In May last year, The Straits Times (ST) journalist Toh Ting Wei was pursuing a story on Telegram group chat SG Hitch — a carpooling service where drivers and passengers can be connected directly without a middleman — when he noticed chatter on very cheap Gojek rides.
Broadcasting more hitch requests in the group chat, Mr Toh received messages from middlemen who negotiated and offered prices much lower than the official fare.
“I went from Marsiling to Changi for only $9,” says Mr Toh.
He found the low prices and roundabout process suspicious and his instincts told him he was on to something. One month, 12 rides and many interviews later, the 27-year-old broke a story on fraudulent Gojek bookings that could involve passengers unwittingly benefiting from the unauthorised use of stolen credit cards.
“The police had been investigating this for a while and recently arrested people linked to the case, but it gives me quite a bit of satisfaction to know that I got the story out before any arrests happened,” he says.
Change is the only constant
As a journalist writing for the transport beat, Mr Toh covers news and developments in sectors ranging from aviation to maritime to land transport. His recent focus has been on ride-hailing and personal mobility devices.
While he has spent a year covering transport news, Mr Toh admits that it was never part of his plan.
An avid football fan, he recalls reading football match reports in The New Paper as a young boy.
“As I watched my favourite team Liverpool play on TV, I decided that if I became a sports journalist, I could fly over to watch them for free as part of my job,” he says.
Mr Toh did eventually become a sports journalist with ST as part of his application process for the Singapore Press Holdings Journalism Scholarship in 2014 and again in 2015 when he returned for an internship. He even had the opportunity to cover the 2015 Southeast Asian Games.
When he joined ST full-time in 2018, he became an online breaking news reporter, then a video producer and videographer, before finally being assigned to the transport desk in January last year.
These rotations are part of his career as a young journalist, and these opportunities allowed Mr Toh to be exposed to various roles in the industry.
And while he wasn’t as familiar with transport as he was with sports, he rose to the challenge, building his own repository of knowledge and chasing down stories such as the fare scam.
“These are the stories that could make a difference to others,” he adds.