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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Goodbye Cheeks Part 2

My old company is pissed at the obituary I wrote for Chong Chee Kin. (See earlier entry Goodbye Cheeks) Journalists and management are upset that I said that Chee Kin felt like a pariah in his last week at work in SPH. Here’s the letter, emailed by SPHCORP “for and on behalf of SPH’’. Can’t think why no one bothered to put a name to the letter…

Dear Bertha,

We refer to your blog dated 2 November where you wrote the following about the late Chong Chee Kin.

“By the time he returned to the newsroom, things had changed. His mentors and some good friends had left. He was no longer in charge of the crime team; he felt cut out of the news loop. He was in a job where his main interaction was with the computer. He wanted to be at the cutting edge of news editing, he said, so he asked out. To some people’s horror, he decided to join the competitor as news editor. He knew he would be ostracised – “a pariah’’ was how he described the way he felt he was being treated in his last week at work. He was asked to leave early, before his notice period ran out.”

Your former colleagues in the ST newsroom, and SPH management too, are most aggrieved by what you said about your former employer. They have asked us to write to you formally to set the record straight:

For over a year, while Chee Kin was seriously ill, his Newsdesk colleagues were quietly covering his duties. None of them complained, because they all wanted to help him through that difficult period.

When he returned to the newsroom, they gave him a role on the desk which was not too taxing, to help ease him back into the newsroom. Again, they bent over backwards to help him.

So, yes, they were crestfallen when he decided to quit to join Today. And especially about the reason he cited: that he had not been given enough of a role on the desk, and had been sidelined.

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Once he tendered his resignation to join Today, his supervisors worked out a way for him to clear his leave and do other roles in the newsroom.

To say he was treated like a “pariah” is totally false.

You have been wholly unfair to SPH to put this out in your blog without checking whether it is true. You have in fact failed to practise what you have been preaching so piously in your blog.

For and On behalf of Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

The letter was emailed on Friday. I didn’t see it till last night. Anyway, I replied and asked if SPH was sure that it wanted “to set the record straight’’. I gave 11am today as the deadline. The deadline’s passed. So here’s my reply:


I think you should read carefully what I said in the blog. I did not say SPH treated him like a pariah.
To quote from my blog that you so kindly attached:

He knew he would be ostracised – a “pariah” was how he described the way he felt he was being treated in his last week of work .

This is his text message to me on Oct 18, 4.26pm:
‘Wow apparently I’m a pariah now n everyone is scared to talk to me. So this is what being ostracised feels like.”

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You may ask to check my cellphone if you like.

I am sorry that you feel aggrieved. Whatever SPH had done for him, the fact is that that was how he felt. I reported the last weeks of my friend’s life accurately.

Since you are aggrieved by my blog, I will post this note as your right of reply. Unless you indicate otherwise. I, for one, do not wish to prolong the grieving process of his family and his friends.


Odd, isn’t it? I thought the more appropriate – and gracious – response from SPH would have been more like this:
We are sorry that Chee Kin felt that he was treated like a pariah in his last week at work. Rest assured that we had no such intention and our actions testified to this. We bent over backwards to accommodate him while he was ill and did our best to make sure his work did not tax him unduly when he returned to the newsroom.

Yes, we were crestfallen when he quit to join Today and again, we did what we could to ease his departure. Our intentions and actions, however, seemed to have been taken amiss. We regret that he felt ostracised. We want to assure his family and friends that we treated Chee Kin with respect and would like once again, to extend to them our deepest condolences.

I suppose, given that snarky last line in its letter about “piously’’ preaching and not practising, SPH’s real beef is with my blog. You know, it could have done better than to pick on a couple of pars about a dead man. It’s an obituary, for crying out loud!

As someone I knew would say: Wah lau eh…!

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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