2 Nov 2006

Mano Resigns From Today - The Real Picture?

From Sammyboy's Coffee Shop Talk
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.

MediaCorp Press Release in 2003
P N Balji will relinquish his position as CEO of MediaCorp Press Ltd and Editor-In-Chief of TODAY when his 3-year contract expires on 19 July 2003. Mr. Balji, who is 55 years old, has agreed to stay on as Executive Advisor.

He will be succeeded by Mr. Mano Sabnani, who comes to the job with impressive credentials

Channel News Asia October 2006
Mr P N Balji has rejoined the group as Editorial Director to help raise journalistic standards across the group.

He will also directly supervise the TODAY newspaper after the resignation of Mr Mano Sabnani.

Related Links:
TODAY's Editor-in-Chief Resigns


TODAY Supporter said...

Thank you so much for the revelation which so many already knew to different extent.

They have heard this from their friends at the Straits Times and TODAY and the Chinese press at large.

By the way, if Mano had lost his editorial independence a few years ago, (not that there was much 'independence' in the first place)then Shaun should take responsibility for the Mr. Brown affair, and anything that had happened since a few years ago.

To the staff of Today, our sympathies and support to your former Editor and to all of you in this period of shame for the 'powers' and during this period of low morale for you.

We could see that there is intense jeolousy from some due to the success of TODAY and their attraction to advertisers. We just hope that Advertisers boycott the other papers.

Anonymous said...


Shaun Seow
Group Managing Director
MediaCorp Pte Ltd

Shaun brings with him experience in both print and broadcast journalism. A President’s Scholar, he graduated with a Masters of Arts degree in Economics from Cambridge University and spent 8 years as a journalist and Economics Editor with The Straits Times.

He was in the Ministry of Finance before becoming a journalist. As a journalist, he spent time working in Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun. He joined SBC in the mid-90s and was appointed as CEO of MediaCorp News in 1999. Shaun was one of the prime movers in the launch of Channel NewsAsia, a dedicated TV news and information channel which is fast gaining recognition in the region and beyond.

In August 2003, Shaun was also appointed Executive Vice-President of Group Communications, overseeing all aspects of corporate communications, government relations and public affairs management at Group level.

In April 2004, he was promoted to Group Managing Director, a newly-created position in which he oversees MediaCorp News, MediaCorp TV12, Group Communications and all news content and editorial policies across Radio, TV and newspapers, reporting directly to the Group CEO. He is also a Director and Editorial Advisor of MediaCorp Press.

Shaun was appointed an Eisenhower Fellow in 2003 and studied the US media industry.

Anonymous said...

singapore is a company town, the location of singapore inc; the newspapers and mediacorp are part of the company PR outfit

some attempt at sibling rivalry and variety is made, but within strict limits

Denzuko1 said...

Raising standards in journalism? To what standard? PM Lee's standard?

Somehow, I find that the bloggers reports are more insightful than the main stream media.

Retiree said...

Well said, denzuko1 !

As someone had alluded to and as the World Press (print form) had acknowledged the INTERNET AND THE BLOGGERS are now the DEFACTO MAIN-STREAM MEDIA.

Most of our children (at least mine and those I know) do NOT read our local papers as regularly as we did in our youth.

(I am not saying that they do not read at all. My observations show that MUCH FEWER of them read the local dailies, except perhaps the very readable TODAY and the sensation-seeking NEW PAPER).

Anonymous said...

What a same, Although its not being
there yet, the Today newspaper is the closest thing we have in an independent newspaper with it critical news analysis unlike the
ST which is full of propaganda bullshits.
With this event, it looks like we are heading the opposite direction
in terms of press freedom. ie towards the North Korean style.
Do we still believe all the bull from the ND rally speeches?

Anonymous said...

sori, anonymous 05:47 first sentence should read
What a SHAME!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the real story

Parent said...

We should not allow our children and our schools to buy the Straits Times at our expense.

I do not see why the students and schools are compelled to buy the Straits Times.

This is very bad when the students may already have access to the papers in the libraries, CCs, Clubs, Associations or in their own homes.

.........Resulting in many families having two sets of papers at least once a week (ie one set from the school on compulsion; and one from their regular news vendors.

The MICA (Ministry of the Info, Communication and the Arts)should stop this blatant practice by the Straits Time to increase their sales at the expense of the public.


why not ?

Unless the purpose is to reward the ST staff with large bonuses and fat pay at the expense of the larger public good!


Anonymous said...

Today is free no need to buy; the question whether you want to read it

Senior Citizen said...

TODAY is much more newsworthy with important and concise news without the sensationalising of news like some other papers.

Busy people will get all what they need to know on the way to work, on the MRT, in their cars, bus-stops, etc....


They do not need to sensationalise with big pictures. We have seen how some of the other papers go about their scheme in order to get increased subscriptions.

To the new Mgmt of TODAY, you have a big responsibility to the public NOT to some jokers !

(TODAY is the better alternative we have with balanced views, though it is not ideal and does toe the line obviously all these years. And what Mano and his staff get in return ? - INGRATITUDE from the jokers)

Anonymous said...

Here are some interesting facts

MediaCorp and TODAY want to build an information superhighway. But they do not know how to make themselves more credible. Fewer and fewer people are believing the govt linked newspapers and broadcasters these days. Credibility is going down by the day

TODAY says it sets the reader thinking. Recent changes, such as sacking of the editor, show MediaCorp and its units are actually trying to stop the people from getting the truth. They actually stop people thinking

TODAY should now change its slogan to "we STOP you thinking"

The people taking over at TODAY seem like sycophants. Balji left in 2003 to go and smell the roses but he has actually been smelling the govt recently, trying to win work from them.

He is now a spin doctor put into TODAY to make sure the votes come in in the 2010 general elections. He has little credibility after associating himself with TT Durai at NKF; flying first class etc. He milked NKF like Durai

Walter Fernandez is inexperienced and just a side-kick of Shaun Seow, the abuser whose wife got into trouble with the law in abusing a maid. He abuses his staff and is in a hurry to get rid of anyone who stands in the way of his getting to the top at MediaCorp. Even Lucas Chow, the group CEO is scared of him; Shaun Seow the brat.

Mano, apparently a softie, hardened up in recent days and , according to staffers, tried to keep TODAY independent-minded. Shaun did not like that and took cues from his political masters to get rid of him.

Walter will try to get rid of other independent-minded journalists in TODAY. That will be a pity. TODAY will then be just like the Straight-laced Times. Last few days, it is already not that different from ST; not worth reading anymore.

Walter is a chap who fishesin his own backyard. His girl friends have always been from the company where he works; previously ST and now MediaCorpse. He uses them and dumps them. No qualms about feeling etc, this chap. He has very low EQ. Shaun Seow told staff on Wednesday that Walter was engaged to a female reporter in Today; apparently Walter has already dumped this one and SS did not know

Overall, the media is in for lousy times. SPH is already tightly controlled and now TODAY IS MUZZLED.

The way to go for readers and intelligent thinking Singaporeans is to get their news on the internet, from blogs etc. Mainstream media is dead. MediaCorp is now MediaCorpse. They can merge whatever platforms they have. Nobody will believe them

By Anonymous, at 11/03/2006 04:09:09 PM

Anonymous said...

no offense but this post sounds pretty biased as well.
I guess the only way is for us discerning readers to read both sides of the story and make our own judgement.
Hey, who knows, the TODAY report could have some element of truth in it as well.

Anonymous said...

of course most of was true (in fact there is no obvious false information in it); mano did resign; they did have a major reorganization; bilaji did come back; etc

like a bikini, what it reveals is interesting, what it hides is vital

lee hsien tau said...

In the days when I was at SPH, Shaun Seow was nobody I bothered to even maintain eye-contact. (I do have eye-contact with the likes of Felix Soh, Cherian George and so on.)

Never in my dreams could I have imagined Shaun Seow booting out Mano Sabnani. And that's not to say backstabbing is rare in the restricted world of Singapore newscasting. Keeping an innocent face and reporting rubbish is the way to go for MSM. But not my cup of tea, which in those days meant 15 cents for sugar dissolved in water the color of urine.

Anonymous said...

It's kinda pitch black when the lights go off. How does Shaun connect with his significant other maid abuser without stumbling?

It's better for Dhanabalan, at least. He could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Brian said...

The only straight about Shaun and the likes of him is the hair I suppose.