On the day before former president S R Nathan took over as executive chairman of The Straits Times in 1984, he was exhorted by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to take care of the paper, which the latter likened to a "bowl of china".
"You break it, I can piece it together, but it will never be the same. Try not to," said the late Mr Lee.
Yesterday, The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez told the more than 200 guests who attended a celebration to mark the paper's 170th birthday that "the fine china is intact".
In fact, the newspaper's July 1 revamp across its print, online and mobile platforms has given it "a new gloss and a new glow", said Mr Fernandez, who took over as the paper's editor in 2012.
"The challenge for my colleagues and me, going forward, is to safeguard this precious piece of china," said Mr Fernandez, 49, in his speech at the launch of an exhibition on Singapore. "Not just as a museum piece, but to ensure that this family heirloom continues to be valued and treasured, relevant to the changing needs of ST readers, and the wider Singapore community."
Called Singapore STories: Then. Now. Tomorrow, the exhibition at the ArtScience Museum was officially launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night to mark ST's 170th anniversary.
The free exhibition, chronicling stories and photographs from ST's archives since its launch in 1845, will be open to the public from tomorrow to Oct 4. It was put together by a curatorial team comprising Straits Times Press general manager Susan Long, ST's picture editor Stephanie Yeow, chief photographer Joyce Fang, arts correspondent Huang Lijie, ArtScience Museum executive director Honor Harger and curator Julia Vasko.
CapitaLand is the presenting sponsor. Standard Chartered Bank is a gold sponsor and Best Denki is the equipment sponsor.
CapitaLand president and group chief executive Lim Ming Yan told ST the exhibition not only looks back at the past 170 years but also tries to paint "an interesting picture of the future".
The property developer crowdsourced for ideas on how to build the futuristic Singapore city earlier this year. These ideas will be on display at the exhibition as well.
Guests invited to last night's preview said the exhibition told the story of the paper and Singapore's growth over nearly two centuries.
Among them was freelance writer Leong Sek Choon, 54, who said visitors will get not only "a sense of how the nation came about and developed but also how the paper evolved".
Former ST editor-in-chief Peter Lim, who retired in 1990, said memories of his time in the newsroom are still fresh in his mind. "Journalism is so dynamic and timeless... There may be different personalities, different circumstances but it's the same human conditions. It's the same old story but with exciting new developments."
Right from the start, ST saw itself as being identified with the general interests of Singapore society. It saw Singapore through world wars, economic depression and race riots, said Mr Fernandez.
The paper has also fought off many competitors and "rode waves of change" in technology, from the introduction of the telegraph and the telephone to the Internet.
"Through it all, The Straits Times survived, and thrived, and lived to tell the story," said Mr Fernandez.
"And it is this that gives us a certain quiet confidence that we will see through the current turbulence in the media industry."
This article was first published on July 16, 2015.
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