Engaging discussion by students, parents, editors at ST Youth Forum Writers' gathering

Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez speaking at the Young Forum Writers' Gathering on Thursday . -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez speaking at the Young Forum Writers' Gathering on Thursday . -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE- Student Lee Song Yang, 15, has had his letters published in The Straits Times Forum page five times this year, on topics ranging from the importance of studying humanities subjects to the need for more internship opportunities for students.

His letters caught the attention of not just his peers, but also his school's Head of Department for humanities, who praised him for his good writing, and for being a role model.

"I was quite surprised that out of so many letters, mine got chosen," said the secondary three Geylang Methodist School (Secondary) student.

"I wanted to air my views in the Forum page because it caters to a varied audience."

He was among a group of young people and their parents at the first Straits Times Young Forum Writers' Gathering on Thursday.

The free session at the Singapore Press Holdings News Centre in Toa Payoh North hopes to encourage those below the age of 21 to write in. In fact, the paper started the "Youth Forum" in April last year, a space that showcases the views of younger readers every Wednesday.

Yesterday's session is part of a two-day forum writers dialogue, which ends today, and is expected to attract about 300 people. From January to September this year, The Straits Times received 79 youth forum letters, and its youngest contributor was 11.

Yesterday's session sparked off a lively discussion.

Secondary three Nanyang Girls' High School student Elizabeth Yeo, 14, for instance, asked how the paper decides which forum letters to publish, given that they receive about 120 letters a week.

Addressing this "popular question", forum editor Jack Hee said that writers have a good chance as long as they are logical and argue their points well.

The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez added: "We're looking for a diversity of views, new ideas and a fresh take on the subject. So long as the letter makes a point... we're quite happy to run it."

Another talking point was how more young people could be encouraged to read the newspapers.

The young writers suggested including more infographics and diagrams and tapping on social media, for instance.

Mr Fernandez told them that ST's revamp next year, as it celebrates its 170th anniversary, would focus on developing apps, allowing articles to be shared more easily, as well as thinking of new ways to give better play to Forum page letters online, among other things.

"I think if we do our job well and continue to be a trusted source of information, we'll continue to do a good job of serving people well," he said, adding that he welcomes feedback and suggestions from readers on how the paper can stay relevant.