February 16th, 2012
TREmeritus, the successor to Temasek Review, is taking tentative steps towards respectability, with an editor emerging from behind the website’s traditional curtain of anonymity to appear at a public forum this evening.
Announcing himself the sole Singapore-based editor of TREmeritus, Richard Wan said that he and his colleagues felt it would be a good idea to “show a face to the public” and project themselves as “responsible” and “pro-Singapore”. “We are not terrorists,” he said.
In previous incarnations, the site has been called Wayang Party, Temasek Review and Temasek Review Emeritus. It disappeared for several months soon after last May’s elections and resurfaced as TREmeritus (TRE) in December. Since then, the site’s ranking has climbed rapidly and has just hit 102, overtaking the mainstream Today Online, according to Wan.
He said that coming out into the open would make it easier for the site to get information from sources, including to verify the many anonymous tip-offs that the editors regularly receive.
He also said that TRE welcomed engagement with the government. He revealed that minister of state Halimah Yaacob and an aide of minister Tan Chuan-Jin had written to the site to correct information carried there.
While TRE was “99 percent” pro-opposition, this was necessary to balance the pro-PAP stand of mainstream media, he said. But he countered the perception that TRE was especially supportive of the Singapore Democratic Party. He said that the perception was due to the large number of SDP articles carried on the site. This, he said, was because the SDP and the Reform Party were the only two that accepted the site’s open invitation around the time of the last election to sign up for an account that would allow them a more direct method of contributing content.
Furthermore, SDP had very good writers who produced a steady stream of articles. He joked that SDP should “slow down a bit” to avoid giving people the impression that TRE was partisan.
Wan revealed that the site is grappling with the issue of how much to moderate comments. On the one hand, editors wanted comments to reflect ground sentiments. Furthermore, they did not have the resources to moderate all the discussions on the site. On the other hand, they recognised the need to edit racist and vulgar comments. Also, the site wanted to promote intelligent discussion. “After a while, it’s quite tiring to have all these nonsense comments,” said Wan.
He said that TREmeritus would continue to give space to hard-hitting articles, including those that would not pass The Online Citizen’s “more stringent” editing. He and Philemon revealed that on one occasion, the TOC editor had passed TRE an “unverifiable rumour” that TOC could not publish. They stressed that there was no formal coordination between their sites, but that the old enmity that existed between TOC and TRE’s previous incarnations was over.
The question-and-answer session brought out a candid admission that a more responsible TRE is still a work in progress. A member of the audience questioned Wan about a posting today on former Workers’ Party MP Yaw Shin Leong’s troubles. In addition to repeating the widely circulated rumour about an affair with another married WP member, TRE referred to liaisons with five other women.
Poring over an iPad handed to him from the audience, Wan professed surprise and said that the version he had written and posted just before the forum included no such mention of additional dalliances. This must have been added later by one of the overseas editors, he said, adding that he would fix it later. “This is why, every day, I only sleep five or six hours. I don’t know how long I can last,” he said, to laughter.