Workers' Party aims to adapt as Singapore media scene evolves

Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez (centre) leading a tour of the recently revamped newsroom during a visit yesterday by Workers' Party leaders (from left) Leon Perera, Daniel Goh and Pritam Singh.
Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez (centre) leading a tour of the recently revamped newsroom during a visit yesterday by Workers' Party leaders (from left) Leon Perera, Daniel Goh and Pritam Singh.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Leaders share party's media strategy during visit to revamped Straits Times newsroom

Amid the changing media landscape, the Workers' Party (WP) will have to find new ways of disseminating information and work with new types of media to reach out to voters in creative ways, WP Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera said yesterday.

"As population and society evolve, the media consumption will also evolve. So, we need to evolve with that," he added.

"Attention spans are not getting longer, they are probably getting shorter. So, we must always experiment and find creative ways to engage audiences."

Mr Perera was speaking about the WP's media strategy and how the party is adapting to changes in the media landscape, in an interview with The Straits Times alongside fellow NCMP Daniel Goh.

The two politicians, who head the WP's media team, were on a visit to ST, along with party chief Pritam Singh.

They were hosted by ST editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, and were the latest guests to the recently revamped ST newsroom.

In a Facebook post after the visit, Mr Singh said the newsroom tour was useful in learning how the paper presents news in the social media age, adding that he was "very impressed with the team that prepares ST's interactive content".

"On a more serious note, opposition parties in Singapore have traditionally had a difficult relationship with the mainstream media.

"The reasons are varied and unsurprisingly, political in nature. Many are rooted in the first generation of PAP leaders' interpretation of the media's role in society.

"Be that as it may, the mainstream media remains an important conduit for getting the party's message out, and it was helpful for both sides to engage in some candid sharing.

"As far as the party is concerned, our focus as a political party and opposition is the betterment of Singapore and its people. To that end, the mainstream media is not our adversary," he said.

Mr Fernandez said ST has transformed its newsroom to serve readers better across platforms.

"This means giving them news they can rely on and trust. It also means striving to be fair and balanced in our coverage. So, we were happy to host the WP team in the newsroom and share with them how we are transforming into a multimedia operation," he added.

 
 

During the tour, the WP leaders were shown how data and analytics are used to track stories that are trending online and identify readers' interests in real time.

They also learnt how stories are presented to the audience through virtual and augmented reality.

Mr Perera, 48, chief executive of Spire Research and Consulting, and Associate Professor Goh, 45, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore, were also interviewed in ST's video production studio for new video series In The Newsroom.

Mr Singh, when asked to be interviewed, had said he would do so at an appropriate time, and nudged his two media chiefs forward, saying he wanted them to have more media attention instead of the focus being only on him.

Asked how he engages with the media, Dr Goh quipped: "To hold The Straits Times at arm's length."

As for WP's rules of engagement with the media, Mr Perera said members are expected to exercise discipline when communicating publicly.

"We have our internal processes to ensure that within the party. Beyond the processes, it is a culture and expectation you want to internalise among all of the party's spokespersons, that they are representatives of the party. There is a greater goal here, and we have to exercise that discipline when we communicate publicly," he added.

 
 

Mr Singh, 42, an MP for Aljunied GRC, has been party chief since April last year. Unlike his predecessor Low Thia Khiang, he is active on social media.

On this, Dr Goh said: "We have tried so many times for so long, for Mr Low to go on Facebook. But we have kind of given up... He doesn't want to go on Facebook because he thinks it is a young people's game."

"There is also another reason... he doesn't want to turn WP into Low Thia Khiang Party. He doesn't want the kind of celebrity, cult worship that accrues to... that kind of political feel, in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline 'Workers' Party aims to adapt as S'pore media scene evolves'. Print Edition | Subscribe