ST’s China correspondent, journalist nab top SPH journalism awards
Instinct took over when drama arose at a usually highly choreographed Chinese political event, which led to a viral moment for Mr Danson Cheong.
The Straits Times’ China correspondent, who joined the newsroom in 2014, said he sensed something unusual was happening when he spotted an attendant beside the former Chinese leader Hu Jintao in the great hall.
Quick thinking led Mr Cheong, 34, to pull out his phone.
He said: “I just started filming, not knowing what would happen next, and when it happened, I was gobsmacked.”
He captured the dramatic removal of Mr Hu from China’s 20th party congress in a 1min 25sec video that he shared on Twitter.
The post has since garnered more than 12 million views, and his keen news sense helped Mr Cheong nab the Journalist of the Year award at SPH Media’s annual English, Malay and Tamil Media Group (EMTM) awards ceremony.
Mr Cheong said: “Because of Covid-19, living in China for the past few years has not been easy... This award really would not have been possible without the support of the Bureau.”
He added that the China Bureau acted as a sounding board for him to bounce ideas off, and was also his family away from home.
His editor said: “His dogged objectivity doled out in measured and calm tones has additional value in the sphere of public service journalism.”
Mr Ng Keng Gene, 27, took home the Young Journalist of the Year award for his work across housing, religion and conservation. He joined ST in 2020.
His editors said he has established himself as ST’s resident expert on urban planning and heritage.
Mr Ng said of his win: “It takes a village to put a story together. I hope the efforts of those that make our stories look readable and presentable are also recognised.”
The reporter said he most enjoyed tracking planned urban changes over the course of 2022, and found that stories such as coverage of the forthcoming changes associated with the Jurong Lake District resonated with readers.
“This shows the impact that development has on peoples’ lives, and places they have a connection with... as Singapore continues to change, I hope that ST will be able to capture these periods of transition well,” he said.
The Story of the Year award went to Wong Pei Ting, a correspondent with The Business Times. Her data driven story on how there was a sharp drop in the quality of accountancy candidates at Singapore universities solidified the industry’s hunch.
An off-hand comment during an interview on high attrition rates at accounting firms - that the industry was becoming a dumping ground for students who “could not make it” in other courses, led her to dig for links connecting this claim and accountancy students’ A-level grades.
Her editor said the story provided robust and insightful analysis, intuitive visualisations and a range of perspectives, and generated a lot of buzz when it broke.
Ms Wong, who joined BT in 2021, said: “I was really surprised. I wouldn’t think that a scoop would win this type of award.”
The awards ceremony returned to its physical form after two years, and was also the first time judges outside the SPH organisation helped decide the winners.
Ms Natalie Pang Lee San, senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore, and Mr Alan John, director of the Asia Journalism Fellowship, cast their votes alongside Mr Wong Wei Kong, EMTM’s editor-in-chief; Ms Lydia Lim, dean of SPH Media Academy; and Ms Tan Leng Tuan, head of audience development at SPH Media’s Chinese Media Group.
Mr Wong said the awards celebrate the spirit of journalism across the newsrooms.
“We hope they will help spur all of us to keep improving our craft and producing content that will be valuable to our audiences,” he said.
Mr Jaime Ho, editor of The Straits Times, said: “We’re extremely proud to recognise Danson and Keng Gene. They have come to exemplify the best of journalism for ST. Dependable and consistent, but always with that sharpness to sniff out an untold or unseen story.
“Even as we celebrate their individual contributions, behind them is a newsroom that supports them and one another. In that spirit, our awards for excellence this year also recognise the ethos of collaboration, which allows ST’s journalists to bring the best and most emotive stories to our audiences.”