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Journalist of the month: He went against the digital migration tide

Blog post   •   Dec 16, 2014 11:45 +08

In the last few years, many high-profile journalists have moved from traditional editorials to digital news platforms. We've seen a number of key editorial chiefs shift from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal to digital news outlets like Yahoo, Buzzfeed and Mashable. In this age of mass Digital Migration, comes along someone like Yeo Hock Chuan, who has boldly gone against the tide.

7 years ago, he started with one of Singapore's first interactive online portal OMY. Now, it's back to basics, as he helms the role of Deputy Editor for Lifestyle Magazine "Zan"(赞).

Why did he make the jump?  What are some of the challenges he faces in this age of Print vs Digital, especially as a Chinese publication? If you have a story idea for him, he also lends a hint on the best opportunity to do so.  Find out more below.


I receive an average of...  (releases, a day, a month?) 

10 releases a day, perhaps 5 event invites, and 5 reminders/follow-ups to these releases and invites.


My main subject areas are...

I oversee the content direction of the magazine and also write some of the lifestyle stories ranging from health to travel and food.


What is ZAN ? How is it different?

When we revamped the title and gave it a new name, we wanted the name to reflect our editorial values, which put us apart from the other Chinese titles in the market. We aim to praise good living and provide assistance to readers in their pursuit of a balanced lifestyle. 赞 (Zan) offers a well-rounded mix of practical lifestyle information that caters to almost everyone in the household, not just purely fashion, entertainment, health or luxury.


The best thing about being a journalist is... 

I get to 'kaypoh' and talk to various kinds of people.


Share about development process of a story... (starting from idea/pitch) 

Firstly, I access the idea/pitch and consider how novel/useful/relevant is it to my readers. The “so-what” is always the big question here. For the simpler, straight-to-the-point stories, you decide who you need to interview and what information is necessary, but for bigger feature stories, I will dissect the topic into layers so it becomes clear who I need to talk to in order to complete the picture.


3 challenges as a journalist...

Meeting deadlines (but some say this is the ultimate motivator too!), getting your interviewees on board, and writer's block.


What makes a good story for you?

Simple writing, novelty and relevance, with a strong human angle.


Suggestions to PR / Communications staff...

To have a basic knowledge of the magazine and a rough gauge of what works.


Worst Press release received...

I just delete them and they disappear from I don’t exactly recall, but perhaps those demanding/expecting a coverage...


The best time of day to send press releases to me...

Anytime is good really since they just appear in my inbox, nothing very intrusive.


When stories should be pitched to me... 

I'm always happy to hear a good pitch that is relevant to my readers, but preferably after meal times. An empty stomach obscures the mind.

How do you find new stories these days?

From my own daily observations, and from equally kaypoh friends. Really, lifestyle isn't about sitting in office cubicles, you really need to get out and experience lifestyle. Given that you may not be a know-all, appreciate the fact that all of your friends have their own interests. Speak to them and ask them what's getting their attention and you may chance upon leads. 

You started 7 years ago in the digital media space. What is different then and now?(in terms of challenges and story development) Why the switch from Digital To Print?

I think visuals are very important then since I produced quite a few online videos. Interviews are simpler since online media isn't the best platform for lengthy crossfire discussion. It's easier to speak to a few interviewees just for one print story and details can be explored in depth than telling a story with an online video. I love to work on lifestyle stories regardless of the media platform. The switch was to pursue this love for content production, and a greater responsibility in this case since I joined Majority Media to revamp a title. There is a great sense of ownership and everyone in the team is very driven to make the product a good one.


Do you think Print / Traditional will decline?

As a standalone, yes.

Former Forbes journalist who now is editor for GE Reports said,  People these days don’t care as much about where the story comes from as long as it tells them something,”  Do you agree? Do you feel that the quality of content produced by journalists has dropped overall? 

Of course we need to know where the story comes from, especially in this era of information overload. Consumers have to be prudent, and the source of information is one of the things that matters. Quality has dropped largely due to the fact that news sources want to be breaking.


What about bloggers? Are they offering quality content?

Bloggers first started out based on interest, but it's hard to see them as "untainted by sponsorships and monetary incentives" nowadays. I take their content with a pinch of salt, and I don't consider compiling and aggregating (ie "Top 10", "5 Newest", "6 Things to do") as quality.... it's merely useful as a quick reference.


Do you think that, being in the Chinese media, you have a different set of challenges? 

To work in the Chinese media in Singapore, you have to be bilingual. I would say most of the releases issued to us are only written in English. Most events and/or press conferences use English as the working language. This means you need to be able to digest that info and write it in Chinese for your own stories. Often, we have to check with the PRs for Chinese translations as well and this takes a bit of time.


Is it required of marketers / people in PR to be bilingual to better reach out to media? Or is it the other way around? Journalists have to now be good at both languages to better engage readers?

I don’t think it’s a requirement for PRs to be bilingual but it is definitely a big bonus to be more sensitive to the needs of the Chinese media, such as proposing to have Chinese speaking interviewees, provide Chinese terms for specific nouns such as brand names especially if already in use by clients. I think being proficient in a language opens up an entire cultural background, and it’s always good to be good at both languages to speak easily with all of your interviewees.



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