Monday 13 December 2021

No more New Paper in print, no more column

Last Friday was the last print edition of The New Paper after 33 years.

When the staff were first told about it in July, I was surprised and devastated. I was content to do what I was doing at TNP until I die – or forced to retire.

I started working there in February 2008. That’s 13 consecutive years, which is by far, my longest stretch of working at the same place. Before that, my longest was around four years at Mediacorp. Twice.

After working in television for so long, joining TNP was like going back to my roots.

I had studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin and worked at a student newspaper there as a writer and page layout artist.

I discovered that it was important to me how my articles showed up on the page. I get very upset when the headline doesn’t accurately represent what I wrote.

What many readers don’t realise is that the headline is not usually written by the same person who writes the article.

Which is ironic since many people just read the headline without reading the article and associate the byline with the headline which the writer didn’t write.

So although I set out to be a writer, I became involved in the so-called backend of the newspaper.

And it evolved such that I started doing more backend stuff than writing.

When I first joined TNP, it was as a sub-editor/columnist, but as the years went by and I re-contracted, the “columnist” part of my job title was dropped even though I still wrote the column.

My main job was as a sub-editor. At first, I did some copy-editing which I dislike, but later, mostly just did layout, which was more my jam.

More importantly, I got to lay out my own column and write my own headline.

I didn’t get a regular column right away. My first piece for TNP as a full-timer was about the Mas Selamat escape, for which I was accused of being an apologist for the Government. That was when I learnt firsthand that readers would imagine nefarious motivations and conspiracy theories behind things they see in the paper. Since I wrote the damn thing, I know the only thing behind it was me.

Subsequently, I was given a weekly Sunday column that lasted a few years, but from December 2016, it became every other Monday at my request.

While I appreciated the privilege of having such a platform in a national paper (albeit with a shrinking circulation) and tried not to take it for granted, I came to dread the week my column is due. It was like the Sword of Democles threatening to fall on my head every 14 days. It was a pain in the ass, essentially.

It was such a relief to finish a column and not have to worry about it for at least a week.

But now with the end of TNP in print, the column is done for good and it’s the greatest relief of all.

There’s talk of me continuing the column for the online version of TNP, but I would rather not.

I’m starting work at The Straits Times today as a designer and ST couldn’t care less about me as a columnist.

Writing for TNP online would just be doing extra work that’s not going to help me during my performance appraisal with my ST bosses. I don’t need the additional stress.

I didn’t even feel my TNP bosses cared that much about my column.

So… yah, that’s it.

No more column.

It’s the end of an era and start of a column-free one at ST for me.

Thanks for reading.