SINGAPORE - The calling out of a controversial name given to a war museum, which spurred the Government to rename it, won Story of the Year at the Singapore Press Holdings' annual awards for its English/Malay/Tamil Media group on Wednesday (Jan 17).
When the name of the revamped WWII museum at the former Ford Factory was revealed in February last year, it raised eyebrows in the community. The Straits Times' heritage and community correspondent Melody Zaccheus, 29, picked up on this, reflecting the debate on whether "Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies" was an appropriate name.
Her coverage of the museum stirred debate among Singaporeans and eventually moved the Government to change its name to "Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies".
Almost a year later, the story saw her receiving one of the top awards at Wednesday's ceremony.
Ms Zaccheus said: "Having an editor who trusts your gut instinct and other editors who back you up throughout the process was key in breaking the story on the inappropriately named Syonan Gallery.
"It's also a reflection that heritage news has been gaining traction and that niche beats do matter."
Shortly after joining the newspaper in July 2012, Ms Zaccheus carved out the heritage beat. Her exclusive stories and commentaries have led to positive intervention and the protection and retention of key heritage sites in Singapore, including Dakota Crescent, Ellison Building, Queenstown and Haw Par Villa.
The awards ceremony showcased the best work of journalists in The Straits Times, The New Paper, Berita Harian, Tamil Murasu, The Business Times and Tabla! in 2017. Fifteen awards recognising work in news and feature stories, as well as visuals, page layouts and digital packages were given out.
Bagging another top award was banking correspondent Jamie Lee, 32, who beat Ms Zaccheus to clinch the title of Journalist of the Year for her coverage of fintech and banking at The Business Times. With almost a decade of experience, she lends depth and breadth to issues in banking.
"Covering the banking sector can be daunting because there are many technical terms and sharp minds in the industry," she said. "So I read up a lot and I talk to as many people as possible."
She also commented on the "deep changes" the journalism industry is going through and said she hopes journalism will still carry value in informing readers of the news that matter.
"Journalism can still sparkle, but it's not enough to keep the faith. We have to find new and better ways to do our job," she said.
The New Paper's Hariz Baharudin was named Young Journalist of the Year. The 27-year-old, who is two years into the job, said: "I did not expect to win. I was in the running with a talented peer whom I recognise as a formidable journalist." The Straits Times' Ms Seow Bei Yi, 25, who is with the political desk, was also nominated for the award.
One of his biggest scoops was a report about controversial content found in Malay language children's books available in public libraries. The story led to the National Library Board withdrawing the series of books and reviewing its vetting process for such content.
Another memorable package was his coverage on life in Oxley Road following the public dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his two siblings over the fate of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's home at 38, Oxley Road.
Journalists from various newsrooms were also awarded for their excellence in journalism.
Mr Patrick Jonas of tabla! won an Excellence in Journalism award for his story on the man who created fish head curry.
Ms Nur Adilah Mahbob of Berita Harian won an award for excellence in news reporting for her stories during the year.
Mr Warren Fernandez, editor in chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media group and editor of The Straits Times, noted that the two nominees for the Journalist of the Year award were both relatively young, but wrote with an authority in their respective subjects that had won them the respect of readers and newsmakers alike. This augured well for the future, he said.
"These awards reflect our commitment to quality journalism. Despite all the upheavals in our industry, it is the professionalism of so many in our newsroom, and our commitment to striving to do our best for our readers, that will help us secure the future of our newsrooms."