Asia News Network fondly remembers Poh Tip's visionary leadership


SINGAPORE: Editors of Asia's leading alliance, the Asia News Network (ANN), have offered condolences and shared their sadness over the demise of Datuk Ng Poh Tip, The Star's former group chief editor and a founding member of the network.

The 81-year-old, appointed to her post at The Star in 1993 and where she served till 2003, passed away at her home in Subang Jaya on Saturday (May 25).

"As a founding member of ANN - with the mission to Bring Asia Closer - Poh Tip provided that essential vision, energy and commitment that brought into reality this vital newspaper network meant to tell each other and the world what Asia was achieving," said Mr Mahfuz Anam, chairman of the Network and editor and publisher of Bangladesh's leading English daily, The Daily Star.

ANN was established as a voluntary alliance of leading news titles in the region in 1999, to promote journalism from an Asian perspective.

Those joining the network committed to sharing some of their key stories with members of the alliance, to widen knowledge and awareness of happenings in their countries with readers across Asia.

From a pioneering group of six titles in 1999, the network now boasts 20 members across the region.

"Poh Tip's hard work and dedication inspired us all," noted Anam.

"There were many initial challenges and diversity of views, which she patiently and efficiently resolved through her extraordinary negotiating skills," he remembered.

Notes Ravindra Kumar, editor and managing director of The Statesman of India: "Ng Poh Tip was not just a founding member of ANN and its former chairperson, she was the moral and ethical compass who guided many members of the network even after she retired from The Star.

"Her calm and gentle demeanour, and her grace, masked a steely temperament that could always tell right from wrong," he said.

"I will miss a respected senior in the profession and a genial person with whom I shared many escapades, including one where we reached the outskirts of Beijing because we believed that her knowledge of Mandarin was sufficient to instruct a cab driver," he added.

Passionate about encouraging credible journalism in Malaysia and beyond, Poh Tip was often at the forefront of efforts to further the same, often being hands-on, in grappling with the challenges.

It was this that endeared her to many.

Said Pana Janviroj, former president of The Nation of Thailand and ANN's former executive director: "Poh Tip was a monumental figure in Malaysian and Asian journalism. She left behind a legacy that few Asian editors can match.

"And yet, in her humble way, she would not have admitted to the success or allow anyone to portray her in such light," he noted.

"She had an unforceful way of going about things – but always forceful in her judgments. She was 99% right most of the time and those who work with her could always count on her wisdom," he added.

Star Media Group's chief content officer Datin Paduka Esther Ng applauded her leadership in Malaysia and beyond.

"I was a rookie reporter when Poh Tip became the group chief editor - the first woman chief editor not only for The Star but the country. We were so proud of her! She opened the door for the rest of us," she remarked.

"I remember her as a sweet but meticulous editor, firm but always kind. Many of us were recruits back then but she took the trouble to know each of our names," she said.

"She was a towering figure and stood as a constant reminder that one didn’t have to be formidable to be a good boss, as her people loved her for her compassion as much as her leadership," she added.

Poh Tip could hold her own in a boardroom dominated by men and that stood out for The Straits Times' ANN editor Shefali Rekhi and the network's editor and director.

"One of her first words to me, when I was introduced to her at a closed-door ANN board meeting in Hong Kong in 2002, was - don't get intimidated by all these men and ask me anytime if you need more information," she recalled.

"It was this warm assurance that she and several other members extended that encouraged many of us, from the next generation of ANN editors to do our part to contribute to ANN, a unique editorial effort to bring Asia closer, which remains unrivaled to this day, in the region," she said.

"Together, we crafted the founding principles and operating guidelines of ANN that were inspired by those of South-East Asia's Asean grouping," she added.

In an interview for a book commemorating 10 years of ANN, Poh Tip said: "I think one of the reasons why ANN is so successful is because nobody is trying to dominate another person.”

The book was produced by the German political think-tank Konrad Adenauer Foundation, one of the early supporters of ANN.

"I have lost a personal friend," said Sin Chew Daily's former chief editor Pook Ah Lek.

She was a "friendly and helpful journalist," he remarked.

"When both of us covered the visit of our former prime minister (Tun Dr) Mahathir Mohamad to Washington DC in 1989, she didn’t mind mentoring the young journalists," he said.

"Poh Tip is gone but she will remain with us and in ANN," he added.

Zhou Li, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of China Daily, said Poh Tip was more than just an ANN colleague.

"She was a mentor and a friend to me," he said.

"From the very start of ANN, Poh Tip's vision and leadership set a course for excellence that we continue to follow. She had an extraordinary ability to see potential and possibility where others saw challenges," he noted.

"Her memory will live on in the hearts of all of us who had the privilege of knowing her and in the continued success of ANN," he added.

As an ANN Board member Poh Tip created, shaped, and fine-tuned ANN, noted Pana.

"She rarely missed ANN meetings which tended to rotate around the region and was a friend among friends with other editors from ANN member media.

"She supported the first ANN office in Bangkok by sending a full-time editorial staff from Kuala Lumpur to jump-start the website and regional editorial operation.

"She was instrumental in bringing a member from China into ANN which was not an easy feat," he added.

"Poh Tip was a delightful friend," noted former Nation Multimedia Group chief executive officer Suthichai Yoon, who championed the establishment of ANN along with other leading editors of the region.

"Above all, she was a highly professional journalist. She was one of the untiring and devoted founders of ANN from the beginning. I will always have fond memories of her," he said.

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