SINGAPORE - Earlier this year in May, when Malaysia announced its ban on chicken exports, intern reporter Deon Loke was sent to speak to chicken rice hawkers, chicken vendors and customers to get their reactions.
"I had worked on several stories already, but this was the first time I was working on a big package.
"I'm usually quite introverted, so talking to so many people did not come easy but it was a challenge I was able to overcome," said the 19-year-old who studied at Eunoia Junior College.
The developing situation meant she had to revisit many people whom she had previously interviewed and she was dubbed the "chicken reporter" in the newsroom.
Ms Loke is one of 12 recipients of the SPH Media journalism scholarship this year. She will begin her studies next month at King's College London, where she will read English.
SPH Media gave out more than twice the number of such scholarships this year than last year, when only five were awarded.
A total of 38 scholarships were given out by SPH Media and the Singapore Press Holdings Foundation during an award ceremony on Thursday (Aug 25).
The awards also include scholarships for children of serving employees and the Lim Kim San Memorial Scholarships, which are given out by the SPH Foundation.
Speaking at the ceremony, SPH Media Trust chairman Khaw Boon Wan cited two reasons the scholarships were relaunched with a bigger budget.
"First, we are in the business of producing quality journalism... Our business, therefore, depends on our ability to recruit and retain the talent to join us in our mission.
"Second, we want to send a strong signal to our colleagues and our audience that we are serious in pursuing our mission," said Mr Khaw.
This year, there were 126 applications for the journalism scholarship, almost three times the 44 applications received last year.
Ms Loke, along with Mr Bryan Cheong and Mr Elijah Wong, both 21, are the three scholarship recipients from The Straits Times. Another seven of the scholarships went to recipients from the Chinese Media Group.
The remaining two scholarships were awarded to a recipient from Malay-language paper Berita Harian and Mr Yugesh Kannan, Tamil-language publication Tamil Murasu’s first scholarship awardee.
On being the paper’s first scholarship recipient, the 21-year-old said: “It’s a huge responsibility. It means I will set the benchmark and be an example for all future scholarship holders coming to the paper.
"I hope more Tamil-language students take up this scholarship as it is a chance to not only grow your language skills, but also contribute to our community by informing and educating it."
Chinese Media Group scholarship holder Wong Jun Heng, who interned at Chinese-language newspaper Shin Min Daily from last December till March this year, said the stint boosted his confidence and helped him to overcome his fear of rejection.
"During my internship, I worked on many human interest stories that examined how policy announcements by the multi-ministerial task force (on Covid-19) and on the Budget would affect Singaporeans.
"I applied for the scholarship as I wanted to contribute to society by being a voice for the people," said the 19-year-old, who is currently doing his national service.
Two fellowships, the first of their kind, were awarded to veteran journalists: Ms Tham Yuen-C, a senior political correspondent at The Straits Times, and Mr Ng Soon Kiat, associate digital content editor at Lianhe Zaobao.
The fellowships are a collaboration between the SPH Media Academy and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Britain's Oxford University.