Veteran journalists win top prizes - Feb 12, 2009 (ST)

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The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

Veteran journalists win top prizes

The Straits Times garners seven of the 14 awards at stake.

By Yen Feng
Feb 12, 2009
The Straits Times

THE Straits Times (ST) yesterday won the bulk of the journalism awards at stake among Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) English and Malay newspapers, including the inaugural Journalist of the Year award.

Experience won the day for ST, with its veterans taking the top prizes: South-east Asia correspondent Leslie Lopez, 45, took the honours for Story of the Year; Nirmal Ghosh, 49, the senior Thailand correspondent, became Journalist of the Year, and senior writer Sandra Davie, 49, won the Feature of the Year award.

The newspaper's extensive network of foreign bureaus - of which Mr Lopez and Mr Ghosh are part - delivered two other prizes: Its China and Malaysia correspondents won Special Awards for Excellence for their gripping coverage of the Sichuan quake and the watershed Malaysian elections last year.

Both teams went the extra mile, from putting themselves in danger to bring the stories of tragedy home to readers, to working round the clock to provide analyses and insights on the polls.

Another veteran, sub-editor Patricia Wee, who has 28 years' experience, bagged the Headline of the Year prize.

Rounding up the list of ST winners was photojournalist Lim Wui Liang, 29, who claimed the Feature Picture of the Year prize for a photograph which captured the hard work that grave-diggers do.

Of the 14 awards at stake, ST took seven; The New Paper, four; The Business Times, two; and Berita Harian, one.

Mr Lopez was first in the world with his story, 'JI man with links to Sept 11 plotters freed', about Malaysia granting an early release to nearly a dozen extremists linked to the Jemaah Islamiah terror organisation.

Speaking to ST from Kuala Lumpur, where he is based, Mr Lopez, who also won the award last year with an exclusive story, said: 'That was a big fish. It felt great to get the story out.'

Ms Davie, who has covered the education beat for over 10 years, won for her feature on degree mills that let anyone buy university qualifications easily.

ST Editor Han Fook Kwang said of the wins: 'In these challenging times, it's even more important for newspapers to put out quality work which stands out from the crowd.'

He added: 'I'm very glad the foreign bureaus were big winners too, reporting first-hand what's happening in the region.

'They produce unique content which you can find only in The Straits Times. It shows that there's no short cut to quality journalism: You have to invest in the newsroom and be committed to nurturing journalists, by giving them the opportunities to develop their skills.'

Addressing staff members at the event, the editor-in-chief of the English and Malay Newspapers Division, Mr Patrick Daniel, lauded ST for its 'sterling financial performance' in the face of an 'ugly and depressing' reality for the newspaper industry.

He noted that it increased its readership from 1.3 million to 1.44 million in the last year, propelling the company's total newspaper and magazines revenues past the $1 billion mark.

But, he said, that was the past, and that the year ahead holds three main challenges for the division: To 'hold steady' by cutting waste, to focus on training and development, and to boost revenues.

He said: 'All our papers must aim not just to be among the survivors, but among the winners.

'This will take all our professional efforts and all our energies.'