21 October 2016

Old dogs can learn new tricks, right?

Generation gaps always create all sorts of problems, but not when it comes to core values such as press freedom.

A day after news broke that the South China Morning Post was ditching four well-respected veteran columnists (including our very own Frank Ching, whom we inadvertently missed in our report), young Hong Kong people are showing respect for them.

We couldn’t miss the overwhelming reaction on social media.

Of course, it’s nowhere near the send-off for another old mainstay, David Letterman, who bowed out of late-night television today with a star-studded ensemble and reams of copy about the good and bad old days of his long-running show.

Philip Bowring, Kevin Rafferty, Stephen Vines and Frank Ching are luminaries in their own right, but you couldn’t tell that from how they were farewelled by SCMP.

They got a standard two-week notice but no call from management to thank them for their combined 55 years of service, or at least a small gesture of appreciation.

It hasn’t always been this way.

I’m told that owner Robert Kuok used to take his departing columnists to lunch. I guess that is no longer the practice, 

Hong Kong, after all, was a British colony when these farewell lunches were an SCMP fixture.

In fact, these four gentlemen had been very much around then, helping — as they say — to write a draft of history.

We knew them through their writings, agreed with them and disagreed with them, but we always appreciated their mastery of their craft.

For many of us, their bylines made any newspaper they were associated with worth reading, and although we did not always see their columns everyday, we were reassured by the thought they were still around.

Sure, the years have caught up with them — they might have lost a step or gotten fat fingers — but their commentary has remained sharp and agile.

The French writer Voltaire still inspires us after more than 400 years.

Could these gentlemen reinvent themselves as bloggers?

Netizens are curious if they could be seeing these old-school journos anytime soon in the new media.  

I’m not sure if they’re already writing blogs but they’re likely to be on Facebook where they could be kings of “likes”.

Think of the infinite possibilities of having your own blog. You could keep writing as long as you like and as long as you like writing.

It’s like doing the tycoon thing — working into old age and making tons of money.

New media is the best platform for guardians of press freedom in this dark age of Hong Kong journalism. Here, web editors and writers can defend this cherished space away from the politics of traditional media bosses.

The internet is disrupting traditional means of distributing news and opinion and new channels of communication are emerging all the time.

Old dogs can learn new tricks, can’t they?

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EJ Insight writer

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