Australian media site Mumbrella Asia recently reported on a speech made by Mr Patrick Daniel, editor-in-chief at Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay Newspapers Division. The speech was made at the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers conference in Hong Kong.
Mr Daniel wrote to Mumbrella to point out several errors in the report, which was headlined "SPH chief editor: if we don’t learn from the mistakes of others, we will fall off a cliff".
We reproduce here Mr Daniel's e-mail to Mr Robin Hicks, editor of Mumbrella Asia:
"Robin - This is further to our email exchange over your Mumbrella report of my speech at the WAN-Ifra meeting in Hong Kong.
The Facebook thread below shows the huge damage to my reputation that your report has caused:
You say that your memory is that I did use the exact words you quote me as having said - "It’s unfortunate for us that the riots came to an end,” he joked. While I did use humour in my speech (I always do), I maintain that I did not utter these words. The quote is wholly irrational. As an editor of long standing, I would never have said such a callous thing.
Although the damage has already been done, please state in your report immediately after the offending quote that I maintain that the quote is inaccurate and that I did not utter these words.
I would also like to point out the following errors in your report:
1. The fortunes of SPH’s print assets fell again last year, with newspapers and magazine operating revenue slipping by 2.9 per cent. The company was kept in the black by earnings from its luxury shopping malls."
The sentence highlighted in red, which you added as background, is completely wrong. SPH newspapers and magazines continue to generate healthy profits, with margins exceeding 30%.
2. “My CEO was telling me back in 2006 that the newspaper business is a sunset industry."
The date cited should be 1996, not 2006.
3. “The Straits Times is such a powerful revenue generator. We’ve got to keep and protect that product,” he added, pointing out that the ST is an “efficient” media buy, because there are few other options in Singapore. The words in red above are yours, not mine. ST is an efficient buy because of its wide reach, not because of the lack of options.
4. “SPH is standing on a slippery slope looking downhill. We are now running at 30 per cent margin. My biggest fear is a 10 per cent margin.”
This again shows how loosely you have quoted me. I did not say "SPH is ... looking downhill". I said that as editor-in-chief, I felt as if I was on a slippery slope and that my biggest fear was that our margin would slide to 10%.
5. Cosmopolitan magazine in the US charges more for its digital product than print, Daniel noted, because it offers a “brilliant” print product.
Clearly, the word in red above should be digital, not print. I said the digital product was brilliant.
6. “We want to reduce the number of positions in the newsroom without reducing our workforce,” he said.
This garbled quote is meaningless.
7. Besides property, the company runs exhibitions and plans to open a conference division this year.
The chart that I showed of our exhibition business clearly showed that our exhibition subsidiary, Sphere Ltd, has already begun to organise conferences.
I must ask that you make the necessary corrections to your report. I must also insist that you publish this letter in Mumbrella in full and without any changes.
Lastly, you took photos of the charts that I used and put them up as part of your report. I did not give the organisers, nor you, permission to use them. Please take them down.
I'm copying this to WAN-Ifra's Thomas Jacob and Gilles Demptos."