Journo who shattered glass ceiling

PETALING JAYA: Datuk Ng Poh Tip, who passed away aged 81 yesterday, was a trailblazer who opened doors for many after her with her mentorship and achievements.

She is notable for having scaled the heights of journalism as the nation’s first woman group chief editor (GCE).

In 2016, she was listed by Prestige, a luxury lifestyle publication, as one of the “12 Malaysian women who smashed the glass ceiling”.

After she retired from The Star, Poh Tip was appointed its group editorial and education adviser and served as executive director of the Asian Centre for Media Studies. She also lent her expertise to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong as an editorial adviser.

Those who had worked with her at The Star, where she served until 2003 in an illustrious career, remember her fondly for her leadership, kindness and influence in their careers.

Star Media Group Bhd (SMG) adviser and Bernama chairman Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai credited her with asking him to rejoin The Star after completing his university studies in 1984.

“I had left the company in 1980 and after my studies, Poh Tip asked me to return to The Star the day after I sat for my final exams,” he said.

It was Poh Tip who planned his career path, he said, adding that he was thankful for the opportunities given.

“She was a professional, kind-hearted and thoughtful person,” he said.

SMG chief content officer Datin Paduka Esther Ng said she was a rookie reporter when Poh Tip became the first woman chief editor not only at The Star, but in the country.

“We were so proud of her! She opened the door for the rest of us.

“She was a meticulous editor, firm but always kind.

“Many of us were new recruits back then, but she took the trouble to know each of our names.

“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,” said Esther.

Rose among the thorns: Poh Tip (centre) chairing a meeting with the then bosses of Star Publications at the former office in Section 13.Rose among the thorns: Poh Tip (centre) chairing a meeting with the then bosses of Star Publications at the former office in Section 13.

Former group managing director and executive deputy chairman Datuk Steven Tan remembers Poh Tip as a team player in senior management while also being the editorial department’s “unflappable leader”.

“She played an important role in helping shape the newspaper’s successful editorial policy and role in the country. She was always receptive to initiating many pioneering ventures, including the company’s social and charitable projects,” he said.

Former group managing director and chief executive officer Datin Linda Ngiam said Poh Tip was receptive to new ideas and even encouraged the editorial and advertising departments to collaborate when Ngiam was the head of advertising and business development.

“It was during those years that The Star produced some of the most innovative joint Ed-Ad products and a whole new revenue stream was created.

“She was my confidante and ‘run-to’ person when I needed a sounding board.

“In recent years, we picked up mahjong. Pity that we had not reached the level of winning money yet!” said Ngiam.

Former GCE Michael Aeria, who worked with Poh Tip for almost 20 years and had also joined her at the South China Morning Post as her deputy when she was its editorial adviser in 2011, said she was the calmest editor he had ever seen.

Farewell day: Poh Tip receiving a bouquet from Esther on her last day as GCE in 2003.Farewell day: Poh Tip receiving a bouquet from Esther on her last day as GCE in 2003.

“She was one of the reasons why the editorial department did so well. She would give us room to grow and try new things.

“Nothing would ever faze her, even when we were running around like headless chickens.

“During my time, journalists were either mad or crazy, but she was able to take control,” he added.

June HL Wong, who writes the So Aunty, So What? column in The Star and was also a former GCE, called Poh Tip a mentor who taught her well.

“As the first woman to head The Star’s editorial department, she was a game changer in a male-dominated profession.

“I was fortunate to have served under her during her 10-year tenure as GCE, during which she gave her editors room to grow and explore bold, innovative story ideas that became the hallmark of the newspaper.

“She was not one for formality and we could address her as Poh Tip. She could come across as formidable too, but she was truly a kind and gentle soul with a great sense of humour,” she added.

Another former GCE, Datuk Leanne Goh, said Poh Tip was the “most genuine person” she had ever known, adding that she opened the door for other female GCEs.

“She ran the editorial department with a fair and steady hand, without any self-interest. She was always willing to listen and guide.

“I still remember that when she offered me a promotion, I wasn’t sure and she said, ‘The women always think they are not ready when they are able. But the men will quickly say yes when they may not be ready!’

“We will truly miss this quiet giant of a leader who brought the editorial department and The Star to greater heights during her time,” added Goh.

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