Getting on her hands and knees for a story

Singapore Polytechnic senior lecturer Trudy Lim was part of the team that conceived and launched The New Paper in 1988. She spent nearly 18 years at TNP before joining the polytechnic to teach journalism, but still keeps old copies of the newspaper.
Singapore Polytechnic senior lecturer Trudy Lim was part of the team that conceived and launched The New Paper in 1988. She spent nearly 18 years at TNP before joining the polytechnic to teach journalism, but still keeps old copies of the newspaper.PHOTO: COURTESY OF TRUDY LIM

Ex-TNP reporter recounts how she snagged Malaysian royalty story in 1988

After years of asking questions as a reporter for Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Ms Trudy Lim found the tables turned on her.

For The New Paper's (TNP) 30th anniversary, the 54-year-old Singapore Polytechnic senior lecturer was interviewed by the tabloid.

She was one of the members of Project 459 - the tabloid's code name before it saw life in 1988.

Former president S R Nathan, who was executive director at Straits Times Press and SPH in 1988, wrote in his memoirs, An Unexpected Journey: Path To The Presidency: "Why '459'? Apparently this was then the postcode for Toa Payoh, which perfectly represented the readership (young heartlanders) we had in mind."

It is this focus that has guided TNP towards the colourful, human interest-centred coverage it is known for today.

One of Ms Lim's first reports was her coverage of the then Malaysian King's 1988 state visit to Singapore. A blurb appeared on the front page of TNP's first issue on July 26.

After not being allowed into the Istana as she did not have a press pass, Ms Lim thought on her feet. She said: "I saw the King's grandchildren playing with the press photographers outside the building and decided to interview them instead.

"I got on my hands and knees and played Lego with them. I talked to them in Malay, which I had learnt in school."

The resulting article-The King, Our Baba - was published on July 29, 1988, and portrayed a king who lavished presents on his grandchildren and never spoke a harsh word to them, giving a human face to the royal office.

Her article perfectly captured the unique story angles that TNP reporters were expected to get.

Ms Lim devoted nearly 18 years to TNP before leaving in 2007 to teach at the Singapore Polytechnic.

Now a senior lecturer, Ms Lim trains future journalists.

 
 

"The two most important values are accuracy and ethics. Curiosity and resourcefulness are the most important skills journalists need."

She talked about how she grew to love her TNP colleagues, who shared her joy at her wedding and when she gave birth to her two children.

Ms Lim said: "It was such a small team. We all knew one another. They were my family. To this day, in my lectures, I refer to SPH as 'we'. My students know my heart is still with them."

On TNP turning 30, editor Eugene Wee said: "TNP as a newspaper has transformed a lot in the last 30 years, but its DNA has never changed - it is still made up of journalists who love telling stories."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2018, with the headline 'Getting on her hands and knees for a story'. Print Edition | Subscribe