Creating His Own Path

Fresh out of university, Dewey Sim (CS’19) lands himself a job as South China Morning Post’s first and only Singapore-based reporter.

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Working in the South China Morning Post brings about daily adventures, said Dewey Sim (CS’19), the first and only Singapore-based reporter working full-time for the Hong Kong newspaper.

“Being parked here alone means I cover everything under the sun,” the 25-year-old added. “I can be covering Singapore’s economy today, something about politics tomorrow, and a story on a very strange news the next day.”

“I can be covering Singapore’s economy today, something about politics tomorrow, and a story on a very strange news the next day.”

DEWEY SIM (CS’19), SINGAPORE REPORTER AT SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

Before hiring him, SCMP filed Singapore news through freelancers and Hong Kong-based reporters who flew down once in awhile, Sim said.

While he officially joined the news agency in July 2019, Sim’s journey at SCMP began in January with a story about lion dance.

“It was a couple of weeks before Chinese New Year and there were more and more lion dances out in the streets,” Sim recalled. “I thought it would be interesting to do a story on a group of enthusiasts who are still actively promoting lion dance although it’s a dying tradition here in modern Singapore.”

Sim pitched the story to SCMP, believing that they would be the best channel for stories related to the Chinese culture. The story was published on SCMP’s website two weeks later.

Following this successful attempt, Sim started actively pitching stories to SCMP. Gradually, they began assigning him stories and engaging him for spot news. Sim said: “They would contact me and say ‘Are you free this weekend? If you are, go and cover this story.’”

In his final year at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Sim covered stories for SCMP on Singapore's dementia situation, a preview to Jewel Changi Airport and Batam’s new superblock Meisterstadt Batam, where he was sent to the island for a day.

Sim’s final year group project, a feature story on the lingering effects of Agent Orange, a poisonous herbicide used during the Vietnam War, was also picked up by SCMP and published as a four-part story. One of the articles was shared more than 150 times on Facebook.

Sim applied for SCMP’s Graduate Trainee Programme a couple of months before graduation. The programme consists of eight to 10 weeks of training, rotation to major desks, and a permanent job after that.

However, Sim did not manage to get into the programme.

When his editor, in charge of the Asia desk, knew that Sim did not get in the programme, she offered him a full-time position instead.

“In hindsight, things fell into place quite well for me,” Sim said.

“Since I have done journalism in Singapore for a while and I have access to contacts, it would be a lot more apt for me to cover Singapore news first before doing journalism full-time in a foreign place.”

Sim also seized the chance to cover the weekend protest in Hong Kong during a training stint at the SCMP headquarters in September.

With new developments seen every moment, Sim was forced to think on his feet fast. But there were still times where he was at a loss.

“At one point, everybody was just marching peacefully and chanting slogans. Then, police started marching towards the protesters, raising the different coloured flags and the next thing you see is the tear gas being fired,” Sim said.

“It's a very humbling and sobering experience for me to be on the ground with very experienced editors.”

DEWEY SIM (CS’19), SINGAPORE REPORTER AT SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

Sim recalled a time when he was trying to interview people when police fired tear gas. “The protesters told me ‘you have to run into the shopping mall now because the tear gas is coming’,” Sim said.

Observing journalists from other countries who were in control of their interviews, Sim realised that he still has a lot to learn as a young journalist.

“I would say it's a very humbling and sobering experience for me to be on the ground with very experienced editors,” Sim said. “Such major landmark events really put journalism into perspective.”

His time in the Going Overseas For Advanced Reporting (Go-Far) course, a hands-on course on advanced journalism reporting overseas, also trained him to adapt quickly to a foreign place.

During his Go-Far trip to Estonia in 2018, he learned to work around language barriers, cultural differences, and how to build rapport with people quickly before interviewing them.

“That’s very relevant to my job now,” Sim said. “When I went to Hong Kong to interview people, since their culture is different from ours, I have to take note of those differences when interviewing them.”

As a young reporter, Sim believes that the best way to learn is to “put yourself out there”.

“I think the thing about journalism is that you pick up skills while you're at it,” he said. “Time and experience help hone your skills and make you a better journalist.”

Even outside of his work, Sim finds that being on the ground just to listen to what people have to say is important to his job and sometimes they can be potential story ideas.

“You have to talk to uncles at coffee shops or taxi drivers because they are the people who interact the most with Singaporeans,” he said. “They know what’s the talk of the town.”

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