28 October 2020: Professional journalists share their insights in a student organised panel discussion

By Muhammad Firdaus

Journalism plays an integral role in society by educating the public and shaping opinions. At Yale-NUS College, students interested in pursuing journalism as a career will find plenty of opportunities to develop their skills, build their network and further their professional development.

A key driving force behind such opportunities stems from close collaborations between our student organisations and the College’s Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE) to bring in professionals from the field of journalism to share their experiences and insights.

On 13 October 2020, student group Roosevelt Network at Yale-NUS organised a panel discussion titled Policy-Powered Journalism, where seasoned journalists were invited to share about their roles in demystifying public policy. The stimulating discussion covered various subjects, ranging from the elements of a good opinion piece (op-ed) and the role of a reporter in discussing public policy, to the relevance of journalism in a social media-saturated world.

Speaking on their motivations in organising the panel discussion, Vice President (Policy) of the Roosevelt Network, Kaezeel Yeo (Class of 2023) said, “One of the Roosevelt Network’s main goals is to make policy ideas accessible to the general public – what better way to do this than to widen our reach through the age-old op-ed format? To write an effective op-ed requires an understanding of its demands and implications, which is why we decided to organise this panel.”

Screengrab of the featured panellists over Zoom (clockwise from left): Associate Professor of Practice at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, James Crabtree; Senior Journalist at BBC London, Vincent Ni; Associate Editor at The Strait Times, Chua Mui Hoong and alumna moderator Harini V (Class of 2018). Photo provided by Lim Tian Jiao.

“We were fortunate that several extremely qualified speakers with decades of experience in op-ed writing and editing agreed to grace our panel. Additionally, their diverse journalistic backgrounds, spanning different countries and news organisations with many political leanings meant that they could offer opposing perspectives to the same issues, which really enriched the discussion,” said Lim Tian Jiao (Class of 2023).

Live screening session of the panel discussion. The panel was well-received, with about 40 attendees in total, watching over Zoom and during the live screening. Photo provided by Lim Tian Jiao.

During the event, participants gained insights into how emerging discourse on social media might interact with elite institutions which peddle factual news. Kaezeel explained that the role of the op-ed in the midst of increased polarity and a litany of opinions online is to provide fair arguments that maintain intellectual integrity and resist polemical writing. “Overall, a nuanced understanding of the reporting and op-ed landscape of Singapore and the world at large will inform the way our members continue to share their public policy research with the public”, added Kaezeel.

On 30 September 2020, a similar panel – Journalists of the Global South – was organised by the College’s student-run publication, The Octant. The panel saw prominent professionals such as Libyan journalist Heba Alshibani; executive editor of Rest of World, Anup Kaphle and the 2019 World Press Freedom Hero award-winner, Cyril Almeida sharing their insights with Yale-NUS students.

Drawing from their extensive experience navigating law, politics and culture in various developing regions, the panellists shared their perspectives on the challenges facing quick access to information and what free press means beyond the West.

“At many higher institutes, conversations about the press and journalism seems to be limited to the western bubble, and any reporting on the Global South region seems to always be written for a western audience,” Editor-in-Chief of The Octant, Avani Adhikari (Class of 2021) noted. “In a college like ours, where a significant number of students come from the South and many have ambitions to work as journalists in the region, it becomes important to have an unbiased depiction on what the region is actually like. We imagined this panel being a part of the larger conversation on decolonising academia — to learn more about the information industries of the areas we call home, not through western articles but through the lived experience of people who worked on the ground,” Avani elaborated.

These panel discussions were held in conjunction with the Journalism Pathway, a programme offered by CIPE. Established earlier this year, the Pathway holds regular workshops and events that allow students to develop their narrative craft, employ technical skills across different media, and cultivate an understanding of the journalism landscape. In an industry that is rapidly transforming, students get to hear first-hand from prominent speakers on current trends, new developments and the future of journalism. The events also give students the chance to network and open doors to potential internship, freelance and employment opportunities.

“We often hear from our speakers about the traits required to be successful in this field: intellectually curious, critical thinker, relationship builder, strong communicator, and fighter for the common good. These often overlap the skills and interests of students from a liberal arts background and are connected to the College’s core values of exploration and making a positive impact in the world,” Senior Programme Manager (Leadership & Global Citizenship) at CIPE, Ms Jenika Kaul explained.

“We are making efforts to feature more regional voices in journalism. We will continue to partner with the Writers’ Centre and Arts & Humanities, and engage our students and alumni to cultivate a space that facilitates the sharing of ideas, articles, and opportunities,” Ms Kaul added.