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Getting answers to difficult questions

A journalist does not just as- semble information into a coherent story, but also distils facts and writes a piece that resonates with the reader.

Crime beat reporter Ng Huiwen says: “When people have a takeaway from a story that I have written, I think that is very meaningful to me.

“It does not have to create an immediate change in their lives or spur them to sudden action, but as long as it forces them to pause and think for a minute, I think there has been an impact.”

Constantly challenged

Ms Ng’s desire to be a reporter was born from her dream to be a travel journalist.

While she is covering a different beat now, her work at The Straits Times is never boring.

She may be called down to the crime scene by the police late one night and on another, she could be inside a covert police car, documenting how the Traffic Police tracks down errant motorists.

And on other days, she could be talking to lawyers, ministers and everyday Singaporeans for their opinions on certain issues.

In 2012, Ms Ng embarked on a Bachelor in Social Sciences in Political Science at the National University of Singapore, on the SPH Undergraduate Scholarship.

The scholarship provided for the tuition fees, allowances and accommodations in the nal year of study.

It also supported her financially to complete a student exchange programme at the University of York in the United Kingdom.

The 25-year-old says: “Essentially, no two days are the same in the newsroom. It is a dynamic, fast-paced environment that has its challenges but also its rewards. “For me, journalism is never boring because there are numerous topics out there that I am free to pursue, and in every story, there is always a chance for me to learn new things.”

She is also encouraged to pitch her own stories to the editors, and is not restricted to the beat she has been assigned.

She has worked on stories that spanned environment and community, which enabled her to collaborate with colleagues from other sections.

The lowdown

As a reporter, Ms Ng talks to people, gathers information from various sources and presents it in an engaging manner. She also conceptualises possible photo ideas, suggests headlines and, sometimes, shoots her own videos.

“So it is not just about text on a page like an essay, but the whole news package,” she says.

An aspect of the job that she loves is the access she gets as a journalist. These include behind-the-scenes peeks at last year’s National Day Parade and a first look at how authorities are conducting their counter-terrorism efforts here.

Ms Ng counts it a privilege to talk to people from all walks of life. Crime reporters like her may also encounter emotionally draining situations, for instance, when she has to speak to family members whose loved one died in an accident or when approaching people for their thoughts when they are in a difficult situation.

She says: “As a journalist, it is important to remember that you are also ‘human’. It’s about recognising that you have feelings too and learning to relate to another person, so that you can do justice to the story they are telling you.”

Journalists have to meet the challenge of getting stories out on time, especially since news goes out online even before the next day’s newspaper goes to print.

Potential SPH scholarship applicants have to embark on at least one internship as an application requirement, but the experiences helps prepare one for the career and to find out whether journalism is their passion, says Ms Ng.

Having been at The Straits Times for almost two years, she lists traits an aspiring journalist must have: “You have to be open to trying new things and tackling unfamiliar topics.”

“You have to be comfortable with the fact that you may not know everything, and instead, have an inquisitive mind and seek out the answers. This means also being unafraid to ask a lot of questions, even difficult ones.”