Dear TNP Diehard ...
D ear Diehard,
Today we reminisce,
because tomorrow we cease to exist…
At least not in the way we were,
So bold, so brash, so characteristically cocksure.
I have long believed that The New Paper is an unconventional tabloid in a highly conservative society.
Unconventional because we were never really a tabloid in the Fleet Street, sensationalist sense of the word; no Page 3 girl, no trumped-up fiction, no pandering to perversion, or paparazzi pursuits.
Yet you would be forgiven if you subscribed to the notion, held by critics who judge our content by our cover, that The New Paper is at best trivial and at worst trash.
It is often difficult to go beyond the face of our newspaper to understand the essence of our DNA, our purpose, our populist niche in a polarised, diverse world.
A former TNP editor used to defend it this way: "We do not sensationalise the news; we report sensational news."
There is a distinct difference. And you, Dear Diehard, knew the difference.
You read us right.
Call it purposeful journalism. We were purposely, passionately, about people.
In being different, we wanted to make a difference.
This was so in our emphasis on visual storytelling. This was especially true of our focus on the people whose lives we touched, and whose plight moved and galvanised us all.
In the 80s, founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew felt a need for such a newspaper to serve those less inclined to read the more sober broadsheets.
The intended audience: Blue collar, the young, the bochap.
We became the first full-colour newspaper in Singapore. We wanted to be innovative at a time when the idea wasn't a strategic imperative. The newsroom thrived - and sometimes tripped - in a culture of organised chaos.
We were young and brash, occasionally radical and always, well, New.
Twenty-eight years ago, TNP was conceived to be bold, akin to a shopping mall with window dressing screaming huge discounts. Yet, within, there would be pockets of complex information packaged with brevity, clarity and often visually.
Somehow, you grew to read us right.
So, too, Prof Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large. "Oh," he once said, "I enjoy reading it every day.
"If you want to have your news in sound bytes - but not distorted - simple, clear and accurate, then The New Paper fills that niche."
And Dr Kanwaljit Soin, ex-Nominated MP: "(The New Paper)… has popular appeal. It has found a niche in a group of readers who would otherwise probably not have read a paper every day."
And Prof Chan Heng Chee, Ambassador-at-Large and academic: "You entertain as you go along, and that's fine, because once you keep your reader hooked, the reader will read the serious news as well as the lighter news."
Fleet Street took notice, too. In 1998, Peter Preston, the former editor of The Guardian, wrote in The Observer: "... the nature of (TNP's) readership counts for rather more (than its circulation). They are young. They didn't read newspapers before and now read only the New one…
"The New Paper is a tabloid with lots of white space, big print and single-sentence paragraphs. Its front page is always a single hit: Usually a picture and a superimposed headline, but occasionally just type: "Plots. Lies. Twisted Words".
"Inside though, the plots and lies are painstakingly disentangled…
"Explanation is the key. Questions, answers. It's bouncy and never boring…
"The ingenuity is constant, and so, thinly disguised, is the educative purpose. The New Paper is a friend, taking your hand in a difficult world and helping you to make sense of it."
He, too, read us right.
Back in the day, a bunch of TNPers (as we call ourselves) used to engage in a strange ritual. After the newspaper was put to bed, we'd gather at a colleague's pre-war home at Portsdown Road.
There, lulled by the delicate glow of candlelight, fuelled by alcohol, we'd bask in the prose of Bob Dylan.
He, too, was once young and brash, and occasionally radical. Now that the rock poet-balladeer has gained mainstream recognition with the Nobel Prize for Literature, it's perhaps fitting that we end on a verse adapted from Dylan's On A Night Like This:
We got much to talk about
And much to reminisce,
It sure is right, on a night like this,
To thank you, Dear Diehard,
for faithfully reading us right.
The ingenuity is constant, and so, thinly disguised, is the educative purpose. The New Paper is a friend, taking your hand in a difficult world and helping you to make sense of it.
— Peter Preston, former editor of The Guardian, writing in The Observer in 1998