28 May 2021

Journalists Share a Desire to Create Positive Social Impact, One Story at a Time

The SIF’s Impact Media Fellowship, the first of its kind in the region, brought together 14 Asian journalists with a shared aspiration to effect social change through their storytelling.

15 social enterprise teams from around the globe will be advancing through to the next phase of the SIF’s Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme. SIF Chairman Ambassador Ong Keng Yong (top) said that the YSE digital platform offers new opportunities to nurture the energy, innovative spirit, and passion of young changemakers driven by a strong sense of social purpose.

Impact Media Fellowship participants

Fourteen journalists from six countries shared the social challenges they would like to address when they spoke at the introductory session of the inaugural Impact Media Fellowship programme by the SIF.

From 9 March to 22 April 2021, the SIF hosted 14 journalists from various media publications at the inaugural Impact Media Fellowship. Dialling in weekly from six countries – China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam – the journalists gained new insights on how to envision and enable meaningful social change in their communities and beyond.

There were several discussions on the challenges that the participants faced as journalists. One example was to find fresh ways to engage with their audience in times of “doom and gloom”, plagued by urgent global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

In addressing this, several speakers in the programme – comprising industry experts and academic researchers – underscored the importance of a solutions-based approach to journalism.

At a panel session themed “Global Village Newsrooms” Ms Kavita Chandran, a journalism trainer with Thomson Reuters Foundation, told the participants to be thorough in reporting on a social issue that had been raised.

She said: “Investigate the solution as you would a problem. You need to revisit that solution-based approach and ask, ‘Were there more things accomplished? Or did this fold up?’ Keep going back to it, make it more insightful, and give a little bit of hope to the readers.”

Co-speaker Mr Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief of the English, Malay, and Tamil media of Singapore Press Holdings, concurred and highlighted that responding to pressing issues is also an effective way for journalists to engage with their audience.

He said: The audience wants to know not just the news, but also: ‘How does this impact me and how can I deal with it?’ So, whenever we do stories, we try to interpret and analyse to help the audience to understand issues better.”

These insights spurred participants Ms Deborah Wong (CNA, Singapore) and Ms Nguyen Thuy Mien (Thanh Nien, Vietnam) to apply them in recent news assignments.

In a report on the current prolonged Singapore-Malaysia border closure, Ms Wong focused on what stranded Malaysians and affected Singaporeans are doing to ease the situation. The report also included a call to action for crowdfunding support led by the Malaysian Association in Singapore. [Link]

“[Solutions journalism] is easier said than done, because not every problem has a solution. However, I realised that it did not always need grand innovations or policy changes. It could simply be finding a silver lining in the short term, while longer-term solutions get worked out,” said Ms Wong in a reflective article after the programme.

Ms Nguyen, meanwhile, was inspired to pursue a story on beauty training courses designed to empower and transform the lives of young women in rural parts of Vietnam. Through this story, she aimed to raise awareness of how the courses had enabled these women – at risk from human traffickers – to become more financially independent.

“This Fellowship reminded me of why I started my career in journalism, which was to generate awareness of social issues and inspire action to address them. The speakers shared great insights, tools, and concepts, and the topics were timely and relevant to the current climate. This has also been a great opportunity to widen my network of peers and industry experts in the region,” said Ms Nguyen.

At the end of the programme, Chinese participant Ms Michelle Luo, producer and host at Guangdong Radio and Television, shared: “The Fellowship had been insightful and thought-provoking. As a host and reporter of a tech show, I was especially intrigued by the concepts and tools introduced during the sessions. The other participants were also generous in sharing their experiences and I am excited for future cross-border collaborations.”

Indonesian participant Mr Tommy Kurnia Rony, a journalist at Liputan6.com, said: “It has been an incredible learning journey. I particularly enjoyed the workshop session on countering mis/ disinformation and deepfakes led by Dr Carol Soon and Assistant Professor Saifuddin Ahmed. Dr Soon's powerful report “What Lies Beneath the Truth” expanded my views about confirmation bias, where the tech-savvy youth is not automatically immune to misinformation. The insights and resources shared by the speakers will be very useful to me and my newsroom for many years to come.”

The participants also shared about the cross-border friendships made during the seven-week programme.

Mr Fabian Peter, a sports journalist at New Straits Times Press in Malaysia, said: “The beauty of this Fellowship is although we come from different backgrounds and beats in our respective agencies, there is still that opportunity to work together.”

Mr Deepsekhar Choudhry, a journalist at Inc42.com in India, shared similar sentiments. He said: “I am sure that after this Fellowship, we are all thinking about ways we can collaborate to tell important stories about the world we live in.”

The Impact Media Fellowship programme, which ended on 22 April 2021, aimed to build capacity and promote an exchange of ideas among media professionals, publishers, and broadcasters who want to use their platforms for social change.

The seven-week pilot focused on professional training and knowledge-sharing through workshops, panel discussions, and cross-cultural exchanges. Visit our website to find out more or register your interest for the next edition of the programme in 2022.