapore, where in 1963 Cheung, then 20 years old, got a job with The Straits Times.

Twenty-three years later, in December 1986, on a flight back to Singapore from Burma, the then deputy prime minister Goh Chok Tong asked him to become editor-in-chief of the English and Malay Newspapers Division of Singapore Press Holdings, The Straits Times’ owner and one of the most profitable media groups in Asia.

He might not have got the job, though, unless recommended by the man who later became  president of Singapore.