Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of the English/ Malay/ Tamil Media Group at Singapore Press Holdings, held a townhall meeting with The Straits Times newsroom staff at 5pm on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017.
This was on the second day of a retrenchment exercise at SPH, where it was announced that 130 staff will be laid off in total by end-2017 -- although staff were left guessing who would get the cut next.
This was also the second townhall meeting in two days at the company that was still turning in profits but had resorted to layoffs.
SPH source tip-off
According to a tip-off by a source inside SPH, the mood at the Friday townhall was described as "bad".
Staff who attended were angry as they had their share of unanswered questions.
And based on information provided by at least two sources from SPH, two things that Fernandez said at the meeting stood out as they rankled and exasperated a majority of those who attended.
These pertained to the events leading up to the retrenchment of staff just the day before on Thursday, the jarring hiring and firing practices, and the English newspaper product's performance.
1. Blamed information technologies department
On Thursday, Oct. 12, it was reported that same-day terminations occurred at SPH when its retrenchment exercise was carried out in earnest.
One of the anecdotes that trickled out of the company was that some affected staff only had an inkling something was wrong when they could not log into the company network.
This was apparently an issue brought up at Friday's townhall with Fernandez.
In response, Fernandez said it was the IT department that was responsible for locking people out of the system and suggested they could do better.
2. ST to hire 10 new foreign correspondents
Fernandez had apparently also flashed a slide and told staff that The Straits Times is doing well.
He also said at the townhall meeting that ST will hire 10 new foreign correspondents.
The SPH source said this only resulted in more questions than answers.
For example: Why are foreign desks cuts relatively minor compared to news desk? Why fire then hire? And why prioritise foreign news?
And more importantly, why were junior reporters let go but not more senior supervisors and how will this impact ST's ability to retain new talent?
The SPH source also said the closure of AsiaOne was not addressed at the townhall meeting.
If you are one of those affected by Singapore Press Holdings retrenchment exercise, do contact us at [email protected] if you wish to share your experience. Your identity will be kept anonymous and any identifiers removed.
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