Iswaran visits Singapore Press Holdings, observes how newsrooms are adapting to digitalisation

(From left) SPH deputy CEO Anthony Tan, EMTM editor-in-chief Warren Fernandez, EMTM head of digital strategy Eugene Leow, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran and SPH chairman Lee Boon Yang touring The Straits Times newsroom on May 28, 2019. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
(From left) EMTM head of digital strategy Eugene Leow, SPH chairman Lee Boon Yang, EMTM editor-in-chief Warren Fernandez, SPH deputy CEO Anthony Tan, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran and SPH CEO Ng Yat Chung touring The Straits Times newsroom on May 28, 2019. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Digitalisation has impacted 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 on Tuesday (May 28).

"I know it's not easy because, whether you're a journalist or part of the management, it's really rethinking the way you do things, and adapting it to a completely new environment," he said, after 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 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 or trending with audiences.

Mr Iswaran was also briefed on how stories are brought to life through the use of 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 was 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.

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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 June 1 to Sept 15 - he said: "It's 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 Formula One, calling the man a technical and business genius.

"And he was also a very big champion of Singapore. And every time he came here, he used to really encourage us to do more and work together with Formula One and so on. And 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 Ng Yat Chung, and deputy chief executive officer Anthony Tan.

EMTM editor-in-chief Warren Fernandez presenting to Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran a photo of his tour of The Straits Times newsroom on May 28, 2019. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Mr Iswaran pointed out that the media landscape and industry had changed dramatically since he entered politics and was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 1997.

He noted that it was 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's such a wealth of information and so many sources, you do need to sort through it and work out what's real, what's not, and what makes sense. And what doesn't."

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