Bertha Henson (Singapore Journalist)

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Bertha Henson
Bertha Henson.jpg
EducationBachelor of Arts and Social Sciences
Alma materNational University of Singapore

Bertha Henson is a Singaporean blogger and a published author. She worked at the Singapore Press Holdings for 26 years where she was primarily an editor for the English newspaper, The Straits Times.[1] Bertha Henson was also the founder of the socio-political commentary websites, The Middle Ground and Breakfast Network that ceased operations in 2017 and 2013 respectively.[2][3] At the time of writing, she runs a personal blog called Bertha Harian. She is also a lecturer in the Communications and New Media (CNM) department at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and an Associate Fellow at the university's Tembusu College.[4][5][6]

Background[edit | edit source]

Personal life & education[edit | edit source]

Bertha Henson is a Eurasian Singaporean with Chinese-Peranakan and Dutch ancestry.[7] She attended Tanjong Katong Girls' School and subsequently, Temasek Junior College.[8][9] Bertha Henson then enrolled in the National University of Singapore where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences.[6]

Career[edit | edit source]

Bertha Henson (seated third from left) with her students in NUS. Photo from source.

Bertha began her professional career as a journalist at the Singapore Press Holdings before leaving mainstream news to set up her own brand of websites. Although two of her socio-political websites have since shut down, Bertha Henson is still active on her personal blog where she writes commentaries about current affairs in Singapore. In recent years, she has authored several commentary pieces for news sites such as Yahoo! News Singapores[10][11] and TODAY.[12] Bertha Henson is also an Associate Professor of Practice and lecturer at the National University of Singapore (NUS).[13][14][15]

Co-founder of The Middle Ground (2015 - 2017)[edit | edit source]

Bertha Henson launched The Middle Ground with co-founder, Daniel Yap in June 2015. The website was registered under the Broadcasting Act's class licensing scheme in 2015 and provided alternative coverage of the 2015 Singapore General Elections.[16][17] Speaking about The Middle Ground's contribution to professional journalism, she said:

"When we publish on our site, to ensure that the standards are there - I'm very tough when it comes to that point. No bending of the truth, try and source things... In that way, hopefully people will start realising that these practices are something that should be followed in the online world... I've always said that I want to be the mainstream online, I don't have to be The Straits Times online."[18]

In 2016, the website received a warning from the Singapore Police Force for publishing the results of an election survey during the Bukit Batok by-election campaign period which began in late April and ended in early May.[19] This was a punishable offence under the Parliamentary Elections Act. The Middle Ground shut down in 2017 after failing to raise enough funds on Patreon for its operations in the coming year.[2][20] According to a report by Mumbrella Asia, the website had been operating on reader donations that amounted to about $3,000 a month.[21]

Founder of Breakfast Network (2013)[edit | edit source]

Bertha Henson's first book, Troublemaker (2014) (pictured) was published in light of Breakfast Network's closure. Photo from source.

Bertha Henson founded Breakfast Network in January 2013.[22] Speaking at a Big Tent event later that year, she said:

"I started blogging the day I became unemployed... I've always been asked if I can keep journalism practices in the new media; it's very tough because online journalism is such a two-string thing. You don't have layers of checks, you [also] lack the resources to verify facts. What I do now that I have Breakfast Network is I rely on mainstream media as my source, because they have professional fact-checkers."[23]

In November 2013, the Media Development Authority (MDA) requested the website to apply for a publishing license by December 2013.[24][25] Bertha Henson did not submit the application and temporarily shuttered the website before rebranding it as The Middle Ground.[26]

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) (1986 - 2012)[edit | edit source]

Bertha Henson joined SPH in 1986 after graduating from university.[27] She served as the editor of The New Paper and The Straits Times before leaving SPH in May 2012.[28] In an interview with RHT Network in 2016, Bertha Henson shared her reason for leaving The Straits Times. She said:

"I left The Straits Times because there was going to be a change in leadership and I wasn't so sure that I could work under the new leader (Warren Fernandez). So I thought I should get out while the going is good and that's what I did."[18]

Publications[edit | edit source]

The following is a list of titles that Bertha Henson has authored.

Year Title Publisher Refs.
2020 GE2020: Fair or Foul? Epigram Books [29][30]
2014 Troublemaker Ethos Books [31]

References/ Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Stolarchuk, Jewel. "Ex-Straits Times heavyweight Bertha Henson is considering writing a book about journalism in Singapore". The Independent. July 3, 2019. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Choo, Cynthia and Jeremy Lee. "Socio-political site The Middle Ground to shut after 2.5 years, cites lack of funding". TODAY. October 28, 2017. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  3. Yong, Charissa. "Breakfast Network website to close, will not be registering with MDA". The Straits Times. December 10, 2013. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  4. Henson, Bertha. "COMMENT: PAP should give new candidates more play". Yahoo! News Singapore. June 25, 2020. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  5. cnmnus. "Together with our #CNM students, our Associate Professor Bertha Henson..". Instagram. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "MS BERTHA HENSON". Tembusu College. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  7. Henson, Bertha. "Questions I'd rather not ask myself as a Eurasian". The Straits Times. November 6, 1988. Accessed on 6 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  8. Lim Phay-Ling. "The next big step forward". The Straits Times. June 1, 1980. Accessed on 6 November 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  9. Henson, Bertha. "Wanted: Familiar places and faces to feel at home". The Straits Times. November 25, 2007. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  10. Henson, Bertha. "COMMENT: Voting for an MP or PM-to-be?". Yahoo! News. July 5, 2020. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  11. Henson, Bertha. "COMMENT: Singapore, we deserve an 'A'". Yahoo! News. July 11, 2020. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  12. Henson, Bertha. "Making sense of the discussion on class". TODAY. October 26, 2018. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  13. Henson, Bertha. "No lawyers please, we’re academics". Bertha Harian. January 20, 2019. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  14. Yang, Daryl. "Why It’s Sad That We Needed A Course on Dissent and Resistance". The Octant. September 15, 2019. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  15. Ng Jun Sen. "Undergrads, academics engage Shanmugam on 'brownface' and controversial rap video". TODAY. August 22, 2019. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  16. Yong, Charissa. "MDA asks The Middle Ground website to register under class licensing scheme". The Straits Times. July 29, 2015. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  17. "The Middle Ground announces process of winding down publication". The Online Citizen. October 28, 2017. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  18. 18.0 18.1 RHT Network. "Conversations with Balji: Bertha Henson: The Troublemaker". Vimeo. 2016. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  19. Yong, Charissa. "The Middle Ground website gets stern police warning for Bukit Batok by-election violation". The Straits Times. August 3, 2016. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  20. "The Middle Ground launches fundraiser to keep operations going for 2017". Marketing Interactive. December 1, 2016. Accessed on 4 November 2020.
  21. Dickinson, Eleanor. "Singapore news site The Middle Ground closes down after running on just $3,000 a month". Mumbrella Asia. October 28, 2017. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  22. Tan, Martino and Ng Yi Shu. "Ex-ST editor Bertha Henson's National Day present to S'pore? Her post-ST writings S'poreans can be proud of.". Mothership. August 3, 2014. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  23. Big Tent. "Singaporean Content in a Digital Age". YouTube. December 10, 2013. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  24. "Breakfast Network shut down". The Straits Times. December 10, 2013. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  25. Hicks, Robin. "Independent Singapore news site Breakfast Network closes after government pressure". Mumbrella Asia. December 10, 2013. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  26. Henson, Bertha. "Feet planted firmly on the ground". Bertha Harian. June 11, 2015. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  27. "The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund Trustees bio-data". Singapore Press Holdings. Accessed on 6 November
  28. Tan, Jeanette. "Breakfast Network shutting down as a company". Yahoo! News Singapore. December 14, 2013. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  29. "GE2020: Fair or Foul?". Epigram Bookshop. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  30. Epigram Books. "Doing the Write Thing: Bertha Henson (S3E02)". YouTube. November 3, 2020. Accessed on 6 November 2020.
  31. "Troublemaker". Kinokuniya Singapore. Accessed on 6 November 2020.