Some people mistake egoism for bravery

  • Long-time columnist Stephen Vines has decided to stop writing for the Post, but not before discomforting those of us he left behind
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 8:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 10:36pm

Journalists are often the worst egotists. In our own minds, some of us really think the world of ourselves.

In my 20 years at the Post, many colleagues have come and gone. A few left under a cloud, ostensibly for principle rather than egoism. Oftentimes, though, it’s hard to disentangle the two.

I wish I could say the same about Stephen Vines. I read with alarm his latest column in the Hong Kong Free Press, titled “Why I will no longer write for the South China Morning Post”. Actually, none of us noticed.

That, presumably, was why Vines needed to shout from the roof to let us know: “HE IS NO LONGER WRITING FOR THE POST”. A journalist of his stature deserves a media row of his own.

The most interesting thing about this petty piece of self-aggrandising is the first sentence: “Provoked by an absurdly trivial dispute, I have decided to stop writing for the SCMP after years as a contributor.” Alas, he didn’t tell us any more about it.

I have never met Vines, though he was notionally my boss at the defunct Eastern Express for five days in the mid-1990s, before he left. Ever since, he’s been badmouthing the owners. He then started a satirical magazine, modelled on Britain’s Private Eye. It didn’t last. One reason, I think, is that for satire to work, not only do you have to not take those in power seriously, you also have to not take yourself too seriously.

China detained Gui Minhai ‘to stop him from telling his story’

In his Hong Kong Free Press piece, he was upset about our reporting of the confession of detained bookseller Gui Minhai.

It could have been handled better and I hope everyone has learned a lesson. But that was back in February. The time to take a stance was then, not when someone misplaced a comma in your copy. After all these years, has the Post ever censored Vines or told him not to write something out of non-journalistic consideration?

He wrote: “It was widely rumoured that …” Oh please, it’s either fact (news) or opinion ­(op-ed). Rumour doesn’t cut it, even for an online news site.

Vines has a column with another newspaper called “Discomforting the comfortable” where he actually offers tremendous comfort to insomniacs.

Long may he write for that newspaper.