Letter writers gain tips, insight at ST Forum Writers’ Dialogue

About 250 Straits Times Forum writers of every age and occupation turned up at a gathering at the SPH Auditorium on Nov 8. Topics discussed include the move to digital, what to avoid when writing a forum letter, and dealing with social media.
Editors from The Straits Times (from far left) Ms Ong, Ms Liaw, Mr Fernandez and Mr Chin in a dialogue with readers who wrote in to ST Forum.
Editors from The Straits Times (from left) Ms Ong, Ms Liaw, Mr Fernandez and Mr Chin in a dialogue with readers who wrote in to ST Forum.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

250 guests at session that includes the young, who had separate dialogue in past two years

Mr Tay Hong Yi, 20, and Mr Bryan Kwa, 22, rushed out from their National Service camps last night to Toa Payoh North. Their aim: To hear what The Straits Times editors had to say to letter writers.

"It's a good way to spend the evening," said Mr Kwa, who was attending the ST Forum Writers' Dialogue for the second time.

He said he had grown up reading this newspaper as his parents are subscribers. Both men said they were keen to see how the Forum page works, and what editors thought of certain issues.

They were not alone. About 250 guests attended this newspaper's 14th annual gathering for its Forum letter writers at the News Centre auditorium in Toa Payoh last night.

For the first time, youth letter writers to the newspaper were included. The ST Young Forum Writers Dialogue was held separately for the past two years. The session, moderated by social media editor Daryl Chin, featured editor-in-chief (English/Malay/Tamil Media Group) and ST editor Warren Fernandez, digital editor Ong Hwee Hwee and Forum editor Liaw Wy-Cin.

During the 1½-hour question-and-answer segment, readers asked the panellists a wide range of questions. They wanted tips on getting their letters published, and to know why letters are edited and why the website does not allow comments for news stories. Ms Liaw explained that letters are picked for their fresh ideas and sound arguments, then edited for clarity.

From January to September this year, The Straits Times received nearly 22,000 readers' letters. Top topics included bicycles, e-scooters and e-bikes, Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and train issues.

Asked if there were subjects which were "beyond the grain" and would not be published, Mr Fernandez replied that the Forum pages were meant to be for Singaporeans to voice their concerns and argue their case. These, he added, were taken seriously, judging by the responses they received.

"So we want letters that have a point of view, and argue it passionately. But even if you disagree with someone, you don't need to go poking him in the eye to make your point."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Letter writers gain tips, insight at annual event '. Print Edition | Subscribe