Young ST letter writers share views on news

Forum editor Liaw Wy-Cin speaking at the ST Young Forum Writers dialogue yesterday at SPH News Centre in Toa Payoh. She encouraged the more than 20 young letter writers gathered to ask their peers to read the Home section first, where they might find
Forum editor Liaw Wy-Cin speaking at the ST Young Forum Writers dialogue yesterday at SPH News Centre in Toa Payoh. She encouraged the more than 20 young letter writers gathered to ask their peers to read the Home section first, where they might find news stories most directly relevant to them.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

They discuss news business and how to get youth interested in current affairs at dialogue

Young people do not pay attention to news because they do not see how it relates to them. Plus, it does not help with schoolwork.

"They tend to feel that it's boring or very heavy, and they don't find that it's important to them," said 16-year-old Lee Song Yang, who has just completed his studies at Geylang Methodist School (Secondary). "But I think it's important for the next generation to know what is happening."

Song Yang walks the walk, as a regular writer to The Straits Times' Voices of Youth about issues of the day. He and more than 20 young letter writers gathered yesterday for an evening of animated discussion about the news business as well as how to get young people interested in current affairs at the SPH News Centre in Toa Payoh.

Forum editor Liaw Wy-Cin suggested they ask their peers to read the Home section first, where they might find news stories most directly relevant to them.

Others wanted to know how the day's top stories are chosen, why certain Forum letters are picked over others, and if newspapers would endure in the face of online competition and social media.

NEWS IS IMPORTANT

They tend to feel that it's boring or very heavy, and they don't find that it's important to them. But I think it's important for the next generation to know what is happening.

LEE SONG YANG, 16, a regular writer The Straits Times' Youth Forum

In the first nine months of this year, The Straits Times received 24,000 letters, some 3,670 of which were eventually published.

In addition to the regular Forum pages, a dedicated space for younger readers to express their thoughts was started in April 2013.

Running every Wednesday, Voices of Youth is open to those aged 21 and below.

While the earliest letters resembled "school compositions" and dealt with topics students were most familiar with, such as school life and exams, said Ms Liaw, the quality has improved noticeably.

Students are also beginning to write in about issues such as freedom of speech or world affairs.

"Increasingly, we are seeing letters that respond to other issues, or to other writers," Ms Liaw added.

Some of the letter writers were accompanied by their parents. A similar dialogue for adult writers was held last Friday. It was attended by around 200 people.

Speaking on the future of the newspaper with the advent of online news portals and social media, Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez said he believed newspapers would be around for some time.

"Many people have predicted the demise of the newspaper, but it's been a long time in coming," he said. "But if you purely depend on one platform - on print - then you are in trouble."

He also spoke on how the paper's editors decide on the most important news for the next day, saying it is a matter of what will be of most interest to the paper's target audience. "There are days, like today, when there is so much happening," he said, referring to the global reaction to the attacks in Paris. "We go on the basis of what will have the most impact for our Singaporean readers."

Among last night's guests were sisters Elizabeth, Kate and Lauren Yeo. They started writing about student issues close to their hearts, but slowly broadened their scope.

"As you look around, you find that there are more and more things that interest you," said Elizabeth, who is 16 and the oldest of the three.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline 'Young ST letter writers share views on news'. Print Edition | Subscribe