As a rookie journalist at Lianhe Zaobao in 2021, Ms Gwen Lee Geng Wei vividly remembers one of her first livestreaming assignments to cover the launch of the BTS Meal at McDonald’s.
The journalism scholar had no prior experience doing a livestream and was only given a day’s notice to prepare for it. The one-person-show assignment required her to speak to the camera for about 40 minutes and interview newsmakers on scene while keeping her mobile phone steady on a selfie stick.
“It was a struggle at that time, but after rising to the occasion, I found myself coming back for more. It’s almost like I was addicted to the challenge,” says the 25-year-old who joined the newsroom full time in 2020.
“I did not think I would be able to write print articles, produce videos and host live streams in my role as a journalist, but I ended up being able to do all of that while enjoying the process.”
Ms Lee has been rotated across different beats, including crime, politics, healthcare and education. Being a journalist has allowed her to hone a myriad of skills – she has learnt how to present news for print and online platforms, craft social media posts and work on video stories.
“Such a broad exposure gave me, a starry-eyed newbie, a full range of experiences that helped me grow as a journalist and as a person,” she says.
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Ms Lee has always had an affinity for the Chinese language. After completing her A levels at Dunman High School, students like her in the school’s Chinese Language Elective Programme were given the opportunity to do an internship with a Chinese media publication.
“It did not feel like a job to me at the time,” she says, of her five-month stint at Lianhe Wanbao. “I was happy to experience different things every day, something a 19-year-old would not have been able to do otherwise.”
Drawn to the variety of assignments and exposure she got, Ms Lee applied for the SPH Media Journalism Scholarship in 2016 and pursued political science at the National University of Singapore.
A new adventure every day
Since becoming a full-time journalist, Ms Lee has gained new perspectives on life which has helped her grow both professionally and personally.
“There is always something I can learn whenever I interview someone,” she says. “No other job can give me this kind of exposure to delve so deeply into another person’s life.”
No two days are the same for Ms Lee either. She can go from a murder scene in Geylang, to interviewing an aspiring Chinese dancer, to coming face-to-face with a dead body in a rental flat at Bukit Merah.
“I felt like I was on a different adventure every day. I saw more of Singapore than an average Singaporean did,” she says.
When she is covering crime cases or politics, she makes it a point to not only keep a balanced view, but also be a voice for those who have fallen through the cracks.
“Every Singaporean has his or her own story and struggle, and it is important to consider what they are facing. A journalist’s job is to listen to both sides and to never judge,” she notes.
Despite the high-pressure nature of her exciting job, having the opportunity to hear and tell such stories is what makes it most fulfilling for her.
Her advice to aspiring journalists? Take up an internship first to see if the job is for you. Do it for at least three to four months and rotate between publications if possible so that you get a good idea of what the job entails.
“You will realise that life is not always black and white; it is a million shades of grey. Sometimes it is not about being right or wrong, or about what is true or false, but it depends on the circumstances. Being a journalist lets you see the grey,” says Ms Lee.