Advocating Journalism, Advocacy Journalism

After embarking on the interesting option of publishing my final-year journalism project online last year, it was heartening to see the junior batch take their projects online too. While I love my printed newspaper, there is no doubt that the future of journalism must go online in some way. On a personal level, it’s also an excellent platform to ensure your project doesn’t get forgotten in the archives, but remains out there to be Googled on as and when the topic becomes relevant.

Kababayan: Faces of Filipinas in Singapore is a photojournalism project by Kong Yen Lin and Nura Ling that puts a new face to the Filipino women migrant community in Singapore. Long regarded as just here to work as domestic maids, Filipinas who come to Singapore today increasingly span different classes and occupations including designers, businesswomen, nurses and teachers. It is an impressive depth of work that uses multimedia slideshows and photo essays to bring you through the life of some 16 Filipinas living and working in Singapore. It would have been even more impressive with better editing though, especially in the multimedia slideshows. There’s just a bit too much going on to keep me watching till the end.

Food Waste Republic is an investigative journalism piece that looks at food wastage in Singapore through feature stories, multimedia slideshows and quotes from experts. Readers are also encouraged to interact with the project by submiting photos to the “Food Waste Police”. The team of Estelle Low, Miak Aw and Chen Wei Li have really put in a lot of effort, even going through people’s rubbish to document the extent of the problem. While surfing the website, one thing that kept going off in my mind was, where does journalism end and advocacy start? I wondered if this project is a campaign to reduce food wastage rather than a journalism piece, especially with snazzy look of the website and the attempt to ‘police’ food wastage. But then, is there a difference between the two? Shouldn’t all journalists care a lot about the topic they write for?

On this note about caring and journalism I like to point to an encouraging initiative going in my alma mater: Photojournalism@NTU. I’m not sure if it’ll become an annual event, but photojournalism students this year got a chance to showcase their works and meet fellow photojournalists and editors in the industry in this networking session. I saw a lot of great work out there — all photo essays about Singapore. The current instructor, Tay Kay Chin, has promised to continue pushing these young photojournalists to point their lenses at what’s going on here instead of exotic foreign lands. I really agree that there are too many stories untold here.

And after seeing all the work of these young journalists, I wondered why is it that our local newspapers remain so staid? Whether it is in terms of topics, or the medium, one finds it hard to consistently detect the vigour as seen in these students’ works. There is good news, especially for photojournalists. When asked about photojournalism’s place in The Straits Times during the session, its photo editor said that a micro-site was coming up soon on ST’s website that will showcase multimedia slideshows and photo essays from their photojournalists. They may accept works from the public too.

Other than that, I’m not confident anything else is really going to change. For one, the people right up there making decisions have been there for years (Sumiko Tan wrote about her jubilee at the organisation in today’s Sunday Times, and she’s not the only one, nor the longest). And, without competition here, hardly anything changes as my research on ST’s newspaper redesign has shown.

For me, the saddest part about all this is not that I may never get to read a great Singaporean newspaper. But, I may never see these young journalists’ byline beyond their final-year projects because they gave up chasing stories for a paper that will never showcase them in a manner that they truly deserve.

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