The Straits Times' annual gathering for its Forum letter writers got off to a spirited start yesterday, with many first-timers wanting to know how letters are picked and published.
Others asked how letter writers could get more involved in contributing to the newspaper and what more could be done to get younger readers to write in.
"My oldest (child) is 21 years old and he doesn't read newspapers at all," said Mr Frankie Mao, 53, founder of a Web portal targeted at the millennial generation. "And he's not the only one - his peers from university do likewise."
Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez replied that the issue was a "huge challenge" with no single solution, but that the livelier look for the paper and its website after its July revamp would appeal to a younger audience.
"If you write about things that they are talking about and interested in, I think that over time, we will win them over," he said.
The Forum Writers' Dialogue was held in the auditorium of Singapore Press Holdings News Centre in Toa Payoh, home of The Straits Times.
It was attended by around 200 people from all walks of life, including academics, executives, retirees and engineers. About half were taking part for the first time.
Around 24,000 letters were received in the first nine months of this year, some 3,670 of which were eventually published.
In his opening speech, Mr Fernandez thanked all the contributors present. "The very first letter was published... on July 29, 1845. So all of you belong to a very long and distinguished tradition."
The most talked-about topic this year was the death of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, which generated more than 300 letters.
Coming in second was the hotly contested general election held in September, while other popular topics included littering, smoking, cycling and education.
Elaborating on how letters are chosen for publication, Forum editor Liaw Wy-Cin said the section seeks to run those that present opinions in a polite and objective manner.
"We want the Forum platform to remain a formal, civil platform," she said. "Some letters are rejected because they are more emotion than argument."
Mr Tan Teck Lee, 52, said after the meeting: "My personal view is that if there is a problem, you must propose a solution."
The engineer writes in occasionally about social issues. "Don't just complain," he said.