Impact Media Fellowship 2023 brought together a new cohort of 15 media changemakers from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Fifteen media professionals from eight Asian countries gathered virtually in Singapore for the third run of the Singapore International Foundation’s (SIF) Impact Media Fellowship (IMF).
They were from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam; and they formed the largest number of nationalities present at IMF to date.
They engaged in workshops and panel discussions on how to make a difference in their research and a social impact in their news reporting.
Ms Valy Phommachak, journalist and adviser of Econews Laos, said that she was able to apply what she learnt immediately: “The day that we discussed solutions journalism at the IMF, my team at Econews was working on an article about air pollution in Laos.
“Instead of focusing on the problems, we heeded the guidance to highlight how the law and policies could be leveraged to tackle the issues. The article’s performance has been outstanding, and we were surprised to see many people sharing and commenting on it.”
Ms Nguyen-Hanh Vu, a reporter at Tuoi Tre Newspaper in Vietnam was inspired to start incorporating a social angle in her stories. She said: “I report on trade and investment, and it is easy to get disengaged from the voices of the people.
“The IMF has been a good reminder to pay attention to people’s needs on the ground, even while working on macroeconomic stories.”
Shared Interests and Challenges across the Region
Guests from established organisations – including CNA Digital, City Developments Limited, Green Nudge, Microsoft, Pulitzer Centre, SIF’s Our Better World and Viddsee – spoke to the Fellows, giving them their professional views and advice.
They also discussed trending topics such as the role of artificial intelligence in journalism, the media’s role in preventing greenwashing, and the disruption of long-form news reporting by platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.
Fellows also spoke about the pressure points they faced as journalists, particularly in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Many were surprised to find each other’s experiences similar or relatable despite coming from diverse countries and cultural backgrounds.
Chinese participant Ms Miro Lu, Managing Director at Perspective Media based in Singapore, said: “I’ve met an amazing group of journalists here at the IMF. Southeast Asia is so diverse, and each market has its own story; and yet we share a lot of similarities and concerns.”
Ms Meng Seavmey, a journalist with Cambodianess, echoed her sentiments: “Even though we are in different countries, we somehow share similar experiences in trying to contribute to solving social issues or giving a voice to the voiceless.”
Cross-border Collaboration for Social Change
This year, the Fellowship required participants to team up with at least one peer of a different nationality to produce a joint story on any social issue aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
- Ms Anitha Pailoor, news editor from Deccan Herald (India), and Mr Ounkham Phimmata, senior journalist from Vientiane Times (Laos), worked together on a story about how community seed banks in their respective countries contribute to sustainable farming. Both journalists researched information on the evolution of the seed banks and raised awareness of the challenges faced, including climate change. You may read the article here.
- Ms Hanh Nguyen, English editor from Vietnam News Agency, worked with Ms Sonali Acharjee, senior associate editor at India Today. Together, they produced a story which made a country-to-country comparison on accessibility and equality for children with autism. The article was published online in Vietnam’s Tin Tuc.
- Five journalists of diverse backgrounds came together to write an in-depth feature on the impact of the climate crisis on their respective nations in Southeast Asia. These journalists – Ms Renuka Kalpana (India), Mr Yogi Eka Sahputra (Indonesia), Ms Valy Phommachak (Laos), Mr Luqman Hakim (Malaysia), and Mr Fakhruradzi Ismail (Singapore) – collectively went through extensive interviews with climate experts and interactions with farmers and fishermen. You may read the article here.
- Ms Miro Lu, a Chinese participant based in Singapore, collaborated with Ms Navene Elangovan, senior reporter at TODAYonline (Singapore). They co-produced a video which teaches consumers on how to identify greenwashing in a company’s products and branding. In the video, they interviewed IMF 2023 speaker Mr Heng Li Seng, founder and CEO of Green Nudge, a social enterprise that supports businesses and communities achieve positive environmental impact through group activities. Watch the video here.
Ms Sonali believed that the level of cross-cultural interaction among peers enriched the Fellowship experience. She said: “This goes beyond routine learning. Theory is great but getting to do interactive exercises and hearing so many different perspectives on each social issue has been wonderful. My mind is flooded with information and ideas, the way a journalist’s mind should be.”
Mr Muhammad Luqman Hakim, journalist from New Straits Times (Malaysia), said: “Thank you, SIF. The IMF has been an amazing journey for me. This is the first time that I got to listen to ideas from journalists from different countries.
“The breakout sessions were really an eye-opener. I hope to stay in touch with everyone – friends from my neighbouring countries – to learn more from them.”
IMF 2023 Fellows are now part of a 42-strong alumni network. The IMF was launched in 2021 to build capacity and promote an exchange of ideas among media professionals who want to use their platforms for social change.
If you are a media professional seeking to make a positive difference, we welcome you to register your interest for the next edition of IMF on our website. You can also look out for the latest updates on social media via #SIFImpactMedia.