ST holding reunion of past and present staff to mark 170th year

ST holding reunion of past and present staff to mark 170th year
Straits Times staff gather for a group shot outside the Times House in 2002, days before the ST newsroom moved to Toa Payoh North. The iconic building had housed the ST office for more than four decades. On July 18 and 19, ST is hosting a reunion of its former and current staff, so they can catch up and reminisce about old times.

Cigarette smoke hung in the air, and amid the incessant clatter of typewriters and frenzied ringing of telephones, editors yelled and reporters thumped out stories as the news of the day took shape.

The Straits Times newsroom of old was loud, gritty, filled with larger-than-life characters and a camaraderie found nowhere else, according to former journalists who joined the broadsheet in the 1970s and 1980s.

For more than four decades, the ST office was housed in the mustard-coloured Times House building at 390, Kim Seng Road, before moving to Toa Payoh North in 2002.

"The air was perpetually foul. Many journalists smoked in the newsroom," said freelance writer Philip Lee, 73, who joined in 1974 and spent more than 20 years at the paper. In 1987, editor Leslie Fong banned smoking in the newsroom.

Mr Sunny Wee, 66, who spent 15 years at ST and was once its associate news editor, remembers the pressure to get a scoop. "We had to put in the extra effort to get our stories," he said.

"We came in early and left work late. Even after work, we had to meet our contacts to get tip-offs."

With editors demanding high standards, strategic communications senior manager Shirley Tan-Oehler, 55, a reporter in the 1980s, recalled how tough her bosses were.

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