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The power of the written word

MS JOANNA Seow, 27, a correspondent at The Straits Times, did not set out to be a journalist.

It was her love for reading and writing that first inspired her to intern at Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) in 2009.

The six-month internship at the News Desk and Money Desk of the newspaper gave Ms Seow an insight into how the newsroom works and led her to discover the meaningful aspects of a journalist’s job.

It was then that she began to explore journalism as a career option.

Says Ms Seow: “I like seeing new sides of Singapore, as well as learning first-hand from people from different walks of life whom I would otherwise probably not have the chance to meet.”

“It is a challenge to craft a story that flows and engages readers by putting together the pieces of the puzzle from the various facts and quotes that I
have gathered through research and interviews.”

She had an eventful internship experience, which included covering accidents and interviewing retrenched workers.

When her newsroom stint ended, she applied for a scholarship with SPH.

Following her successful application in July 2009, she went to study at the University of Warwick, England, where she graduated three years later with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) with Honours, Sociology.

She majored in sociology as she wanted to study something that was related to human behaviour and how social groups form and interact.

Ms Seow went on to pursue a Master of Science, Journalism, at Columbia University – Graduate School of Journalism in the United States, where she graduated in 2013.

The 10-month master’s programme was an eye-opening experience for her, as she was assigned to cover stories of people living in poor housing
conditions in buildings frequented by drug dealers in a South Bronx neighbourhood.

It was “worlds away from the clean, safe, efficient parts of Singapore I was used to”, she recalls.

She also covered the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York City and how it affected residents’ lives.

Both educational experiences enabled her to explore different schools of thought about society and social behaviour.

Studying and travelling abroad have helped her to be more comfortable with meeting new people, adapt quickly to new environments and get out of her comfort zone.

She even met the man who would become her husband while they were studying in the United Kingdom.

Foster greater understanding
After four years as a journalist at SPH, Ms Seow is now a correspondent covering the manpower beat.

She says: “The job market is on a lot of people’s minds now, which is why it is important to highlight the challenges different groups of people face and the assistance available.”

“I hope stories about local and foreign manpower will foster greater understanding between the different nationalities that live and work together in Singapore.”

Her hopes stem from a deep belief of the power of the written word.

“There are so many stories of resilience out there. I believe journalists can change lives — of those whose stories are told, as well as those who read the news and learn something new and are inspired to take action, or realise they are not alone,” she adds.