SINGAPORE - From its very first issue on July 15, 1845, The Straits Times has closely chronicled the Singapore story.
And it must continue to do so by upholding national interests and being cognisant of Singapore's social and regional context when reporting and commenting on sensitive or emotional issues, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday at a celebration of the newspaper's 170th anniversary.
Even as the nation's largest newspaper adapts to a changing media landscape with its recent redesign, Mr Lee hopes it will continue to be conscious of its important role in Singapore, and maintain its "hallmark of credible, balanced, objective reporting".
"As a Singapore newspaper whose past, present and future is intrinsically tied to our nation, your natural stance is to be pro-Singapore," he said. "I think that's the natural way for longevity for the newspaper."
Being pro-Singapore means taking a long-term perspective of the nation's interests, reporting the news for Singaporeans through Singaporean eyes, and not campaigning for personal or corporate purposes, he added in the speech he made at the ArtScience Museum, where he also opened the ST170 exhibition.
The free exhibition, Singapore STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow, depicts the history of this island through the pages of the newspaper.
Co-curated by the ArtScience Museum and a Straits Times team, it opens on Friday and runs from 10am to 7pm daily until Oct 4.
Mr Lee, in tracing the legacy of The Straits Times through the years, noted the national broadsheet has a standing in Singapore.
"From the time Singapore was part of the Straits Settlement to World War II, to post-war anti- colonial struggles, to today when Singapore is a developed nation, The Straits Times has been "an indispensable place to start".
All this is evident from newspaper's front pages and photographs at the exhibition, he noted, adding that "The Straits Times story is one important strand of The Singapore Story".
"As the newspaper of record, you have standing in our society. You are not a fly-by-night piece of paper circulated in dark alleys when nobody is looking. Everybody reads The Straits Times," he added.
But The Straits Times has not been immune to shifting media trends that have affected how newspapers all round the world report the news.
Mr Lee acknowledged this, noting that the newspaper has made content more accessible in various forms and on social media, and adapted operations to changing patterns of news consumption in its recent redesign.
"The Straits Times has to be of the new generation, by the new generation, and for the new generation of readers," he said.
"At the same time, it still needs experienced hands in the newsroom and it still needs to look after its older readers and those who have stayed loyal to it for decades. They are still around, they haven't disappeared."