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ST beefs up its bureaus - Jan 05, 2009 (ST)

BackJan 05, 2009

The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

ST beefs up its bureaus

Upgraded network boosts global coverage with 23 correspondents working out of 13 bureaus.


Jan 05, 2009
The Straits Times

THE Straits Times is strengthening its network of overseas bureaus, assigning more correspondents and reassigning others as part of continual efforts to deepen its reporting of the region and beyond.

The latest changes bring the total number of overseas correspondents to 23, covering the world from 13 bureaus.

Backed by an additional pool of more than 50 contributors, they form the sharp end of the paper's commitment to delivering value-added news to readers from across the globe - not just in breaking and explaining news, but also through analyses and online blogs.

Mr Chua Chin Hon, 35, who has been the China bureau chief for the past three years, moves to Washington to take charge of ST's US bureau, joining US correspondent Bhagyashree Garekar.

There, he will have his work cut out for him, he said, with all eyes on how incoming President Barack Obama will perform amid the economic crisis.

'In recent years, there has been this popular theory about 'de-coupling', the notion that somehow Asia can power ahead on its own,' he noted. 'The global financial meltdown has proved otherwise, showing that we are more inter-

dependent and affected by the United States than ever.'

Taking over Mr Chua's post in Beijing is Mr Peh Shing Huei, 33, who moved to the Chinese capital last year after three years of reporting at the Political Desk.

He and former Money Desk reporter Grace Ng, 27, are the latest to join the bureau, making it ST's largest, with no fewer than four correspondents - reflecting China's rising importance as a global player.

Mr Peh said the team will be looking out especially for significant developments such as the handover of power to the fifth-generation leaders, slated to take place in 2012.

'The job of the ST China bureau is to bring the stories of these changes to Singapore readers, sharing uplifting examples of human spirit, like those we saw in Sichuan, and also heinous crimes as exemplified by the recent melamine milk scandal,' he said.

The enhanced China bureau is also the result of ST's continuing aim to strengthen its reputation as the paper that covers and knows Asia best. It is thus beefing up its coverage of South-east Asia.

Former Sunday Times reporter Teo Cheng Wee, 30, joins the team of roving regional correspondents; Ms Lynn Lee, 28, a former political correspondent, comes on board at the Indonesia bureau; and Ms Elizabeth Looi, 28, a former reporter with Malaysian daily The Star, joins the bureau in Kuala Lumpur.

The bureau in Jakarta, which recently welcomed former Bloomberg reporter Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, 37, will have its hands full as Indonesia holds its presidential elections this year.

Ms Lee said she hopes to pursue stories on youth and how they relate to politics, Indonesia's religiosity and lifestyle trends, among other things.

'Indonesia is a very fascinating country - it's big, diverse and full of different cultures, and it's important for Singaporeans to be able to imagine a really non-

homogenous society and what makes it tick,' she said.

Mr Teo too expects a busy time ahead in Malaysia and Thailand. His biggest challenge, he said, will be interpreting regional news for Singaporeans.

'For instance, I didn't know how keenly the absence of Singaporean visitors was felt in Bangkok during its state of emergency in September until I was covering the situation on the ground,' he added. 'We'll never get such reports from other news sources.'

At the Taiwan bureau, former education correspondent Ho Ai Li, 29, replaces Ms Ong Hwee Hwee, 33, in Taipei, where she hopes to blend Western and Chinese perspectives in reporting on Taiwan affairs.

'Singapore holds a unique position in viewing Taiwanese affairs in that our perspective is neither Western nor Chinese, but a mix of both,' said Ms Ho.

ST Editor Han Fook Kwang said that the paper intends to continue investing heavily in its foreign coverage because the world is now so closely interconnected that events elsewhere - whether they involve tainted milk in China, the fall of another US bank or the closure of an airport in Bangkok - have a huge and immediate impact on Singaporean readers.

'The news might be thousands of kilometres away, but it often seems as if it's taking place in our backyard,' he said. 'And we need to make sure that we cover it as well as we do our own Singapore stories because the consequences for us are far graver.'