Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 02:19 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 02:19 | SYDNEY

Economist misses mark on FEER

29 September 2009 10:21

The Economist does many things well, not least its regular obituary page, but the offering from Banyan in its latest issue, with the excruciatingly twee pun as the lead, 'Without FEER or favour' to mark the demise of the 'Far Eastern Economic Review' fails signally to meet the mark.

There is little in Banyan's bloodless prose to capture the excitement that hung around the FEER in the sixties through the eighties, and indeed before.

It's fair enough to mention Eric Halpern as the founding editor, but to mark the end of the magazine without a mention of later editors such as David Wilson, or even more so Derek Davies, suggests the author is of a generation that has no sense of the scoops for which the FEER was famous or the rollicking atmosphere of the magazine's newsroom and even more the multi-martini lunches over which Davies presided. (A declaration of interest: I was an occasional contributor to the magazine, a beneficiary of Davies' hospitality more than once, and of the magazine's photo library for illustrations in one of my books.)

It was not by chance that some of the best reporting of what was happening in Indochina was to be found in the Review, particularly by Nayan Chanda, both before and after the Communist victories of 1975. When the Khmer Rouge were ousted from Cambodia in 1979 Chanda was one of the first journalists to report on what was happening in a devastated Phnom Penh.

With Morgan Chua as its principal cartoonist, the FEER could be cheeky visually as well as in prose, a cheekiness that regularly led to its being in trouble with the Singapore government.

Whether or not there was any truth to the story that in its early days the Review was partially backed by money from the British SIS, this was just another aspect of the rich memory that will be left by the magazine in its prime, a prime that sadly disappeared some years ago.