Our Alumni Coordinator, Danielle Stephenson, interviewed Qi Siang Ng, Journalist at The Edge, Singapore and 2019 #AAYLF delegate about his work as a journalist and the importance of youth perspectives.
Danielle: Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
Qi Siang: I’m a Singaporean Journalist working at a weekly financial newspaper, called The Edge Singapore. It’s quite interesting because it’s a Malaysian paper, but it also has a branch over here in Singapore because we are a big financial hub in the region as well. It covers things like stock market developments, how businesses are being affected by global developments like COVID-19, and basically how businesses in Singapore are coming along. At the moment, I am writing a lot of things about emerging markets, geopolitics, trade cybersecurity, and future of work technology. My coverage is quite broad and varying because we are quite a small paper. As a small and open economy, Singapore is a bit of a bellwether for the rest of the region, the rest of Asia and even for the rest of the world, so quite a lot of trends and international developments are easily felt here. But I do hope to be able to write a bit more about the rest of the region as well. Singapore really cannot be seen in isolation as it’s very much part of this region and it should be seen that way as well.
D: What motivated you to get into journalism and continues to motivate you to discuss these topics through a journalist’s lens?
Q: I think what got me into journalism was my love of writing and research. And also because I like taking a look at current events that are happening around the world; it’s a very interesting time for the world right now. And I think from a young age, I actually used to have a hobby of always being updated with the latest news through social media. So with that sort of interest, it was quite natural for me to try and get into a profession that would allow me to actually be a part of creating the news. I also see journalism as a bit of an art as well, because when you’re writing stories, you’re finding a way to take reality and put a narrative to it. It really allows one to experiment with language and self-expression by creating new turns of phrases and new ways of telling stories. Journalism also allows you to engage with the bigger trends and also shape them in some way. It’s like writing a history of the past week or even 24 hours. And that’s what made me so excited to get into journalism in the first place.
D: What unique perspective do you think you as a young person brings to these conversations and brings to the articles and stories you get to discuss and redefine?
Q: I think the first thing is to give a young person’s perspective on the way business runs in Singapore. My paper has been around for some time, and so I think what younger journalists bring to this paper is a youth perspective. One of the things my editors were quite interested in when they brought me in was to write about things like startups, which people my age tend to be more attuned with. I think we also bring this new way of telling stories as well. Young journalists are taking the lead in shifting towards doing things like video journalism at our paper. So it’s really about bringing in new ways to tell stories in our work and the literacy with regard to new developments in startups and technology. I hope what we are doing will open the eyes of our reads as to how business landscapes are changing so they can adapt their own businesses to deal with the rapidly transforming digital economy.
D: What have you taken away from these different stories you’ve been able to explore? Has any particular story changed your mindset or opened you up to a new area you hadn’t explored before?
Q: I am learning things everyday because working in financial journalism is something very outside of my industrial scope. At first, I thought I was going to work in foreign policy, geopolitics and international security. I thought business was something I wouldn’t be able to understand, let alone operate effectively in. But I think something about journalism is that it really helps you to learn things you’re not familiar with. So after writing stories on Singapore businesses and drafting stock reports about stocks listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange,, you come to understand how, to some extent, finance works — the different sorts of considerations that influence actions in that space and the basic building blocks of the financial industry. It has really just opened me up to this very new way of understanding the world. Because finance plays a big role in a lot of interactions between global actors, it’s been pretty useful and effective to learn more about it. It gives me this broader and richer perspective than I initially had and expanded my own understanding of the regional landscape as well.
D: Journalism is definitely one of those paths where you’re not only helping explore different topics with other people but exploring a lot within yourself and learning new things. You recently got nominated for Story of the Year by the Singapore Stock Exchange for your article on the digital RMB, ‘Rise of the Digital Redback’. Tell us a bit more about that.
Q: I wrote that story because I was interested in the geopolitical and business impacts of having a digital RMB, because I was coming across a lot of reporting in other news media about it, focusing on the US-China geopolitical contest. So I wanted to cover a bit more about what exactly the digital RMB is, what sort of business impact it has and what sort of influence it could have on the rest of the world. It’s going to have a significant impact because of the sort of infrastructure development that China is actually doing in the ASEAN region at the moment, but it’s still very early days. There’s no full rollout in China as yet. So I think slowly we shall see what sort of details this entails and what sort of impacts it eventually has.
You can read more about the digital RMB in Qi Siang’s article here.
D: Every career has unique challenges that it presents. What challenges have you faced and how are you working to overcome them?
Q: One of the challenges is learning how to manage people. Journalism is very much a profession about people. It’s about speaking to clients, to public relations and communications teams, and even analysts and researchers. You meet a wide range of people and you have to learn when you are taking their stories what sort of perspectives or interests that they may have when they are sharing this information, how complete the information is when you receive it, and to assess the extent to which they can be used in an article or whether you need to cross-check a bit further. There’s also the more personal level because journalism is about relationships as well. It’s about building relationships with public relations and building rapport with your interviewees to cultivate good working relationships. It’s helped me to become a lot more confident about speaking to people. Initially, I was quite intimidated by the idea of speaking to people and calling them for interviews. And to some extent, I still am a little nervous, but nowadays I feel more confident about doing those things and putting myself out there to build networks and investigate stories.
D: What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give youth looking to get involved in journalism and start exploring this pathway and impact that it can have?
Q: I think the best piece of advice would actually be to follow the Nike slogan – just do it. For journalism, there isn’t as high a barrier to entry in terms of actually doing the work on your own as compared to other professions. Even just doing something like joining the school paper is very helpful. It allows you to develop the kind of basic reporting skills that you’re going to put on your CV. There are also other ways to get involved. When I was in university, I used to write a lot of op-eds and articles because I was told that’s a good way to build up your reputation for expertise in a certain area. So by regularly writing for newspapers, journals and all sorts of publications, you slowly build up a portfolio of your work. With that, a lot of doors open because you can show it to editors and explain to them, here, I can do the work, you can trust me. When you write, people notice you, they are also more willing to get in touch and build networks with you, which could lead to a job as well. This is especially useful for Journalism where you need to do a lot of networking and show people what you can do to get your foot in the door. So, the best advice to get into the industry is to just start writing, writing, writing. Start with op-eds, but slowly try doing things like experimenting with reporting or even other types of journalism like podcasts and YouTube videos. Being in a university is actually a great space to leverage as there’s a huge concentration of experts and people involved in making a lot of policies and things that could be of interest. So interview your professors, interview your friends, and pitch stories to news organisations open to the work of young people.
D: Great advice. Somethings you’ve just got to start doing to know what your potential is and to explore what it could offer. What do you think is the potential of youth in journalism to shape the future outcomes of the region?
Q:Young people bring in a perspective that is very different to what the older generation has brought in. In a sense, the youth of the world are the ones who will inherit the future. So I think it’s very important that journalists who are young and coming in start to shape that future start talking about things that are really at the heart of what young people are interested in and thinking about. Things like climate change, social justice, racial equality and ending poverty. And some of the new possibilities in technology startups and things like that. I think from my interaction with other young people, the sort of world we are envisioning for ourselves in the future will look very different from the one that currently exists and the one in which our parents grew up in. So I think the important thing is really to start writing into that space. Also, as we’re moving into a state of very high geopolitical tension and hatred of other groups, there’s also a need to really push back against such negative developments. We need to write in a way that says, maybe this state of affairs where people are being torn apart, separated by tribalism and conflict doesn’t have to be our future. Maybe we should reimagine a world where there’s more peace, building up stronger people to people relationships to divert from the tense and hateful world that’s developing. Because right now the global outlook looks quite bleak, both geopolitically and in terms of people to people relations. So I think the most important thing is to use our writing to build a world that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more harmonious, and also one where young people can actually actively shape their destiny in a more positive way.
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Alumni Legacy is our regular series highlighting the work of AAYSP alumni across the region.