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Stories that inspire people

Miss Yuen Sin had considered becoming a teacher, but an internship stint at the Singapore Press Holdings propelled her to a career in journalism instead.

As an education journalist at The Straits Times, the 24-year-old still has the opportunity to work with youth.

Always something new

Recalling the five-month attachment after her junior college days, she says: “Though the internship at The Straits Times news desk was full of ups and downs, I became more resilient and confident and thought the job offers a lot of learning opportunities.

“I also appreciated being able to look at society from a different perspective as few people would have the level of access that a reporter has, even as an intern.”

She would speak to ministers one day and with the man on the street the next; thus opening up her mind to challenge her previous assumptions.

On the Singapore Press Holdings Journalism Scholarship (Overseas), Miss Yuen pursued English and Related Literature at the University of York in the United Kingdom and a Master in Public Policy and Administration at the London School of Economics.

During her time at York, she spent her second year as an exchange student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the United States.

Job scope

Upon her return in 2015, she was assigned to the education beat, alongside three other reporters.

She specialises in news involving pre-schools to tertiary education and adult training.

Miss Yuen says: “We build up contacts in the field and try to uncover interesting trends, provide updates on changes or developments in education policy, and highlight gaps in the system that would otherwise go unnoticed.

“We also do features on education programmes in schools and other institutions, or produce ‘talking point’ packages on specific issues. It’s a mix of ‘hard news’ reporting, feature writing, and news analysis.”

Besides education, she also gets to work on a wider spectrum of stories.

When she is not interviewing teachers and students or covering press conferences, she researches her own stories.

Once, she spent a day in Johor Bahru speaking to illegal taxi touts.

News that matters

She says: “Our senior colleagues constantly remind us that our duty is toward our readers and not the people whom we are interviewing.

“This means that we have to analyse the information given to us with a critical eye and closely monitor developments in our beats to highlight areas of need, or gaps in the policy system.”

Miss Yuen, in particular, enjoys reporting stories on profound acts of kindness or overcoming adversity, which inspire others to give back to society in their own ways.

For instance, she wrote a series of stories about an Indonesian baby with a tumour twice the size of her own body. This led to Miss Yuen receiving over 50 e-mails from people who wanted to help. Over $100,000 was eventually raised to help the baby go through a successful surgery, and today, she is a healthy toddler with her whole life ahead of her.

Miss Yuen believes that the writing process starts with reporting and getting facts and figures right.

She feels it is important to write in a clear and concise manner.

She says: “There are many colleagues who can help you to make your story work better if you have a good nose for news and can get the right information.”

Knowing that her stories have made an impact — either by sparking a discussion or inspiring people to take action in ways both big and small — motivates her.

“The sense of satisfaction when someone says that your articles or commentaries resonated with them is also exceptional.

“I’m thankful that we still have the means to reach out to a large audience through our work,” she says.