By Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) journalist Lim Min Zhang’s own admission, he used to be “an introvert and a shy person”.
“I used to lack confidence when talking to people, especially strangers and people of rank and authority,” he reveals.
But these days, putting himself out there and chasing down news leads is all in a day’s work for the 27-year-old recipient of the SPH Journalism Scholarship (Local).
“Being a reporter requires me to talk to political office holders as well as strangers on the street on a regular basis. Therefore I have to force myself out of my comfort zone in order to do my job well,” he says.
Covering his beat
Since joining SPH fulltime in 2017, Mr Lim, who is on the defence beat, has covered breaking stories on major defence announcements and speeches from the Ministry of Defence, the deaths of full-time national servicemen, and visits by foreign militaries.
A recent career highlight was in November last year when he covered the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) Exercise Wallaby — the army’s largest overseas exercise every year — in the vast Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia.
During the eight-day overseas assignment, the young journalist’s skills were put to the ultimate test — he was expected to produce almost one story each day, and write quickly and accurately.
He says: “It was my first time at the exercise, and it was a valuable experience because I got to see and learn about the actual conditions and terrain there where our SAF soldiers train.”
On the ground reporting
And in a time of rife fake news and disruption in the media industry, Mr Lim continues to firmly believe in the role of the press in helping to generate public discussion on important topics.
Indeed, his belief in the power of journalism was validated when he was a new intern reporter with SPH in 2013, and investigated a family’s complaint that their 13-year-old son’s grave in Choa Chu Kang Christian Cemetery got flooded during heavy rain.
During the burial, water up to 30cm deep had to be drained from the empty crypt, and the family was worried that water had again entered the grave, suspecting that the lid was not watertight.
He spent an entire weekend meeting the family, cycling around different cemeteries, and talking to workers to find out whether waterlogged graves were a widespread problem. One tombstone contractor he spoke to said that the flooding had been occurring intermittently
since 2007, though he could not pin down the exact cause.
Later, even though the National Environment Agency concluded that there was no cause for concern and added that new and wider drains had been constructed in an effort to improve drainage at the cemetery, Mr Lim remains proud of the story.
“It provided some form of reassurance to the family that the issue was being looked into,” he says.
Wind beneath his wings
For all of these opportunities to make the headlines and more, Mr Lim, who holds a Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences with honours (distinction) from the National University of Singapore, is grateful for his SPH scholarship.
Apart from the monetary benefits, such as coverage of his tuition fees and providing an allowance while he was studying in university, the scholarship also offered chances to try out with different desks and papers within SPH, such as The New Paper and The Straits Times’ Life section, while on internship.
He particularly appreciates the stints he did with The Straits Times Newsdesk, which were instrumental in further fuelling his passion for the field, as well as honing his journalistic skills.
“I enjoyed it thoroughly, and wanted to emulate the senior journalists’ knowledge, analysis of news events and writing ability,” he says.
And while determination, hard work and staying focused on his career path have helped him get to where he is now, he also credits the scholarship with providing the wind beneath his wings, adding: “The SPH scholarship helped me to be financially independent, and not have to worry about repaying student loans — or my parents. It also allowed me to focus on my studies and self-improvement while in university.”