Most of the mainstream media decided that the most notable and newsworthy part of last Wednesday’s TOC/TRE: FACE-OFF event was the fact that an editorial member of Temasek Review Emeritus (TRE), Mr Richard Wan, the sole Singapore based editor of TRE, was finally lifting the veil of secrecy behind TRE and coming out into the open to speak to the public.
Mr Wan explained that coming out was intended to be a move towards building respectability and responsibility for TRE. However, it is a move that has ended up with TRE being issued a lawyer’s letter from PM Lee. TRE’s coming out has also been condemned by some of the online community because it “jeopardizes” the operations of TRE, a site that has always operated through secrecy until now.
Another point was raised by The Online Citizen’s (TOC) interim chief editor, Ravi Philemon, who was quick to stress that there is no formal coordination between both sites and their editorial direction. Even though TOC does pass stories onto TRE; Stories that TOC had felt that they could not cover for one reason or another. Both representatives stressed that both sites are “pro-Singapore” despite certain perceptions amongst readers and the public at large. This led into a contentious Q&A segment where audience members grilled both editors with questions mainly directed towards Mr Wan.
“It’s great that you guys are a source of dissenting views and for us to have a vigorous debate in Singapore but at what point does it become too polarizing? We’re a small nation, having too many differing views can rip us apart. Have you guys ever thought about the polarizing effects you guys might have on society as a whole?” asked a member of the audience.
Someone else in the audience also pointed out that TRE had a tendency to structure its layouts to inflame readers’ emotions, citing that evening’s TRE piece on Mr Yaw Shin Leong’s expulsion from the Workers’ Party as evidence. Mr Wan explained that article must have been altered by one of the site’s overseas editors and will make the necessary changes as soon as he is able. Mr Wan claimed that determining how the stories look and sound editorially has been difficult to do because of the logistical difficulties in working with editors who are based overseas.
The evening concluded with both Mr Wan and Mr Philemon assuring the audience that both sites are for advocating the Singaporean people’s interest and will continue towards working for a better Singapore and a more responsible narrative on both their sites. How these attempts at gaining public credibility will play out, remains to be seen but one can hope that it is something that will be for the good of the nation.