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Journalism with a touch of psychology

As a young girl, Ms Goh Yan Han would spend her days writing or drawing up her own newspaper, persistently requesting that her family members step in as interviewees for her stories. Today, the 24-year-old journalist with The Straits Times (ST) chases stories covering a wide range of social topics –– from the protection of vulnerable children and youth to hoarders and their habits. 

“I’ve always had an interest in journalism in some way, so when I found out about the SPH Journalism Scholarship, I decided to try out for it,” says Ms Goh. 

Despite wanting to pursue a career in journalism, her interest in psychology and counselling formed the core of her university experience.

“At the time, I thought that counselling was a very interesting field. I enjoy listening to people and their problems, and helping them find solutions or just be a listening ear. Through journalism, I am also doing that albeit in a rather different way.” 

With the scholarship covering four years of overseas study, Ms Goh spent three years pursuing a Degree in Psychology at University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, and later a Masters in Education (Child Development and Education) at University of Oxford. 

“The scholarship gave me a sense of independence and financial freedom, as well as the time to explore the things I was interested in as I did not have to worry about finding a job after graduation,” she says. 

Holistic exposure 
While studying abroad, Ms Goh returned to Singapore every year for internships at ST, rotating across various desks including political, digital and schools, to prepare herself for a career in the newsroom. 

She fondly recalls her time with the political desk in 2015, where she was part of the team covering the General Elections. 

“I got to see how ST worked together for the coverage,” says Ms Goh. “I went for rallies, stayed out late, and on the night of the results, watched the coverage at Toa Payoh Stadium until all the votes were counted. I don’t think I would have done that if I weren’t on my internship.” 

She joined the digital team after her studies in October two years ago, and began writing for the social beat at ST in July last year. It was in this role where she was able to look into topics of special education needs and early childhood education –– tapping on her areas of interests –– as well as other social affairs news as they come. 

In October last year, Ms Goh worked on two features on hoarding, exploring the issue and the clean-up process. “I think those stories helped people to understand that hoarding is complicated, where the responsibility doesn’t lie solely with a specific individual or institution,” she explains, adding that she believes there are often several contributing factors to hoarding and it has to be dealt with a great deal of sensitivity to ensure the best outcome for those affected. 

Such social issues are aplenty and she believes that most will strike a chord among Singaporeans. 

“I hope to uncover or bring to the surface news that will reverberate among Singaporeans and encourage more people to have empathy and awareness, and be pushed to do something good for the society.”