Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mano Sabnani resigns Today - the real picture

by "manosabnani"
2 Nov 2006


Hello everyone

I registered this nickname a little more than a week ago after I heard that there were parties inside Mediacorp who were making a move to sack Mano Sabnani as Today's chief editor. Little did I know how ugly it would become.

On the surface, the corporate communications machine of Mediacorp will present everything as very nice and orderly. What you read here will be a reasonably accurate account related to me of what actually happened and not what you will read in Today, Channel News Asia, Straits Times or Business Times.

I had waited until I got a clear picture from my contact before I post this, therefore there was bit of a delay.

Mano is not a bad person. He may be dull and unexciting, even a coward before the civil servants who oversee him, but he was treated as pariah by his peers.

On Oct 31, Today had a senior editors' meeting which Shaun Seow presided. Mano lost his editorial independence not during the recent Mr Brown affair, but some years earlier, during the Val Chua affair. For those of you not familiar with the matter, just do a Google search on Val Chua, Mano Sabnani and you will find a lot of material on the Net. Since the Val Chua affair, Mano had to report to Shaun within the Mediacorp stable. All reports involving cabinet ministers must be vetted by Shaun and his team at Mediacorp HQ, not at Today.

There are no real editors at Today, they are all a bunch of word processors. They send good reporters like Derrick Paulo and Ansley Ng to cover political happenings, then censor and rewrite everything to suit their political masters.

In fact, Derrick Paulo mounted a campaign within the Today office to protest the newspaper's suspension of Mr Brown. He got many of his colleagues to wear brown on a day when Shaun was to give a talk to the staff there. What he did not know was that had severely undermined Mano, who was already being pushed out by the other senior people in Mediacorp. They saw how weak Mano was in front of Derrick and took full advantage of the situation.

Shaun is a former president scholar and his entire career is scripted to perfection. As long as he serves his political masters, his career will be smooth. Even the conviction of Zahara Latif for maid abuse within the Seow household did little more than embarrass him. Goh Chok Tong wrote a letter to support Zahara during her mitigation hearing.

During the Oct 31 meeting, Mano was not able to speak because his ex-gratia payment was held back unless he played ball. Shaun humiliated Mano by paying lip service to his contribution and saying how the newspaper will move ahead without him. Most of the editors were too afraid for their jobs and kept generally quiet as they watched Mano run to the ground and abused. This coming from Shaun, was no surprise, for like Zahara, he is an abuser. Shaun is many years younger than Mano and behaved like an arrogant brat wielding too much power for his own good.

Worse was to come. After a polite round of applause for Mano's three years in the newspaper, they proceeded to the newsroom where Mano's resignation was announced to all the staff. All of Today's staff gathered outside Mano's room. Shaun announced the changes and talked about new directions, while Mano sat inside his room (glass walls) in full view to all the staff, with his face buried in his hands in front of his computer screen.

Somebody in the crowd interrupted Shaun when he felt that Shaun had gone too far. He asked for the real reason why Mano was leaving. Shaun then said that there are many confidential things that cannot be publicised.

Slowly there was a pair of hands clapping, then more and more. They wanted Mano to come out and address them. Mano came out, and keeping in mind that his payment has been withheld, said he had nothing to say. They wouldn't let him go and kept clapping. Mano had no choice but to respond. So he said to the staff that they should not worry about him and move on. His voice was shaking, then he went back into his room a sad and broken man, humiliated and traumatised.

Led by Shaun and director Philip Koh, Today brought back PN Balji, who was the founding editor of the paper. Balji is a much more colourful character than Mano but is of questionable character. Balji is closely tied to TT Durai, the disgraced head of the former National Kidney Foundation. The auditor's report into the NKF fraud and deception showed that Balji was one of the parties who flew first class with Durai. Together with Durai and his gang, they abused the charity's funds, but while Durai is now in the docks, Balji has gotten away scot free because he knows how to butter up his political masters.

More worrying for many of the Today staff is that a new guy named Walter Fernandez was brought in from Channel News Asia where he was a faithful lap dog of Shaun Seow to oversee Today's day-to-day operations. Walter is a scholar and another spineless idiot who is where he is only because he knows how and whose balls to carry.

I will update further when I hear of more developments.

Original Mediacorp Press Release:

Key changes at MediaCorp

Moves in line with aim to become Asia's top media company

Wednesday • November 1, 2006

AS THE world neatly folds into one long, connected information superhighway, homegrown media conglomerate MediaCorp yesterday announced key structural and management changes to position itself as Asia's top media company.

Said Mr Lucas Chow, CEO of MediaCorp: "As digital technology brings about greater media convergence, we ourselves are forging our own media platforms more closely together. The changes we're implementing capture that spirit of convergence."

Among the key changes announced yesterday was the company's move towards providing the consumer with more choices of where and how to consume their news, with an aggressive plan to merge its news operations across television, radio, print, the Internet and mobile devices.

Said Deputy CEO (News, Radio, Print) Shaun Seow, who will lead the integration charge for MediaCorp: "The aim is to serve audiences better by tapping on the strengths of the different media, and creating a seamless experience for the consumer. We want to be the leading English news provider for Asia, and we believe that it is an achievable target."

A committee is looking at the integration initiative, which will lead, among other things, to a "newsplex" housing all the different newsrooms under one roof in MediaCorp's new premises at Bukit Batok.

Mr Murali Subramaniam will leave his position as Today's Associate/Day Editor to take up appointment as VP (Editorial Operations) to assist in the integration efforts from Jan 1, 2007.

MediaCorp's efforts to raise the bar will also come from the recruitment of experienced staff such as Mr P N Balji, ex-Editor-in-Chief of Today, who has rejoined MediaCorp as its Editorial Director. He will assist Mr Seow to improve editorial standards across the board.

With Mr Mano Sabnani resigning his editorship, Mr Balji will be devoting a significant part of his time to growing Today. He will be assisted by Mr Walter Fernandez, fresh from helming Channel News-Asia's International desk.

Mr Fernandez assumes the newly-created No 2 position of Managing Editor at Today, and has set his sights on establishing a vibrant electronic presence for one of Singapore's fastest growing newspapers. Mr Fernandez will work closely with Mr Rahul Pathak, who will continue to be Today's Associate/Night Editor.

Mr Chow said: "By increasing the bench strength of our journalists, we will strive to become Asia's premium brand for news — whether it's in the form of video, audio or text. I am especially proud of the strides made by Today, which has just been pushed up to the No 2 position in Singapore after just six years. Everyone in Today, past and present, has contributed to its success, and I would like to wish Mano well in his future endeavours, even as I welcome Balji back to MediaCorp."

Added Mr Balji: "There is a new leadership at MediaCorp. The statements that have come from this new leadership excite me. As the media undergoes deep and dramatic changes, there is a great opportunity to unify and exploit the different platforms to provide a real information highway.

"Today, the print arm of MediaCorp, can become an integral part of this highway and show that print can survive in a fast-changing media jungle."

Mr Sabnani, who leaves the company after more than three-and-a-half years at the helm as mananging director (MD) and Editor-in-Chief of Today, said he was pleased with the progress the newspaper had achieved during his tenure.

"When I came on board in 2003, there were still questions asked of whether the newspaper would survive or fail," he said. "In our last financial year, we made $5.8 million in profits and we just moved ahead of Lianhe Zaobao as Singapore's second best read newspaper. I am very proud of the team that made this happen and wish Today all the best in its future growth."

Mr Philip Koh, who is concurrently MD of MediaCorp Publishing, the magazines subsidiary, will oversee Today's publishing and business development functions.

MediaCorp is also confident the move will provide synergistic opportunities for its newspaper and magazine publishing.

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