Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s (Time photo) advice to people to continue working past the retirement age if they wished to live longer was already on the Channel NewsAsia website and The Straits Times online when I checked last night.
"Retirement means death. If you ask me, for me, retirement would have meant death," Channel NewsAsia quoted him as saying. So, the Old Man isn’t about to do a Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or George Washington and quit politics, I thought to myself, glad that the Father of Singapore, now approaching his 85th birthday, is as committed as ever to the affairs of the nation, which he has led to stunning economic success, and still takes an active role in the government headed by his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
I wanted to read more, which the Straits Times website said would appear in the morning newspaper.
And what a story it was! The blunt-spoken, no-nonsense Father of Singapore was touchingly revealing, sharing the most intimate details, including how long he might be expected to live.
But did The Straits Times do justice to the story? We will compare it with the freesheet Today’s report. First The Straits Times:
The Minister Mentor has calculated his date with destiny.
His mother died of stroke at 74. His father was 94 when he died. Now that MM Lee Kuan Yew himself will turn 85 in September, he says: "I’ve reached the halfway point."
But he is living long and successfully… as his days are high in stimuli and he is fully connected to the world.
He would have shrunk away if he had retired, he said. "Retirement means death," he said…
Compare that with Today:
The first wakeup call came at age 34, when his smoking habit led to the loss of voice in the midst of campaigning,
Later, it was the jolt of seeing his own beer belly in a photo and feeling tired and out of breath.
More recently, another turning point in Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s life came when, in 1996, he felt a pain in the neck while cycling. It turned out to be a clogged heart vessel for which he underwent surgery.
Said Mr Lee: "Had I not known something was wrong and just cycled on, I might have gone, at 74, like my mother — so I’ve missed that deadline. Next deadline, my father’s fall at 87" …
Which story reads better? The Straits Times version is comprehensive: all the important details are in the first few paragraphs. But Today is more intimate. Instead of starting with the gist of the story, it lets it unfold scene by scene. Further down the story, it says:
Now approaching his 85th birthday, Mr Lee told his audience… how his father’s fall at age 87 had resulted in a broken arm and the start of his physical decline. He died at 94.
Today’s report is more more like a story. And I think it’s better for a newspaper because readers would have already got the gist of it on the net, television or radio.
But I would prefer the Straits Times report online because it has the key details in the first few pars. It’s the old "pyramid" style of reporting. But that’s how we expect to read the news online now, wanting to get the information fast. The internet has usurped the old role of newspapers, which developed the "pyramid" style to report the news quickly and concisely. Now with news breaking faster on radio, television and the internet, newspaper reports should read more like stories.