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Former TODAY and TNP editor PN Balji launches tell-all book

SINGAPORE — Veteran journalist and former editor PN Balji on Friday (June 14) launched a tell-all book about his time in the media industry, detailing the highs and lows of his 40 years in the newsroom and his brushes with the Government.

Mr PN Balji (hand on chin) at the launch of his book, Reluctant Editor, on June 14, 2019. All 200 copies of the book were sold out before the two-hour event ended.

Mr PN Balji (hand on chin) at the launch of his book, Reluctant Editor, on June 14, 2019. All 200 copies of the book were sold out before the two-hour event ended.

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SINGAPORE — Veteran journalist and former editor PN Balji on Friday (June 14) launched a tell-all book about his time in the media industry, detailing the highs and lows of his 40 years in the newsroom and his brushes with the Government. 

The 70-year-old, who entered journalism in 1970, has worked at five newspapers: TODAY, The Straits Times, The New Paper (TNP) and the now-defunct Malaysia Mail and New Nation.

During his career, Mr Balji also helmed New Nation, TNP and TODAY.

The seed for Mr Balji's book, titled Reluctant Editor, was planted about four years ago when he was interviewed about the media industry for oral history records, he told CNA. 

“A lot of things came back fresh, and I thought, 'Before I suffer from dementia, I'd better put all these things on record',” he said.

But it was the book OB Markers by Mr Cheong Yip Seng, former editor-in-chief of The Straits Times, that inspired Mr Balji to finally work on his own book.

Mr Cheong’s book details the relationship between the media and the Government, which Mr Balji’s book also does. 

“Singapore journalists hardly write stories about journalism. Many of them take these stories to the grave,” he said, adding that he did not want to be one of them. 

The book, which includes a foreword by Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, was however, not without its challenges.

The anecdotes in Reluctant Editor could potentially upset the people involved in those past incidents, Mr Balji said.

To smooth things out as much as possible, he checked in with those people for their opinions and edited the book based on their feedback.

The launch event held at Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop in Tanjong Pagar notably lacked a guest-of-honour. 

He wanted to keep it simple and informal, Mr Balji said. 

That, however, did not mean a lack of guests. Even before the launch event started at 7pm, the small cafe was overflowing with guests and a queue of people eager to buy his book.

All 200 copies of his book were sold out before the two-hour event ended. 

Reluctant Editor details the highs and lows of Mr PN Balji's years in the newsroom. Photo: CNA

Mr Balji said: "It's not a book about me, it's about journalism. It's also about a band of editors who did a lot of things that would surprise today's generation."

Among those present were Mr Peter Lim, former editor-in-chief of The Straits Times, Mr Balji's brother, Sivaji, who is a former national football coach, CNA's founding editor Woon Tai Ho, and author and activist Constance Singam. 

Published by Marshall Cavendish, the 195-page book retails at S$23 and is sold at all major bookstores. An online edition is expected in the future. 

For more stories like this, visit cna.asia.

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