VK Chin, former Star editor, dies at 75

by uppercaise
VK Chin, former group chief editor of The Star, died this morning at the age of 75. He had been ailing for some time. VK, as he was always known, had a long and distinguished career in newspapers the length of the peninsula, from the Straits Echo to the Straits Times, and was in the launch crew of controversial papers like the Singapore Herald, and conventional papers like Business Times.

11am on Tuesday, June 14
Wake and lying-in-state:
Today and tomorrow at
Xiao En Centre
No 1 Jalan Kuari
Cheras, Kuala Lumpur
+60-(0)3-9145 33 88
+60-(0)16-332-6487 (Irene)

A longtime friend of Michael Chen of the MCA and close to many MCA leaders, he became chief editor of the National Echo when Tan Koon Swan was making a bid to lead the party. When the National Echo collapsed, he was brought to The Star as Asean correspondent by chief editor H’ng Hung Yong, an associate of Lee San Choon, the party leader. VK’s friendship with key MCA politicians propelled his rise to the chief editorship and kept him on as editorial adviser as others rose and fell.

VK was in Bali the day the paper was shut down during Operation Lallang in 1987, with other Malaysian newspaper editors attending a conference. The affected editors, VK and CC Liew of Sin Chew which was also shut, and PC Shivadas of the New Straits Times, immediately returned to their posts.

After the paper was revived six months later, with many conditions attached and a change in shareholdings, VK remained at the helm as the paper grew to commercial success and a lucrative public listing under managing director Steven Tan, a protege of Koon Swan, and a colleague when Steven and VK were both on the pioneer editorial staff of Business Times. He was moved sideways as editorial adviser, continuing to write a weekly column until his retirement.

It was the column that the general public saw of VK, and for which he received harsh criticism and much abuse, especially from online commentators, in providing a platform for the views of MCA leaders in particular and the prevailing view of national leaders in power. Internally there was criticism of his being retained at full six-figure salary and perks, for apparently being a mere columnist, and carping about the quality of his columns. Through it all, VK remained a link between the MCA leadership, effectively the paper’s owners, and the higher management of the paper and the company.

In April last year, already ailing, VK’s work was honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the National Press Club.

1936 – 2011

» Press Club citation for VK

Amended to clarify VK’s retirement position.

11 thoughts on “VK Chin, former Star editor, dies at 75

  1. From Patrick Lim, Australia

    Sad to hear of his passing. Had the pleasure of working with him while at NST, especially the time covering the MCA crisis and politics ion general, when we became good friends.

    Patrick Lim, once a sub-editor at Balai Berita, now works for the Murdoch chain.
    (originally posted at the Facebook group of NST oldtimers)

  2. From Teoh Hock Siew, Bernama

    Sad to hear of his death. Had worked with him when he was news editor of Business Times. I was then a sub-editor. He sure is generous. He will help without asking questions. Thanks VK. RIP.

    (originally posted at the Facebook group for NST oldtimers)

  3. From Shah Adyll Dadameah, the Star

    VK was not the long-winded kind, like so many so-called columnists today. in writing, in conversation and in humour, he kept to a certain ‘space’, not adding to or subtracting from anything that he wished to voice out.

    He was concise and precise in his thoughts…and he sizes you up with those eyes when you’re saying much more than it matters.

    Shah A Dadameah is associate editor of The Star
    (Originally posted at the Facebook group for Star oldtimers)

  4. From Chong Cheng Hai, the Sun

    A quiet, unassuming chief editor who never flaunted his position and power. My ‘dealings’ with VK while [I was] in charge of the subs desk consisted of calling him on the phone each evening to read him the news budget. He very rarely interfered in the choice and play-up of news and never raised his voice. An era has passed. Condolences to his family.

    Chong Cheng Hai is editor of The Sun
    (Originally posted at the Facebook group for Star oldtimers)

  5. From Anthony Ng, Australia

    We have lost a great journalist and a great friend. VK and I worked on a few projects together during our time with NST, including the MCA newsletter. I also have had the privilege to meet up with him whenever he came to Sydney. VK was also a kungfu exponent.

    Anthony Ng, commercial correspondent for the NST, is now a sub-editor in Sydney
    (originally posted at the Facebook group for NST oldtimers)

  6. From Charles Chan, Wellington, New Zealand

    I am saddened by the news of VK’s passing. I first knew him when I joined the Straits Times in Pudu Road as a cadet reporter. He was already a mid-level graded reporter then. When our careers took different path, we lost contact but met up again when I joined The Star in Weld Quay, Penang and he was serving as Michael Chen’s political secretary.

    There was a time when certain Umno people were pressuring the newspaper’s owners for a 30 per cent share. VK had a part in asking Michael Chen to speak to Tun Razak, to tell these sharks to back off. Later, the newspaper got Tun Mustapha to buy in with Tunku Abdul Rahman as his proxy and the chairman.

    VK had always shown an interest in my progress as a journalist and my welfare as a friend. He was a generous person and i believed he helped young some deserving students withi his own private scholarship programme. I looked up to him more like a big brother. My deepest condolences to his family.

    Charles Chan has worked with several newspapers in Malaysia and was last associate editor of The Star.
    (originally posted at the Facebook group for Star oldtimers)

  7. From Chua Huck Cheng in Auckland:

    V.K. was a good friend. He was one of the ‘originals’ of Malaysian journalism — a dedicated news hound who cultivated contacts for the right reason, which was to get the inside story out without putting a slant on the news. How many Malaysian journalists and editors have the professionalism and courage to manage that today?

    Chua Huck Cheng, former editor of the Malay Mail, later with the Straits Times (Singapore), now lives in Auckland.
    (Originally posted at the Facebook groups of NST and Star oldtimers.

    • From Dorairaj Nadason

      Many a newsman today is a pro too, but the word has different connotations. RIP, VK. He understood people.

      N Dorairaj is production editor of the Star
      (Originally posted as a comment on Facebook.)

  8. V. K. Chin was recruited in 1970 as No. 2 to Seah Chiang Nee in KL to report for the Singapore Herald. We parted company after the paper’s contrived demise at the hands of LKY, but met up again when I signed a contract as consultant to set up an Atex computerirsed publishing system for The Star.in 1983-84. He was a man of few words, still our relationship blossomed, based on mutual respect.

    Soon after completing that assignment, I recall that when some mutual friend passed away, I addressed the men and women in The Star’s newsrooom saying: “It’s a pity people are not told how much they are loved or respected when they are alive, but we hear touching eulogies all the time … look here, if you love me, tell me while I can hear you. I’ll do the same for you.”

    With one accord, a large group, including production staff, all clambered into three or four cars and we drove off for lunch. We did tell each other, in many ways, how much we cared. So to V.K. i now say:”Go not gentle into that good night…you know how much we loved and respected you. We salute you. ”

    — Ambrose Khaw (in Singapore)

    • Did you wish to discuss VK and his work or to talk only about yourself? What a load of hogwash anyway, all that lovey-dovey do-no-go-gentle claptrap. Came out of the rear end of a pig.

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