Iswaran observes how newsrooms adapt to digitalisation during visit to SPH

In the first episode of In The Newsroom, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran talks about the challenges facing mainstream media today, media consumption habits and what is on his Spotify playlist.
Communi-cations and Information Minister S. Iswaran visiting the revamped ST newsroom yesterday with (from right) SPH chairman Lee Boon Yang; EMTM head of digital strategy Eugene Leow; ST editor Warren Fernandez; and SPH deputy chief executive office
Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran visiting the revamped ST newsroom yesterday with (from right) SPH chairman Lee Boon Yang; EMTM head of digital strategy Eugene Leow; ST editor Warren Fernandez; and SPH deputy chief executive officer Anthony Tan. They are looking at one of the TV screens installed in the newsroom which gives journalists real-time information about trending stories. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Digitalisation has impacted all industries, from manufacturing to financial services, and the Government is also making changes in the use of digital platforms to find new ways to reach citizens, said Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran.

Similarly, the strong efforts put in by media organisations such as Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) to adapt to the changing habits of readers and other stakeholders are "very timely and an important response to the changing environment", Mr Iswaran said yesterday.

"I know it is not easy because, whether you are a journalist or part of the management, it is really re-thinking the way you do things and adapting it to a completely new environment," he said during a visit to The Straits Times' revamped newsroom.

During a tour led by ST editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of SPH's English/ Malay/Tamil Media (EMTM) Group, Mr Iswaran was shown various digital capabilities, such as how the newsroom uses data to discern readers' interests in real time by tracking which stories are gaining traction.

Mr Iswaran was also briefed on how stories are presented using virtual and augmented reality, and shown ST's state-of-the-art video production studio, where live telecasts can be done. The minister himself was put in the hot seat with an eight-minute interview by ST news editor Zakir Hussain.

Asked which would be his three headlining stories if he were in charge of a newspaper, Mr Iswaran named the US-China trade tensions, the Bicentennial Experience show and the death of Formula One icon Niki Lauda.

Of the first, Mr Iswaran said the trade war's ramifications affect the whole world and, for Singapore and Singaporeans, it is a very important thing to understand.

 
 
 

On the Bicentennial Experience - a multimedia sensory show to be held at Fort Canning Centre from Saturday to Sept 15 - he said: "It is an excellent way of experiencing Singapore's journey, in a sense, not just in the last 200 years, but before. And I found some parts of it particularly moving."

Finally, Mr Iswaran said he got to know Mr Lauda very well in the course of his work with the Formula One, calling the man a technical and business genius.

"And he was also a very big champion of Singapore... I grew to really be fond of him," he added.

During his visit, Mr Iswaran also toured the Chinese Media Group's newsroom and facilities, including their video production suite and editing lab. He was accompanied by SPH chairman Lee Boon Yang, chief executive officer Ng Yat Chung and deputy chief executive officer Anthony Tan.

Mr Iswaran pointed out that the media landscape has changed dramatically since he entered politics and was first elected as an MP in 1997. He noted that it is a boon that there is such a wealth of information available at one's fingertips, and through various digital resources. "And it helps to inform your thinking and approach to various matters."

He added: "But the bane, of course, is that precisely because there is such a wealth of infor-mation and so many sources, you do need to sort through it and work out what is real, what is not and what makes sense. And what doesn't."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2019, with the headline 'Iswaran observes how newsrooms adapt to digitalisation during visit to SPH'. Print Edition | Subscribe