Farewell to a true-blue newsman

PETALING JAYA: Tributes poured in for veteran newsman and Malay Mail Online’s editor-in-chief Datuk Wong Sai Wan who died of heart failure at the age of 59. Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, in expressing his condolences, said Wong’s passing was a great loss to journalism.

In a statement issued by Istana Negara, the King noted Wong’s contributions to journalism since starting out with The Star’s Negri Sembilan bureau in the 1980s.

Wong Chee Mun, 30, said his father was taken to the Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC) emergency ward at 5.30am yesterday when he felt a shortness of breath.

“At about 6am, he stopped breathing. The doctors applied CPR but were not successful, ” he added.

Describing his dad as an amazing father, Chee Mun said: “I grew up learning to play golf with him. He funded the education of my sister and me, and we are blessed for that. I would like to thank everyone who reached out to us.”

Wong, who had a series of ailments, suffered two heart attacks and also a stroke recently.

He was scheduled to get his AstraZeneca shot on May 25.

Born in Seremban, Wong began his career as a journalist with The Star in 1984 and became the newspaper’s Seremban bureau chief.

He was also The Star’s first correspondent in Hong Kong and was later made senior news editor and executive editor before leaving in 2013 to join Ancom subsidiary Redberry Sdn Bhd as director of special projects.

He was promoted to CEO in 2015, heading the group’s media division which published The Malay Mail. In 2018, he was re-designated group chief media officer.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in expressing his condolences, said he had known Wong for many years and described the late newsman as “an epitome of quality journalism”.

“He was a great mentor to many past and present journalists in the country and well-known for his kindness and humility, ” he added.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said Wong had been a mentor to many journalists throughout his illustrious career.

“He will be dearly missed by many. I wish his family strength during this difficult time, ” he added.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said he was deeply saddened by the news.

Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari tweeted his condolences, describing Wong’s death as a loss to the media industry in a crucial period.

“We have lost another giant in the industry as we all fight against Covid-19, ” he wrote.

Star Media Group (SMG) adviser Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai said he was devastated to learn about the passing of his former colleague, adding that they had only recently spoken.

“He told me that he wanted to retire on reaching 60 as the job was too stressful, ” he added.

Chun Wai paid tribute to Wong for being a “true 24/7 old school journalist”.

“He had excellent contacts and I am proud to have been his colleague for many decades. He was always helpful and ever ready to help a fellow journalist, ” he said, recalling that both of them covered the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

SMG chief content officer Esther Ng described Wong as a true newsman who never “switched off”.

“I worked closely with Sai Wan when he was news editor and I was part of the team overseeing the newsdesk.

“He was the sergeant-major who shouted orders and was tough on us when we fell behind, but a modern-day father who showed how much he cared for us at the end of the day. I’ll look back on his tough love days and boisterous laugh fondly. I’ll miss him, ” she said.

Karangkraf chairman Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub said this of his teh tarik buddy: “RIP, bro. I have lost another good friend. The EIC’s (editor-in-chief) job is tough and stressful. Last year, Sinar Harian lost two EICs – Datuk Jalil Ali and Datuk Baharum Mahusin. Occupational hazard!”

Former Bernama chairman Datuk Seri Azman Ujang said: “Wong was a product of the old school of hard knocks and pre-social media days. And a hardcore print media survivor until the Malay Mail saw its final print edition under his stewardship on Nov 30,2018.

“I could feel it was the saddest day in his life when after 122 years, the grand old man of journalism had to bow out and make way for online only.”

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