Fridays with Philip
Since the early 1970s, Philip Lee has been active in the newspaper business, chasing stories for The Straits Times with vigour, passion and a note pad in hand.
In 2002, he joined Streats and began writing a weekly column for the now defunct daily. His columns, published every Friday, discussed nostalgic events of the past, opined on the burning issues of the present and analysed the idiosyncrasies of interesting individuals he interacted with on the job. But the most popular of his topics were his thought-provoking commentaries on the proper use of English prose and language.
The columns ended their print run when the newspaper decided to pull down its shutters in 2004. A year later, The New Paper, where Philip was then a Copy Editor, wanted to bring the Friday column back to life. The column ran with much success, garnering a large readership while it lasted. Fridays with Philip is a collection of the most compelling picks from all his columns to date.
“Philip Lee’s columns show a love for language and a free-ranging mind. Although written originally for adults, this collection will also be helpful as supplementary reading for students.”
— Dr Cherian George, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University
“I first read Philip Lee’s work in the Letters Page of The Straits Times in mid-1970s. He wrote well. We decided to hire him. He is a compelling storyteller, and has a charming, easy-to-read, style. In the 33 years Philip wrote for The Straits Times and The New Paper, as well as Streats when it was in circulation, he built a faithful following. He is an enjoyable read.”
— Cheong Yip Seng, former Editor-in-Chief, English and Malay Newspapers Division, Singapore Press Holdings
“Philip Lee is one of a rare breed of human beings, someone born with journalistic flair. He also has his own brand of charm. That adds flavour to his writing.”
— Peter Lim, former Editor-in Chief, English and Malay Newspaper Division, Singapore Press Holdings
“I have long found myself cheered by Philip Lee’s optimism, wit and way with words.”
— Paul Jansen, CEO, SPH Search
“I was News Editor of The Straits Times when Philip Lee first joined the paper. At the time, copy handed in by reporters had, generally, to be edited heavily, if not re-written altogether, before they could be used. It was quite a pain. Indeed I recall that some stories were written so badly that I had to vomit blood over them. Not literally, of course, but close. Philip was one of the few exceptions. His copy was, without fail, clean, clear and highly readable. Not a comma was out of place. Just about the only rare instances when I had to touch up his stories was when he over-reached a little in his choice of colourful phrases or ornate words. Still, when it came to capturing the essence of a news event, with all the important nuances, he was utterly dependable. Which explained why he was usually assigned the most important stories to cover, much to the envy of his colleagues. Some 30 years on, Philip is still reporting and writing, within a unit in SPH’s Marketing division which, by a curious twist of fate, I head. Though I do not now edit his copy personally, I have kept close track of his work. He has lost none of his writing skills. The scribe in him is very much alive and well...”
— Leslie Fong, Executive Vice-President (Marketing), Singapore Press Holdings
“I have always enjoyed reading Philip’s columns. His articles were thought-provoking, often spiced with wit and humour, and his masterly command of the language made for stimulating reading. His coverage of parliamentary debates were often accompanied by a deep analysis of the issues of the day in his From the Gallery columns. His ability to express his thoughts sensibly and concisely over a broad range of subjects has contributed to his reputation as one of the better journalists of our time.”
— Tan Soo Khoon, former Speaker of Parliament
“Before the blog, there was the plog – Philip’s log. It is writing that goes beyond the usual button-down newspaper columns. It offers the forthright, honest, cheeky observations of a journo who might well have been a leprechaun in another life. His trail of work leads to hidden treasures too.”
— Ivan Fernandez, Editor, The New Paper and The New Paper on Sunday
“There are reporters, and there are writers. I read the former for information. I am drawn to the latter by the byline because the writer often rewards me with insight. Philip Lee is both reporter and writer. The pleasure he provides goes beyond information and insight. He delights. What flows from the keyboard is often a perspective that is refreshing because the author is a character who is unabashedly exuberant, utterly curious. Younger colleagues on the information shopfloor often ask if ours is a dying trade. My reply often has been to point them to the direction of the little man at his desk, glasses perched on beak, utterly engrossed in an esoteric pastime – solving The New York Times crossword puzzles. Hope flows when there are still wordsmiths who care about words, who take pleasure in a good turn of phrase, who celebrate people. Philip is one such wonder.”
— Ken Jalleh Jr, Creative Director, The New Paper; Founding Editor, The New Paper on Sunday and Streats
About the Author
Philip Lee has been a journalist since 1974 when he left the civil service to join The Straits Times as a reporter. He spent the first seven years covering politics, the civil service and reviewed local plays. He rose over the years to become Associate News Editor, News Editor (The Sunday Times) and Chief Copy Editor of The Straits Times.
In 1990, he left for a new life in Vancouver, Canada but returned in 2000 to work again as Copy Editor with The Straits Times. He also had stints as copy editor with the tabloids, Streats, and The New Paper. He works as a writer with the Special Projects Unit in the Marketing Division of Singapore Press Holdings. He cooks, enjoys The New York Times crossword puzzles and sings the oldies when in the company of songloving friends.
Size: 133 x 203mm
Published: August 2008
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