(From left): Loh, Tan and Chua, all of whom are graduates of WKWSCI, work together as associate editors at TODAY newspaper. PHOTO: HENG HUI MEI
They chose the same communications school, underwent similar training during their university days, and now, these three alumni from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information are working together as associate editors at Mediacorp’s TODAY newspaper.
Loh Chee Kong (CS’05) helms the business and general news desk, Chua Chin Hon (CS’98) heads the online desk and Jason Tan (CS’98) oversees the foreign desk and the commentary and analysis section.
“Given the kind of training and similar environment that we are exposed to, we are very much on the same wavelength.”
Loh Chee Kong
Despite graduating from the same faculty and having a common passion for journalism, it still came as a surprise when the trio found themselves in the same workplace early this year, when Chua joined the paper in January.
“It is a big coincidence. We didn’t plan to be in the newsroom together,” said Chua, whose friendship with Tan goes back to their teens. Both now 43, they were schoolmates since secondary school, and had lived in the same neighbourhood.
While Loh, 36, was not at WKWSCI during the same time as Chua and Tan, he said that the similar experiences they had in school make it easier for them to work with each other now.
“The good thing is that there is familiarity,” said Loh. “Given the kind of training and similar environment that we are exposed to, we are very much on the same wavelength, and we have a similar understanding of issues and the ways we look at things.”
Loh explained that “everyone is on the same level” and even though there may be disagreements at times, it is easy to work together and reach a consensus.
Having to work closely to produce the free daily newspaper, the editors at TODAY meet twice daily to discuss how the latest news and events will be covered, and Tan highlights how final decisions are taken based on a collaborative approach.
“It’s very cordial and we work very closely together. There is a lot of pride here because we are small and we punch above our weight,” said Tan.
Despite their shared beginnings, the trio arrived at TODAY via different paths.
Loh’s route to the paper was straightforward.
Beginning with an “enjoyable” professional internship at TODAY about 12 years ago, it was a “no-brainer” for him to continue with the company upon graduation. This means that while he may be the youngest of the trio, he has been with the company the longest. As a journalist, he covered court, crime, education, defence and politics before becoming associate editor in 2013.
Chua, on the other hand, had spent 16 years reporting for The Straits Times before leaving in 2014. Some of the roles he had assumed included: China Bureau Chief, U.S. Bureau Chief and Deputy Foreign Editor.
“You need to push forward because of the digital environment and all the devices in the digital space.”
Chua Chin Hon
He then had a short stint with oil industry giant Shell where he wrote op-eds, speeches and online features, before the lure of taking on TODAY’s digital newsroom transformation brought him back into journalism.
“You need to push forward because of the digital environment and all the devices in the digital space,” said Chua.
“In 1998, no one would have imagined you had to deal with Facebook, apps and stuff like that, so it’s quite a challenge to adapt the newsroom to the new age of technology.”
Similar to Chua, Tan kickstarted his journalism career at Singapore Press Holdings, leaving after four years to join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Foreign Service Officer.
This was followed by a stint at a real estate firm where he served as vice president of its corporate communications department. Realising that the corporate sector was not for him, he returned to journalism by joining TODAY in 2014.
For Tan, WKWSCI had equipped him with a “good grounding on certain fundamentals such as writing and news judgment.”
He added that graduates from WKWSCI are also “far more well-trained compared to someone who’s not” due to the school’s good curriculum.
“For interns and new hires that come straight from WKWSCI, you expect them to perform at a higher level,” he said.
Looking back at his time at WKWSCI, Loh recalls that classes were conducted in ways that encouraged students to think critically. He also liked how the lecturers were open to unconventional views, citing Senior Lecturer Dr. Mark Cenite as an example.
As a “reserved and shy” student, WKWSCI had helped build Loh’s confidence. He is grateful for lecturers who were “very nurturing” and willing to “push boundaries” in their classes, where students can be unafraid of raising controversial views.
These experiences proved useful to Loh’s newsroom career, where he often has to make difficult decisions.
“As an editor, you have to be confident of your ideas and sometimes, you may have to stand against the crowd. Even though it may be unconventional, if it is the best idea, you still have to go ahead with it,” said Loh.
But it was not all about studies at WKWSCI for the trio. They still managed to find time to hone their leadership skills and try their hand at things they were passionate about.
Loh was the president of Hall 10’s Junior Common Room Committee and Chua worked part-time for The Straits Times during his school days. As for Tan, he was involved in many WKWSCI activities, such as orientation camps, which he recalled were “always so fun and wacky.”
Tan also recalled attending a course that taught him how to use Microsoft Word and a photography module which got him to use a camera and develop black and white pictures.
“For interns and new hires that come straight from WKWSCI, you expect them to perform at a higher level.”
“I took a module in photojournalism and kind of fell in love with photography. This was in 1997 and there were no digital cameras yet,” said Tan.
“But now? Everything is digital, be it the cameras or our phones. It’s a sign of how different the times have become and it’s something that we’re trying to adapt to in our newsroom as well.”
On the transition from classroom to newsroom, Loh said that there is “no way” a student’s life is comparable to working life, where every day is a “mini exam.”
He said: “You have to be on top of your game every day. There are deadlines, there are pressures, you are dealing with real things. You cannot just slack or take it easy. In school, it is about your own grades and if you don't do well, that is just you. But in a workplace, you are talking about other people's jobs.”
“Every time you are in the workplace, you have to be at a hundred percent.”