ST journalist Rebecca Lynne Tan talks about going from print to digital as food writer

The Straits Times food writer Rebecca Lynne Tan speaking at an askST@NLB session at the Central Public Library on Nov 30, 2018.
The Straits Times food writer Rebecca Lynne Tan speaking at an askST@NLB session at the Central Public Library on Nov 30, 2018.PHOTO: ALVIN HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Straits Times food writer Rebecca Lynne Tan used to frequent Haron Satay at East Coast Lagoon Food Village when she was a teen.

The stall was recently featured in a video series called A Day in The Kitchen, produced by Ms Tan.

"I feature food stalls and restaurants where I have tested and tried their food, places that I would put my name to, not random stalls," she said.

That is one way that food writers find their stories, Ms Tan told 175 people at the Central Public Library on Friday (Nov 30).

"These days, writing for the online audience also means that the stories have to be visually enticing," said Ms Tan, 36, who is the editor of the ST Food website.

This involves producing videos with a strong audio element as well as animation to draw the viewers in.

The talk, part of the askST @ NLB sessions, was organised by ST and the National Library Board (NLB).

During the 90-minute session, Ms Tan, talked about being a food writer in the digital age.

"It's about thinking of new ways to tell a story. We have to think about getting the right footage, the right visuals," she added.

A video might take two to three days to shoot and three or more days to edit.

She said she also has to go down to recce locations such as hawker centres and look out for special features such as the architecture.

Besides videos, the digital age has seen the rise of blogs which have changed the landscape of food writing.

"These days there are so many blogs and almost anyone can be a writer. And these bloggers also have their own following," said Ms Tan, who has been a journalist with ST for 10 years.

For ST, she said food writers try to be as objective as possible, paying for their own meals and stating in the story if they had been invited to a tasting session. This helps build up their credibility.

At the end of the day whether print or digital, the fundamentals of journalism remain the same.

"It's about telling other people's stories and getting them to open up to you," she said.

While the videos are being shot, Ms Tan finds herself also becoming a listening ear to the hawkers she is interviewing.

"Through these videos, we hope to give the public an idea of what these hawkers go through. It's a window for our readers," she added.

Audience members said they found Ms Tan's talk helpful.

Student Seraphina Tang, 20, said: "I'm interested in journalism and food writing in particular. Through this session, I learnt how to write and adapt between the print and digital mediums."

Mr Tang Chun Tuck, 65, a retired civil servant, said the session could have been longer and covered aspects of healthy eating as well.

"I would like to know more about healthy alternatives and things like the use of MSG. I want to see food that is tasty but also healthy," he said.

The talk, which was streamed live on the Rings.TV application, attracted about 400 views.

The live streaming video can be replayed via the app, which can be downloaded from the Apple or Google Play Store.

The next askST @ NLB session will be on Dec 14 by ST's senior education correspondent Sandra Davie on what to make of the recent changes in education.

To find out more or to register, readers can go to