Barely six months into her first full-time job as a journalist at The Straits Times, Ms Ang Qing came across some drone photos on social media of a forested patch in Kranji being cleared in February 2021.
After discussions with her editor, she contacted relevant agencies and it soon came to light that swathes of land were being illegally cleared without getting the necessary approvals or doing due diligence, such as completing checks on the wildlife residing there.
Ms Ang’s article on the topic sparked questions about the environmental impact of an unauthorised clearing of a woodland area which became a national issue that was discussed in Parliament.
“Sometimes I forget that people read my stories until I see the impact, like when they start talking about it,” says Ms Ang, 26, who is an SPH Media journalism scholar. “When I see people learning something from my stories or wanting to create change, it helps make the long hours at work worth it.”
Such opportunities to raise awareness and drive meaningful change in society affirmed Ms Ang’s decision to take up the SPH Media Journalism Scholarship.
Navigating the crossroads
After graduating from School of the Arts Singapore (Sota) with an International Baccalaureate diploma as a theatre student, Ms Ang decided to take a gap year to contemplate her career path.
She dabbled in teaching and law, but it was a stint as an intern at The New Paper (TNP) that cemented her decision to become a journalist.
While she covered general stories ranging from road accidents to murders, she also met people from different walks of life. However, it was a story about Hougang residents whose neighbour threw faeces at their flat that steered Ms Ang to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
“The Mandarin-speaking family could not grasp the legal recourse available when they tried seeking help as it was all in English,” she shares. “I realised that everyone sees the world differently and this spurred me to study something that can help improve communication or raise issues on a bigger platform.
“Anthropology’s approach to understanding the ‘other’ or different communities also ties in with what a journalist does – making sense of different perspectives and presenting them as a narrative or point of view.”
Ms Ang went on to do a master’s at LSE in Media and Communications (Data and Society), which involved observing the consequences technology has on society, such as with artificial intelligence and social media – particularly relevant in a tech-savvy country like Singapore which is constantly digitalising with its Smart Nation initiatives.
Telling stories that matter
Ms Ang first joined The Straits Times full-time in September 2020. While she was on the breaking news team, she also had the flexibility to work on passion projects, including writing about mental health during the pandemic and reflecting on her struggles as a cub reporter who onboarded at a time when everyone was working from home.
“I ended up writing a lot about these issues because I was thinking about them every day,” recalls Ms Ang. “For instance, how do you bond with colleagues whom you have never met? Or, how do you get advice from others when you have not yet had a chance to build rapport?
“I ended up asking different companies about what their mental health initiatives were and wrote about them.”
The stories not only brought her catharsis but also empowered her to raise awareness of mental health conditions and point others to useful resources and helplines.
As part of her contribution to The Straits Times’ Millennial Mind column, Ms Ang also wrote about the struggles of her 22-year-old cousin who is autistic. His story shed light on the support that individuals with special needs require and identified policy gaps for those who leave the safety net of special education schools.
“My cousin is not able to write about it, but I could, as an observer. This is why journalists do journalism – to provide a space where you can examine these oft-neglected corners of society and help people gain perspective as they might not have the lived experience to see what it’s like there,” says Ms Ang.
Though a journalist’s working hours can be long and irregular, the SPH Media journalism scholar enjoys the flexibility and freedom to work on different projects.
“Things are always happening in this job,” she says.
Having recently moved to the environment beat, she now hopes to make climate change more relevant for readers.
“Climate change often feels like an abstract concept,” says Ms Ang. “I hope to help people understand that it will have a tangible impact on their lives, whether it is an increase in temperature or the threat of rising sea levels.”
|The changing demands of journalism
No longer just about writing stories and reporting the news, journalism also involves:
Data and digitalisation: Her master’s degree in Media and Communications (Data and Society) helped Ms Ang develop a more critical lens on the social implications of technology, especially with Singapore’s push to become a Smart Nation.
Social listening: Besides publishing an impactful story, Ms Ang tries to read the comments posted by readers to hear opposing views and consider possible follow-up articles.
New ways of consuming content: As a multi-platform journalist, Ms Ang has worked on videos, infographics and interactive digital stories. “Attention spans have shortened, so it is especially important now more than ever to create content that is visually appealing and engaging.”