Interview with Deborah Loh
GC Graduation Year
Why or how did you choose your field? Were there specific experiences that influenced you?
Since I was a teenager, I’ve always wanted to be a journalist. There were no specific influences; I was just drawn to the idea of exploring, witnessing history in the making, meeting new people, and being able to tell their stories.
Gradually, I learned about the role of the media as a watchdog on society and government and the importance of its public service role. I got drawn to the idea that as a journalist, I could help build communities, or bridge them where there were divides, and hold power and authority accountable. These things sealed my decision to become a journalist.
What’s exciting about your job or field?
Meeting people, being in places, and having experiences I wouldn’t otherwise have had. The chance to discover something new about the world, my country or about someone every day in the course of covering the news. Being able to contribute to public discourse about pressing issues facing my country.
What has been a challenge in your career journey?
To write with a fresh perspective, to write with hope and not be jaded, especially when repeatedly covering the same issues, eg. systemic corruption in the public sector, political scandal, or communal politics.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?
I would not have done a major in mass communications. I would have done mass comm as a minor instead, and for a major, studied something like history, politics, law, sociology, or economics. In hindsight, I feel writing for the media and learning about journalistic principles was something I could have learned in a minor, and honed on the job. But having in-depth knowledge of a particular field would be advantageous, I feel, when covering news beats like politics, business, or science. I now know many journalists who were previously lawyers, accountants, bankers, and who were trained in these other disciplines.
I think specializing in an area of writing might also be the way forward in journalism careers because of social media. Now, anyone can be a citizen journalist by observing an event and posting their observations or commentary online. I’m wondering if, the more democratized information and news gets, the more necessary specialist writers will become to media organizations as a matter of positioning and value-add. And if you one day no longer want to be a journalist, you have another discipline to fall back on when looking for a new job.
How did your liberal arts education assist you in your journey?
It was precisely because of a multicultural, liberal arts education and the broad thinking that came along with that kind education that helped me to grasp concepts from various disciplines so that I could write on a range of topics throughout my career.
Did anyone offer you some memorable advice that you’d like to pass on? Or…what advice would you give to a young person just starting out?
Various bits of advice I’ve received over time from colleagues:
- If you already know that you want to be a journalist, think about what kind of journalism you want to do, what you want to write about. Then work towards specializing in that field.
- Have an opinion. A neutral article is boring and may not help further public discourse. Objectivity in the news is a myth; rather, it is a tool that helps you form your opinion as fairly as possible.
- Be patient when you first start out. Cover every mediocre assignment given to you. Sometimes your editors want to see what you’re made of, rather than how well you write or what you know.