If you want a career in journalism, this could be a good place to start.

We asked some of Asia's top journalists and editors to share their best advice for aspiring young reporters.

By Susan Tam
Splice Malaysia

Images: Shutterstock. Graphic: Rishad Patel


From sophisticated megacities to conflict zones, journalists working in Asia must be able to tackle a host challenges in order to deliver compelling stories. Adding to these complexities is the fact that many operate under repressive regimes, with political pressures on media freedom and expression.  How do journalists work effectively in this dynamic space?

Splice reached out to journalists working in the region for their advice.



“Learn to shut up, not just when the other person is talking, but just after. Give them three or four seconds of unnerving silence just after they finish saying something in a part of the interview where you suspect there’s more to be said. They are likely to fill that uncomfortable silence with something that their brain has not had time to censor.”

Nicholas Walton is a writer and former BBC foreign correspondent. He’s working on a Singapore book to follow ‘Genoa: La Superba.’ He also writes for the Economist Intelligence Unit.



“1. No assignment is too small. Give it your all, no matter what because your brand matters.
2. You are as good as your contacts. If you can’t call the newsmaker when news breaks, you’re no good to anyone.
3. Don’t be in a hurry to get to the top. Every experience counts.
4. There are no short cuts. Do your homework. It shows.”

Haslinda Amin is Bloomberg’s Chief International Correspondent for Southeast Asia. She’s also the host and executive producer of the ‘High Flyers’ talk show.



“Never make assumptions — keep asking questions, challenging what you know to be true, and to stay as curious as you can. Asking the right questions, or even the seemingly wrong ones, will make you a better journalist, as you will be able to report on an event or issue as accurately as you can, and it will keep you grounded — a routine ego check — as you are always challenging your beliefs, your knowledge, and you submit to the fact that you may not always be correct. In short, question everything, everyone — your sources, your editors, especially yourself.”

Avie Olarte is a Filipino writer who specializes in investigative journalism and research. A journalist for 17 years, her body of work includes stories on politics, corruption, human rights, environment, gender and media and development. She is a recipient of awards from the Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism. She’s worked for Vera Files and is currently with CNN Philippines.



“It pays to let conversations wander. Sometimes the best and most valuable information will land in the final, meandering minutes of an interview. If you have the time, let conversations veer wildly off topic once in a while.”

Thomas Fuller, San Francisco bureau chief for The New York Times. He has spent the past two decades in postings abroad for The Times and The International Herald Tribune in Europe and most recently in Southeast Asia. He covered military coups in Thailand, the demise of dictatorship in Myanmar and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s transition from political prisoner to politician, the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the expansion of the European Union into Eastern Europe, rioting in French cities, the Iraq War, the Arab Spring, the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, choking forest fires in Borneo and the legacy of war in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He began his career in the Paris newsroom of The International Herald Tribune and has been based in Kuala Lumpur, Brussels, Paris and most recently in Bangkok.



“Always volunteer to do things that are never done before or things that most older journos wouldn’t do like Snapchat, Instagram Stories, Facebook Live and messaging apps. If you fail, at least you learn something. If it succeeds, you get to lead it.”

Janie Octia is a Social Publishing Producer at CNN. Based in Hong Kong, she’s part of a global team responsible for managing CNN’s social accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and messaging apps such as LINE. Octia was Yahoo’s Senior Editorial Operations Manager for India and Southeast Asia. She has also worked for Yahoo Philippines as a global news editor, and as a reporter and production specialist for INQUIRER.net.



“Remove yourself from the story as much as possible, ask the tough questions, and be fair and persistent. Or, as another journalist once told me: “Be a polite pain in the ass.””

Tom Grundy, editor in chief of Hong Kong Free Press, which was founded in 2015 in response to press freedom issues in the city. Based in Hong Kong for more than ten years, Grundy is a British multimedia journalist who has contributed to a range of international outlets. He is also behind the popular Hong Kong news and culture platform, hongwrong.com, and is the co-founder of a multimedia advocacy and legal campaign for domestic workers.



“ALWAYS research your story. Do all the background reading and make sure the questions you want to ask are pertinent and haven’t been addressed before. Never walk blind into something if you can help it. Generally, read as much as you can. Not just news sites. Invest in magazines, non-fiction books and look for research and analyses on the important subjects of the day.”

Marc Lourdes, director of CNN Digital Asia, has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, working at local Malaysian dailies The Star and New Straits Times before moving on to build digital storytelling platforms at Yahoo!, where he was editor-in-chief in Singapore. Now based in Hong Kong, Lourdes leads CNN Digital’s Asia team across editorial content and multiplatform programming for the network’s global audience during that timezone.



“The most important thing is to be mentally nimble. Approach a story with the full expectation that it may turn out to be completely different from what you think it will be. Chase down every lead and tie up every loose end (i.e. fact-check). Treat ALL newsmakers with respect. No one owes you or the news industry anything. You are not entitled to access or quotes. Direct quotes are sacred; don’t embellish them.”

Bhavan Jaipragas is the Asia Correspondent for South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. He says on his LinkedIn profile that he writes deep-dive pieces on Asean nations’ domestic politics, economy, and diplomatic ties with China and the rest of the world. He also touches on subjects like extremism and the sharing economy.



“The first thing is to ask yourself why you are doing this story and why this story is important to tell to your audience. Then you need to find out what others have reported on the issue and what new angle you are going to pursue that will make the most impact. Then, I think you should talk to as many people as possible who are related to the story. And then decide on the multimedia tools you could integrate so that you could tell the story in a better and creative way.”

Rajneesh Bhandari is a multimedia journalist and filmmaker, with work published by The New York Times, CCTV and Asia Calling. He is the coordinator of experiential reporting  Media Gufa, regularly runs journalism workshops, and is working to improve digital literacy in Nepal by training young people in rural areas.



“I think it is very hard for young journalists to prove themselves in a newsroom if they are working with some newspapers that are pro-government, because they are not required to cover the hot topics because [the publishers] are afraid the government will sue them and shut down their organizations. But if the young journalists are working with the neutral and independent newspapers, they are brave… and they will become the professional journalists in future.”

Aun Pheap, former Cambodia Daily journalist, has won awards for his work on illegal logging and trans-border smuggling. Pheap and ex-colleague Zsombor Peter were recently charged with “incitement” over their election coverage and could face two years in prison if convicted, charges that come after the newspaper closed amid government pressure in September.



“No story is worth dying for, but some stories are worth taking a bit of risk. Cultivate news awareness; cultivate sources and take every story as an opportunity.”

Syed Nazakat, founder and editor-in-chief of DataLEADS, a Delhi-based media startup that takes a data-driven approach to reporting. With more than 17 years of experience, he has revealed stories about secret torture chambers in India, arms smuggling in Bangladesh, and the trafficking of women from Afghanistan. Syed was among the first journalists to report from an Al-Qaeda rehabilitation camp in Saudi Arabia, and in 2013 he secured unprecedented access to the military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to report on prison abuse cases.



Susan Tam

Susan Tam is a freelance journalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She has reported on global affairs for Al Jazeera English TV, as well as regional issues for the Singapore Press Holdings and The Star. Her freelance assignments have been for CNN International and Yahoo, and research for the UN offices in Malaysia. Susan specializes in social issues, policy developments and the retail sector. Follow Susan Tam on Twitter.

From this week


Columbia Journalism Review takes a hard look at the journalism funding done by Facebook and Google.

There are millions of dollars going into this space. While many are happy to take the money on the table, others question the ethics behind it. “The British Empire wanted trains in Kenya and India to run well, too. So their concerns are sincere, but the effect is more often than not a deeper immersion in and dependence on these platforms.” Of course this isn’t an issue unique to the tech giants — grant-giving NGOs have also faced similar critics.
Columbia Journalism Review

Governments & policy



New Naratif put together a solid story on how the Muslim Cyber Army works in Indonesia.

If you haven’t heard of the MCA (no, not that MCA in Malaysia!), they have been spreading fake news and driving hate speech along religious and ethnic lines. Worrying trend, especially in a country that’s been fighting fake news factories like Saracen. What makes this one different? “MCA looks more ideological, has thousands of networks in different parts of Indonesia and therefore the destructive power of this group is greater than that of Saracen.”
New Naratif


The New York Times is partnering with FX and Hulu on a weekly documentary series called…The Weekly.

It centres around stories from the Times and the journalists that work them. This comes hot on the heels of The Daily, their incredible podcast about one daily story from the Times newsroom. This is part of the Times’ ongoing foray into entertainment: A New York Times Magazine feature is going to be a Netflix documentary series, and Brad Pitt bought the movie rights to the story of how the Times broke the Harvey Weinstein story. Also coming: a four-part series for Showtime about the Times newsroom during the first year of the Trump administration.
New York Times

Media startups



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I usually have the same attitude to in-flight magazines as I do to, say, a swift slap across the face: I’d really just rather not, thanks. But this reworked version was good enough for me to forget my Economy Class kneelessness, even though the cover is easily the most forgettable part of the whole redesign: a crowded image with no focal point. But here’s why I love this redesign: 1. The layout and typography have integrity in that they are led by the content. 2. The section fronts have bold, opinionated design. 3. The reading experience is immaculate — even though they crowd little surprise nuggets in the gutter. 4. The illustrations by Stuart Patience are delicious. 5. The writing isn’t all travel-fluff and doesn’t suck. 6. Those are some mad infographics skillz. Here's an interview with the Ink creative director.
The Design Air

The Malay Mail did a website redesign.

Load times were a priority, and the new site scores well on that front. The digital team also prioritised monetizing content and enhancing their “programmatic setup”. For me, this is translating into lots of badly-placed ads for pointless leather accessories in duplicate and Outbrain-forward sewage. They are testing a new section with Mandarin content for Malaysians working in Singapore, which says good things about their user research. Structurally, the website is fine, although better hierarchy on the home and story pages would be a good idea. (Also, those Open Sans headlines need some kerning; they’re w a y t o o l o o s e.) I’m impressed with how their head of digital responded to a question about the cost of the revamp: he said the company saw it as an investment rather than an expense. Respect.
Marketing Interactive

The article page is arguably the most vital page for a news website.

Getting it right across platforms is the Holy Grail. Last week, The New York Times took a giant step towards getting it right. This involved streamlining internal efficiencies on their CMS as well as a better user experience across mobile and desktop on web and native apps. Advertising also got a major overhaul: they killed their cluttered right rail of smaller banner ads for larger, full-width, midstream ads for a much cleaner read—and it’s working: “Ads on the new page are achieving twice the click-through rate of our old design, and initial studies show higher brand recall and four-times the reader attention to ads.” Read about the process here.
New York Times

“Hi, so did you hear that crazy phone call that, umm, the Google Duplex robot assistant made to the hair salon?”

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The Guardian

Google’s Duplex bot will now identify itself as a robot on the phone.

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