A new fellowship programme by the World Editors Forum (WEF) Asia Chapter for young, high-potential editors and journalists from across Asia was launched virtually yesterday, after being postponed due to Covid-19.
The six-month Young Media Leaders Fellowship Programme was initially scheduled to start on March 10, with part of it held during the inaugural Asian Media Leaders Summit in Singapore on March 11 and 12.
The programme is supported by Temasek Foundation. The WEF Asia Chapter is the region's network for editors within the World Association of News Publishers (Wan-Ifra).
As a result of the pandemic, organisers decided to have the programme take place mostly online.
The inaugural class comprises 30 journalists and editors from 15 countries and territories, including The Straits Times in Singapore.
Among them are Straits Times deputy business editor Poon Chian Hui and Berita Harian correspondent Ervina Mohamed Jamil.
Other participants include editors from South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and The Jakarta Post in Indonesia, and journalists from Bernama and Sin Chew Daily in Malaysia.
They will take part in a week-long executive leadership programme for newsroom leaders this month, and attend the online Asian Media Leaders e-Summit next month.
They will also participate in online dialogues on regional political, economic and societal issues, and plan events, activities and stories to mark World News Day on Sept 28.
The participants will gather in Singapore next January, when the Asian Media Leaders Summit will be held, if the Covid-19 situation permits.
The fellowship was mooted by WEF president and editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English, Malay and Tamil Media Group, Mr Warren Fernandez.
Speaking at the opening of the programme via videoconferencing yesterday, Mr Fernandez, who is also editor of The Straits Times, said the aim of the fellowship is to bring together young and talented journalists and editors in Asia to hone their leadership skills and form a network where they can share best practices and improve newsroom capabilities.
He noted that since the Covid-19 outbreak, many newsrooms, including The Straits Times', have seen a surge in audiences and readership. "Audiences are coming to us because trust in established media is high, and the fact that they are seeking out credible, authoritative, reliable information is showing the value of professional newsrooms."
Mr Fernandez added that Covid-19 has shown the importance of collaboration, not only among health officials of various countries, but also among newsrooms, and urged participants to work together to cover the pandemic in the region.
He was also one of three panellists at an industry leaders roundtable on the topic, Leadership In A Time Of Crisis, which kicked off the fellowship programme yesterday.
The other panellists were Mr Gary Liu, chief executive of South China Morning Post, and Ms Esther Ng, chief content officer of Star Media Group in Malaysia.
Mr Liu said it is important for the news media to continue to serve its audience's wants and needs if it wishes the audience to stick around.
The other panellists agreed, with Ms Ng saying that it is important for news organisations to listen to what their readers are saying. Mr Fernandez said that in a crisis, newsrooms must step up to help readers make sense of what is going on and how they are going to cope.