Catchup with our Intern at SPH
by Phua Ying Ying
Year 3 journalism major Miranda is currently interning at SPH. Here's what she had to share about the hustle and bustle of journalist life!
Q: How has your experience at SPH been so far?
A: Being in the newsroom has been an experience in a league of its own. In these three months alone, I have snuck into the charred remains of an apartment in a redlight district after a fire ravaged it. I have stood in the pouring rain with a camera and phone at the ready as the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's cortege drove past a weeping and chanting crowd. I have interviewed political luminaries and foreign workers, general practitioners and hawkers. Every day in the office is a new one that brings an entirely new set of challenges. In fact, I am often out rather than in the office.
I have learnt to be ready to learn about anything to become a subject matter expert in a day on anything from cancer treatment, construction equipment to investment fraud. It is essential for me to pick up information fast and to ask as many intelligent questions as I can to fully understand the subject I am writing about. Only when I understand the jargon and the technicalities can I break it down into layman terms for the reader.
It is an incredibly fastpaced environment and I've had to think on my feet and react fast to situations. While walking through the Padang and by the Singapore River as our country's founding father layinstate, I had to constantly pick up on a multitude of news happening concurrently. A new queue system set up, people giving out free umbrellas and pasta, volunteers picking up rubbish, dignitaries arriving on scene I had to multitask and report onthego. There was no time for ruminating over sentence structure and vocabulary the writing just had to come naturally, efficiently and accurately. Of course it was also essential to pick up on what makes good news. As I spent more time on the job, it became slightly easier to pick up when something was a surefire piece of news and I learnt the hard way that if I missed it, the opportunity would be lost to me.
The sheer range of people I had to speak to also helped me develop a sensitivity to communicating. It was necessary for me to code switch and phrase questions appropriately, to cajole and to convince newsmakers to share their honest opinions with me. It was also important to tease the stories out of people I spoke to. Everyone has a story to tell and it is my job to share that story, in a sensitive, respectful and meaningful way. I have been moved so many times by the stories people share with me and that helped me to translate these stories into print.
Q: How has your time in WKW prepared you for your internship?
A: WKW provided me with a foundation in writing, which was absolutely crucial to the job. I spent a semester picking up news writing in CS221 under the legendary Prof Hedwig and that has made all the difference. Till today I refer to a condensed sheet of her tips as I compose my copy. One of my foremost reminders to myself is not to rush in submitting my story and to check through for mistakes before doing so. I am by nature a careless person and I have made mistakes on the job, so it is absolutely essential that I check my copy before submitting, no matter how much of a rush I am in. Another tip I live by is to read the copy out (in my head) to make sure it sounds natural.
I also spent time as a writer, editor and then video producer in The Nanyang Chronicle, which gave me great handson experience and sharpened my news sense.
Aside from the direct journalism experience through related modules, WKW has trained me to be a skilled presenter and communicator, which has been absolutely essential on the job because journalism is a lot about your interactions with people. I have also been trained to be a handson experiential learner, through all the realworld simulation projects we've had to do. Most importantly, WKW is a school that encourages us to be open to new experiences. Nothing can prepare you better for journalism than an attitude of openness be open to new experiences, be open to failure and most importantly, be open to and acutely aware of what's happening all around you.