A decade’s work – Part 1

I’m a bit tired of explaining to people why I’m changing jobs come 19 Sep.

There are, as usual, many reasons for the things that I do, and well, ultimately it’s about moving on in one’s career. I won’t be saying here which job I’m taking up on 24 Sep until that day comes along, because most of my friends and colleagues already know. If you don’t know, your grapevine is obviously very slow but you can ask me personally lah.

Still, I thought it’s a good opportunity to write some anecdotes about my journalism career (by the way, it hasn’t ended) starting from nearly a decade ago in May 1998. As you know, whenever I start writing some long series (eg Photo Philosophy and Writing Well) on this blog, it often never gets concluded. Well, I’ll try to this time.

Note: This series, like all my previous blog postings, does not contain any mud-slinging, confidential info or newsroom gossip fodder. So look elsewhere if you need that kind of entertainment.


There are people who spend their entire lives wanting to be journalists, feeling the itch to be a newshound and wanting to be a legitimised busybody. Others just want to see their names in print on a daily basis, and be able to wield power with the pen.

For me, I needed the cash from the SPH scholarship, plain and simple. Journalism was not a career I had entertained until I was in university. Then, I didn’t even know who Bob Woodward was.

Back in 1998, my mum’s cancer looked like it was making a comeback (and it did) and I felt that being the only kid still dependent on my mum for pocket money, I should try to be financially-independent. 1997 also saw the global economic meltdown and I feared not being able to get a job upon graduation in 2001. (Which turned out to be true when recession hit in that year)

Personally, I never wanted to take a scholarship. I had gone through OCS and seen half my friends getting deferred and flying off to a great overseas education while the rest of us continued to dig trenches. Because I only had one S-paper distinction during the A-levels, I knew I needn’t bother with most of the govt. overseas scholarships.

Nevermind I had 4As and a solid ECA record (how many people you know won an international dragonboat race?), you know how this country works. So I was quite happy to be a normal person and get on with my life as I liked it.

But as I said, I needed the money and I applied after my first year in Comm Studies at NTU. The SPH scholarship was the most obvious choice, given my faculty and my abilities. I wrote fairly well and I liked talking to people.

My first internship at The New Paper was really stressful, and I still attribute the beginning of my loss of hair to that period in my life. My first story was covering the funeral wake of the two Muslim girls who had died when a car crashed into the Bendemeer bustop.

Not the most fun first assignment and the first of many funeral wakes I was to attend as an intern.

Apart from doing crime stories, I was also tasked with doing a 10-part, 2-facing pages-each-week sponsored series on SG expats. Even though Gus Pang and Pradeep Paul gave much guidance, it was still no joke.

I underwent a nerve-wrecking scholarship interview with Cheong Yip Seng where he dished out some really good advice I’ve followed till this day. I thought I failed that interview, especially since I didn’t receive any news while other interns already did. I had to go ask HR myself and they said: “You got it, didn’t we tell you?”

That internship ended with me doing a series on Sarong Party Girls, and after that stint, I really didn’t take my NTU journalism classes very seriously ever again. What was taught in class and what I had seen in the real world was just too different.

Theory vs real-world emotions vs bottomline – I wish we were taught more of that in class.

8 Replies to “A decade’s work – Part 1”

  1. Hey, looking forward to your part two… It’s ironic how we have known each other (though never closely) for years but yet never knew such things about each other’s lives.

  2. yar u get tired repeating the same story and the little known back story to people. Anyways, isn’t change exciting! Congrats!

  3. Hi Ian

    I’m a currently studying at WKWSCI and I’ve been following your blog for sometime. Has been very inspiring to follow an alumni on his life as a journalist. I hope you are not putting an end to ur career in the media. I feel compelled to leave a comment instead of a silent blog reader also because it felt quite surreal with this post. My friend was one of the ladies that died at the car crash at Bendemeer with the Muslim sisters. All the best for the next step.

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