Star2 senior editor Ann Marie Chandy recalls the evolution of the lifestyle and features section for its 30th anniversary celebration.
I joined The Star in 1990, right after I completed my tertiary education. I was interviewed by then-Section 2 editor Davin Arul and managing editor Datuk Ng Poh Tip. It was a very unnerving experience as it was my first interview ever. Luck for me, Davin began talking about Monty Python, and I had only just been exposed to all things Pythonesque during my education in Australia. I was able to wing it and got a job on the Entertainment desk right away.
I spent many years as an entertainment journalist, interviewing my favourite actors and pop stars (Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr, Sting, Duran Duran, even Cliff Richard), travelling by Bas Mini No. 12 every day to Angkasapuri to collect the RTM schedules, reviewing movies and albums by both local and international acts.
I became a sub-editor and learned all about copy editing from my sifus at The Star. Senior Regional Manager of Operations David Yeoh and Senior Editor Lim Cheng Hoe taught me all I know about layout and design, and I'm ever grateful to them. I coordinated the Youth desk for a few years, and was part of the team that kickstarted the cheerleading event that has become part of our annual calendar.
Work started out for me in Section 13, PJ, in our old warehouse-styled building. In 2001, we moved to the 17-storey Menara Star building in Phileo Damansara, Section 16, where we are today.
I have served in Section 2 (which was later renamed Star2) under the direction of Davin, Gilbert Yap, June HL Wong, Lim, Alistair Tan and Tan Gim Ean, all of whom were more than just bosses to me. After all, I've spent more time at The Star than anywhere else and I think of my colleagues and mentors as my family. We like to joke and say that some of us feel like part of the furniture!
We have strong ladies on our team – CB Oh, Majorie Chiew, Chan Lai Hun – all of whom have served The Star for a long time. Oh, who began as a sub-editor in 1981, remembers when the features section was yanked out of the main paper.
“There were only two subs then, me and Tan Thean Peng. There were just six to nine pages of features, along with the comics pages and the TV guide. The rest of Section 2 was filled by classifieds, cinema listings and racing. Later, more subs were roped in as the subs desk expanded, and an editor (Low Eng Sim) was taken in to develop local features and writers,” she recalls.
Oh also remembers that while she was on the subs desk then, her job included sourcing for wire stories, editing raw copy and harassing contributors when their work was late. “There were regular columns (Penang Platter, Johor Jottings, Perak Parade, Negri Viewpoints, Malacca Round-up, East Coast Angles) to fill up the pages,” she says, noting that the ambience was always cozy, homey and informal.
Chiew joined The Star as a feature writer in the '80s and made her name writing about food. She started writing the At Home series, which featured Food Tales about unusual food stories, Food Snippets about superstitions as well as interesting facts and fancies about food, and Off The Spice Rack which was about herbs.
She interviewed famous chefs for their recipes, and fondly remembers how she had the privilege of learning to cook with Martin Yan at his culinary school in Shenzhen, China. She still possesses his autographed apron. Chiew also had a chance to taste the food cooked by a former chef of the late Prince Rainier of Monaco. Then there was the time when she dined with Joan Collins! After Chiew “retired” from covering food stories, she had the quirky fortune of winning Dome’s Most Delicious Food Writer Award in 2000.
Chan Lai Hun, who is now Deputy Editor of supplements, joined The Star in 1985 when she was 27. She joined as a news reporter, but after two weeks she switched to the Entertainment desk. “It was a small desk then and I was welcomed into their fold pretty quickly. I have seen my share of fresh young reporters joining the desk and they have been a responsible and fun lot. It has always been enjoyable working with them.”
Chan says that what she values most is the friendships she has established with her colleagues over the years. “Although I am now out of the desk and with StarSpecial (the supplement pages), I would like to think that I am still part of the Star2 family.”
Three years ago, we had a major restructuring and meshed what used to be our weekend features editions, StarMag and WeekEnder, into Star2, so now readers get Star2 seven days a week. And we have a Features Central team made up of editors for different beats, including Health, Environment, Entertainment, Bytz, Women & Family, R.AGE, Food and Fashion. Apart from our print presence, we're also online.
In fact, the nature of the job has changed so dramatically over the last three decades. When I first joined, we took notes with a pen and note pad, photographs were in black and white, invitations were sent through a fax machine, there was no Internet or email or even an intra-messaging function in our office, and the paste-up artists would manually and painstakingly cut and glue our stories together.
Today, reporters are required to do video interviews, post to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as write for print and online. Instead of pens, reporters are equipped with smartphones and laptops. Working for the newspaper industry has been a challenging and stressful journey, but I can't deny that it's been oh-so-much fun too. And I'm thrilled to be a part of this team that has survived 30 years.
Dear readers, we’re inviting you to leave us a note, a picture or a memento about your time at Star2, or how Star2 has made an impression on you. Click on the link 30 Years Of Star2 to post your comments, or email your photos and images to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post them in our Facebook photo album for entire month of March 2014. Come on, we’re looking forward to hearing from you!