ST environment correspondent wins SPH Journalist of the Year for work on climate change, Covid-19

ST Science and Environment correspondent Audrey Tan posing with chinstrap penguins in Antarctica in 2019. PHOTO: COURTESY OF AUDREY TAN

SINGAPORE - Recognised as a leading voice in the field by environmentalists and scientists here, as well as internationally by organisations such as the Pulitzer Centre, Ms Audrey Tan devoted the first seven years of her career to carving a niche for herself in science and environment matters.

The 30-year-old Straits Times correspondent furthered her expertise over the past year, joining the publication's core team for the coverage of Covid-19.

Through more than 260 stories, videos, podcasts and infographics, she covered topics including the evolving science of the virus, vaccine development and Covid-19's more indirect effects on Singapore's air quality and green spaces.

She also was the first to break a story about how Moderna was applying to the authorities here to have its vaccine approved for use in Singapore.

On Wednesday (March 17), her wide-ranging work won her the Journalist of the Year award at Singapore Press Holdings' annual journalism awards for its English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, her first since joining the paper in 2013.

SPH Brightcove Video
The EMTM annual awards celebrate the best in journalism across Singapore Press Holdings' English, Malay and Tamil publications. Yeo Sam Jo talks to Journalist Of The Year, Audrey Tan.

She said on receiving the award: "I'm very happy with the help of my supervisors and also with the patience of scientists. One thing I'm especially thankful for is that the editors believed in the importance of environmental issues and climate change even before they were on the national agenda."

Ms Tan was roped into the coverage of Covid-19 after the first case was announced here in January last year. She said reporting in-depth about the virus was not initially a natural fit for her, as it was an area of science she was unfamiliar with.

On her own initiative, she did a Duke University course on genetics and evolution on open online course provider Coursera during the circuit breaker to better understand virology.

"I was also conscious of not doing sensational reporting, especially in the early stages of the pandemic. There were a lot of bad scientific papers going around that were not peer reviewed," she said, recalling an early paper that said the coronavirus was similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

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She added that she would continue to strive to help people who are not typically interested in the environment to be more aware of its issues, now that it has become integral to the national agenda.

The Young Journalist of the Year award went to Ms Choo Yun Ting, whose editors described her as "a real-life Swiss army knife", who can take on any story that comes her way.

The 25-year-old ST journalist, who has been in the Business section of the paper in the last year, focused on making sure the financial problems of small and medium-sized enterprises and business owners in a time of recession were never forgotten.

For instance, her coverage of food and grocery delivery company Honestbee's demise, from late 2019 into early 2020, culminated in an exclusive on its liquidation.

The Young Journalist of the Year award went to ST journalist Choo Yun Ting. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

With a reputation as a fast and accurate writer, Ms Choo was also one of those tasked with running the General Election live blog on the ST website, which updated voters on proceedings islandwide in real time.

She said of her role: "I think it's important for journalists to always make information accessible and easily understood - there's not much point in having policies and aid in place if no one knows how to make use of them."

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