Asia News Network editors remember The Straits Times' ex-deputy editor Felix Soh as one of Asia's best journalists

Asia News Network editors paid tribute to Mr Felix Soh, former deputy editor of The Straits Times, who died of pneumonia on Sunday.

File photograph of ST's former deputy editor Felix Soh. --ST PHOTO 
File photograph of ST's former deputy editor Felix Soh. --ST PHOTO 
Mr Felix Soh, ST's former deputy editor, with an Apple iPad displaying The Straits Times iPad app. --ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM  
ST's former deputy editor Felix Soh showing a copy of The Sunday Times. -- ST PHOTO: ALAN LIM

Mr Felix Soh, born in Singapore and was one of Asia's best known journalists, started out as a sub-editor and went on to hold various positions including news editor, foreign editor and deputy editor at The Straits Times.

His passion for news especially on the region where he came from, is evident in his involvement with Asia News Network, where he was among the founding editors. ANN, established in 1999, has grown to be the world's largest and most active news alliance with 22 member media, in 19 Asian countries.

The veteran newspaperman, who retired last November, had been suffering from motor neuron disease, which causes nerve cells to gradually break down and die.

"Work was his life. He worked 365 days. Even if he was at home, he would be preparing for work. For him, work would come first and I accepted it," his wife Mrs Genevieve Soh told The Straits Times.

Mr Soh's journalistic career spanned more than 30 years. His most recent role was digital media editor of Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) Digital Division.

He also taught journalism at the Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

Mr Patrick Daniel - editor-in-chief of the SPH's English/Malay/Tamil Media Group - described Mr Soh as a "multi-talented editor and journalist".

"He had a sharp nose for news, was great at layout and design, brought his creative flair to everything he did and took to digital media like a duck to water. And he had boundless energy," he said.

ST editor Warren Fernandez added: "Felix was a titan of the ST newsroom, and indeed journalism in Singapore. He was instrumental in building up ST's network of overseas bureaus and Asian coverage. He was dedicated to his job, often the last to leave the newsroom and the first to arrive the next morning."

Mr Fernandez cited Mr Soh's dedication to ANN and said: "He was passionate about this effort and personally drove it. When he was ill and about to retire, he asked me to help him keep this going and build on it. We will."

Mr Ravindra Kumar, editor and managing director of The Statesman, who has been friends with Mr Soh for 25 years, recalled: "I have not met a journalist who knew Asia better than Felix Soh.

"Others might know parts of Asia better, but no one I have met had better overall understanding of the complex dynamics of East, South-east or South Asia or why the plates of discord between countries and sub-regions occasionally crash to shake up our world.

"The reason for this is that instinctively Felix was a great newsman, a journalist who understood just how much history - or background - a news story needed, how it had to be packaged and presented and what would hold a reader's interest. His focus never wavered because he always had clarity about the page - and in his later years, the web page - he wanted the world to see."

Mr Kumar said Mr Soh understood the need for such networks like ANN and the need for Asia to be presented to the world through Asian eyes.

He said: "I remember a session at a forum in China where we were co-panellists and some Western journalists questioned the idea of ANN. Felix ruthlessly demolished our interrogators calling them scribes "parachuted" into Asian trouble spots who claimed to understand a story better than those who had lived with it."

He added that Mr Soh was not just one of ANN's founders, but also one of its strongest pillars. "Asia and Asian journalism is poorer with his passing. "

Mr Pana Janviroj, ANN's executive director, said Mr Soh had helped shape policies and strategies of ANN. He also willingly shared his expertise with individual members who sought his advice, including the redesign of The Jakarta Post, and editorial development of Vietnam News.

"We will remember him as an editor with a deep sense of Asia and its dynamism. He had insight into how Asians think and do. He didn't just have vision and ideas but also assisted several members of Asia News Network to improve their respective newspaper designs over the years. He will be sorely missed by friends and newsrooms around Asia," Mr Janviroj said.

Mr Janviroj first invited The Straits Times to join ANN more than 16 years ago.

"Felix had been instrumental‎ in building the ANN network. I really appreciate what he did for the Post and ANN. I know that many of us in ANN will miss him," said Mr Riyadi Suparno, managing editor of The Jakarta Post.

The Star's former editor-in-chief Ng Poh Tip described Mr Soh as a "very dear ANN colleague".

"I remember the early days when we were a close-knit group because there were just a few of us pioneers, all determined to make ANN succeed. Felix was never short of ideas. You could always rely on him to be among those to propose a course of action, to accept responsibilities and to offer his help to the smaller member-newspapers," Ms Ng said.

"I admired his passion for wanting to be in the forefront of new and often fast-changing, and even daunting, developments in the media industry. The Felix I knew never feared to learn and was ever-ready to pass on his knowledge. He was a true professional. His passing away will be a great loss to ANN," she added.

Mr Suthichai Yoon, chairman of Nation Group Thailand and a founding editor of ANN said: "I will always remember him as a great friend and a super professional in journalism. He was always up there in the frontline of new trends in journalism.

"ANN has lost a friend supporter, a true friend and a real believer in the power of ANN as the voice of Asia. Rest in peace."

Mr Thomas Stehling, former director of Konrad Adenauer Media Programme for Asia, also paid tribute to Mr Soh: "Many happy memories! I hope, the next ANN generation will understand and appreciate the vision and professionalism that was driving Felix and the founding members of our network. It needed personalities like him, not journalistic bureaucrats, to form a media cooperation unprecedented in the history of Asia."

Mr Stehling had helped set up ANN more than 16 years ago.

One of Stehling's successors, Mr Werner vom Busch, said Mr Soh was "a great journalist, an innovative spirit".

He added: "And, last but not least, a reliable friend. May he rest in peace."

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