Commentary

SPH Media Trust launch: Amid change, staying true to ST's mission

The focus is clear: serving audiences here and beyond with reliable news and content they trust.

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SINGAPORE - A new chapter begins in the long and storied history of this newspaper, which has been serving Singapore and the region around it since 1845.

Over its 176 years, The Straits Times has seen many ebbs and flows in its fortunes.

It has taken on various iterations, with spells when it was owned by the publisher or the editor himself, later becoming a private company, or a trust, to becoming a publicly listed company.

Thankfully, it survived it all - wars, recessions and depressions, pandemics past and present, colonial occupation and liberation - to keep telling the story of Singapore.

After a long-drawn transition, The Straits Times has now become part of the newly established SPH Media Trust (SMT), a new company limited by guarantee, which was formally established on Wednesday (Dec 1).

The ST, along with all its sister titles in English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese previously owned by Singapore Press Holdings, will now be housed under an operating entity, called SPH Media, which is part of the SMT.

The formation of SMT is arguably the most significant development in the media landscape in Singapore since the 1980s, when the forced merger of separate English and Chinese media houses gave rise to the Singapore Press Holdings group.

Unlike the publicly listed Singapore Press Holdings, driven by the need to chase profits and shareholder value, SMT and SPH Media will be stakeholder- and purpose-driven.

Its focus is clear: serving audiences in Singapore, and beyond, with credible and reliable news and content they trust.

Trust, which features deliberately in its name, will be its lodestone.

Forging that trust with audiences - and thereby helping foster it within the community - will remain its key mission.

To ensure this, a new charter has been drawn up, with inputs from our editors and journalists.

The Straits Times has now become part of the newly established SPH Media Trust. PHOTO: ST FILE

Drawing inspiration from similar mission statements by other media organisations, such as the BBC in Britain, it asserts the need to uphold our newsrooms' editorial independence and safeguard their credibility in the eyes of their readers.

This is vital. For, as multiple surveys, local and foreign, have shown, it is the relatively high level of public trust in the media in Singapore that helps explain why more people today are consuming content from the ST newsroom, across all our platforms, and many more times through the day, than ever before.

The ST's combined print and digital audience has grown even in the face of an increasingly crowded media market, with a proliferation of news sources at home and abroad that anyone can access on their smartphones.

And while Covid-19, Big Tech and the Internet have all conspired to hit its financial fortunes severely, these have also reinforced the critical importance of timely, trusted and true content in the face of a pandemic of fake news and misinformation.

But trust is fragile.

Building trust takes time, effort and sustained commitment; trust cannot be willed, or transferred, and must never be taken for granted.

News organisations foster trust by striving relentlessly to be accurate, balanced, fair and objective, reflecting the concerns of their audiences, and staying connected to them.

They also need to keep abreast of changing public attitudes and tastes, as well as shifting preferences in how people wish to receive their news and content. Today, that mostly means any time, anywhere, and on any platform, often on the go.

Happily, ST was honoured with the top award for Best News Website or Mobile Service at the World Association of News Publishers' Digital Media Asia awards in August.

That was a big fillip for all of us in the ST newsroom.

But, in all humility, we know only too well that, given the resource constraints of recent times, there is so much more we could do to serve our audiences better.

SPH Brightcove Video
The new SPH Media Trust (SMT) launched on Dec 1 as a not-for-profit entity spun off from Singapore Press Holdings. In this interview, SMT's interim chief executive Patrick Daniel said that SMT's mission is to be a trusted source of news.

There are new features we need to add to improve the user experience, kinks to be sorted out, and technology that needs upgrading. Or, to borrow a line from a Robert Frost poem, "miles to go before we sleep".

Meeting our audiences' expectations and serving them well will be our mission. We will strive to do so, day by day, and story by story.

We will do so in an increasingly digital, multimedia fashion, in response to audiences' clear demands for more visuals and videos, more voices and views.

We are working to improve the user experience on our digital products, progressively and relentlessly.

We are embarking on a major review and revamp of all our products and platforms, with improvements to be rolled out over the next year.

We welcome all views and inputs on how we can do better to serve you.

All of this will take some time and much effort, and we seek your continuing support - and forbearance - as we work to make progress, step by painstaking step.

As we embark on this new and exciting chapter for The Straits Times, its journalists, and the media in Singapore, it is perhaps fitting to cast a glance back to help us see the way ahead.

On the front page of the very first edition of the paper, on July 15, 1845, the ST's founding editor, Robert Carr Woods, declared boldly that "the principles on which the publication will be conducted are those which will ever identify The Straits Times with the general interests" of the Singapore community it serves.

The front page of the first edition of The Straits Times. PHOTO: ST FILE

He pledged to uphold the paper's quality, while seeking to ensure the accuracy and reliability of its reports.

Some things, thankfully, don't change, even as the world around us never seems to stay the same.

On this historic occasion, we at The Straits Times rededicate ourselves to keep striving to deliver on that longstanding mission.


What the new SPH Media Trust means for you

Forging trust

Our key aim is to earn and keep our audience's trust. That's set out clearly in our new charter. By doing so, we help foster trust in our community.


What matters to you

Staying focused on topics that matter to you, such as education and parenting, jobs, investing and finance, and, of course, food and where to go on holiday.


Visuals and videos

Pick up your smartphone and we'll be there, any time, anywhere, with more visual and interactive content to keep you engaged. Look out for our revamped The Big Story video show, every weekday at 5.30pm. Plus a new celebrity chef food series, and a new tech show soon.


Better experience

We're working to improve the user experience on our platforms. Some improvements from today; more to come soon. It's a constant work in progress.


Fast but factual

We will strive to bring you the news in a timely fashion. But we don't just want to be fast, we want to get it right. And also help counter all the fake news out there.


More interactives

Graphics and interactive storytelling on topics that interest you.


Voices & views

Our experienced correspondents will not just report the news, but also add perspective and context. Plus we will tap our network of contributors for more views. On all our platforms and podcasts, and on the radio.


Connecting with you

From our popular webinars, to photo exhibitions, to the popular ST Run, more opportunities to connect with you.

 

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