The Star’s chief reporter Christina Chin offers news writing tips and a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes struggles and triumphs of a journalist.
THERE are many ways in which to describe the job of a reporter but boring is certainly not one of them. One needs to only flip through the newspaper to see just how wide-ranging and exciting a reporter’s assignments can get.
The glitz and glamour of meeting well-known personalities and jetsetting to foreign countries aside, there is also the serious business of getting to the bottom of the truth, and uncovering and reporting the bad and ugly side of humanity.
Sometimes, this means interviewing grieving family members who have just received news of the tragic death of a loved one.
Star Media Group chief reporter Christina Chin knows just how difficult that can be, both to the family members and to the journalists reaching out for comments.
She has been there and done that, having covered multiple national news assignments including suicide and murder cases.
For the 10 teenagers attending the recent BRATs journalism workshop at Resorts World Genting (RWG), listening to Chin recount her professional experience and adventures gave them a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes struggles and triumphs of a journalist.
The 10 participants were selected from a pool of teen writers who have been contributing articles to the BRATs section of The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) pullout all year long.
During the workshop, Chin – who has earned a string of accolades throughout her 12 years in the field – also offered nuggets of advice on finding the right news angles and conducting face-to-face interviews, among others.
Having received pointers from the seasoned journalist, the BRATs writers were then put to the test as they were given the task of carrying out “man on the street” interviews with RWG visitors at three different locations.
Apart from the workshop, the BRATs participants’ two-day, one-night stay at the highlands, sponsored by RWG, included a visit to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, the Jurassic Research Centre and the Zombie Outbreak.
Read on for some of the participants’ reflections on their weekend getaway.
Getting to attend the workshop was truly a blessing. Not only did I get to know my peers in the BRATs programme, but I also had the opportunity to enjoy some of the most exciting attractions in Genting Highlands with them. The Zombie Outbreak was hands-down the most adrenaline-pumping. Not to mention, I was incredibly stunned and impressed by the input from Ms Christina Chin. She did not shy away from sharing the ups and downs of being a journalist and also her experience covering a suicide case. The workshop definitely opened my eyes to the undocumented part of being a journalist. — Tan Ejin, 18, INTI International University, Nilai, Negri Sembilan
I enjoy writing for BRATs. Nevertheless, the most difficult part for me is coming up with a good introduction in my articles. That was among the issues tackled by Ms Christina Chin during the workshop. The assignment, requiring us to interview RWG visitors, was truly challenging as we encountered problems such as language barriers and rejections. Getting feedback after the assignment made it all the more meaningful. I’m sure the tips I picked up will serve me well in future. Apart from the workshop, we were given access to some indoor entertainment which saw us being chased by a “dinosaur” (at the Jurassic Research Centre) and “zombies” (at the Zombie Outbreak). Our short highland stay also gave all 10 of us a chance to get to know each other better. I’m thankful for the opportunity given. — Ku Tze Xin, 18, INTI International College Subang, Subang Jaya, Selangor
Self-assurance, motivation and friendship – these were what I brought back from my trip to the highlands. At first, being the only guy in the group was a bit awkward for me. My conversations mainly revolved around food and the weather. However, it all changed after the first session of the workshop where each of us shared the challenges we faced as BRATs writers such as encountering unresponsive interviewees and information overflow. It was a confidence booster knowing that I was not the only one facing those problems. It became easier to talk to the other BRATs after that. Even though the theme parks at RWG were not yet ready for visitors, there were various other indoor attractions to explore. Fortunately, I got to experience the popular Zombie Outbreak attraction. The only thing I have to say is that it was more realistic than I had expected. — Brendan Mak Yuweng, 16, SM Stella Maris, Kuala Lumpur
I had always conducted my interview assignments via e-mail, as I was afraid of face-to-face rejections and long awkward pauses. But thanks to the “man on the street” task, I managed to pick up several cardinal rules of conducting face-to-face interviews, which I’ll definitely apply to my future assignments. Journalism is more than stringing coherent sentences with perfect grammar; it means nothing if you don’t have a story to tell. Sizzling anecdotes shared by Ms Christina Chin was my personal highlight of the trip as they allowed me to gain invaluable insights into the life of a journalist. The fun didn’t stop there. The trip to the Zombie Outbreak solidified the camaraderie between us, as we let out Oscar-worthy screams and ran at the speed of light to avoid the “apocalypse”. It was truly an unforgettable weekend, topped with good food and even better company! — Jessie Gan Ze Xin, 17, SMK USJ 12, Subang Jaya, Selangor
Walking around a designated location to look for friendly-looking strangers to interview, screaming at the top of my lungs while scampering away from “zombies”, chatting late into the night in a comfy hotel room – the Genting Highlands getaway offered a spectacular experience for me. I had gone on the trip, with the expectation of getting insights into how to conduct proper interviews. I gained more than just plain advice, as I got to carry out the interviews myself. I have also learnt not to take criticisms or rejections personally. Of course, my newfound friendship with other BRATs writers made my time there all the more enjoyable. All in all, I came away from the trip with more than I could ever ask for. — Jeslyn Ch’ng Tze Yin, 14, SMJK Jit Sin, Bukit Mertajam, Penang
I have to admit that this trip turned out to be much more fascinating and delightful than what I had initially envisioned. I scored invaluable words of advice from a seasoned journalist which would definitely come in handy in future. Listening to the daily challenges faced by journalists made me realise that being a journalist wasn’t just about writing articles and doing interviews; it was also about facing rejections and rude remarks at times, and even being looked down on. This has made me become more appreciative towards journalists. To conclude it all, it was a very memorable trip. Sometimes when I’m writing, Ms Christina Chin’s words of guidance pop up in my head and memories of the trip come floating back to me. — Ooi Shinz Jo, 14, Chung Ling Private High School, Penang
It was a trip I wish I could replay. I learnt so much from Ms Christina Chin. I had always shied away from taking up face-to-face interviews but after listening to her tips, I felt eager to try them out for myself. She was extremely friendly and learning from her was a great interactive experience. Bouncing ideas off the other writers was also an interesting process. We bonded during the session where we shared our challenges as writers. It felt like home and I was so glad to find out that I was not the only one facing certain obstacles writing my articles. Our room in the Theme Park Hotel was great. With a space-saving layout and bunk beds, it fit six of us and was the most perfect and cosy place to stay up late and talk to each other. The Zombie Outbreak attraction was too scary for me that I deserted the group at the last minute. I also screamed and ran away from a man in a dinosaur costume at the Jurassic Research Centre while the others laughed at me. I even got scared of a moving statue in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium. What can I say? I’m a scaredy cat. Overall, this trip was a fantastic weekend getaway. It was packed with knowledge, bonding and most of all, fun! — Jynn Kok E-Lynn, 17, SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3), Petaling Jaya, Selangor
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