Telum Talks To... Ahmad Suhael Adnan, Awardee of Print Category and Salasiah Safian, Awardee of TV Category, A. Samad Ismail Young Journalist Award 2021

Telum Talks To... Ahmad Suhael Adnan, Awardee of Print Category and Salasiah Safian, Awardee of TV Category, A. Samad Ismail Young Journalist Award 2021

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Malaysia's young journalists have been recognised by the Malaysian Press Institute with the announcement of the A. Samad Ismail Young Journalist Awards last month. The awards recognise the enthusiasm and determination of the industry's new and emerging reporters across a range of platforms. Telum spoke with two award recipients, Ahmad Suhael Adnan and Salasiah Safian about their work, what the award means to them and the power of young journalists in today's newsrooms.

Ahmad Suhael Adnan is a Journalist at Berita Harian. Having worked in the industry for seven years, he is currently attached to the News & Current Affairs desk, predominantly covering political stories including parliamentary sessions, rallies and political conventions. Suhael's winning entry highlighted the mental health crisis amongst medical practitioners and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salasiah Safian is a Reporter and News Anchor at TVS, a TV station owned by the state of Sarawak. A journalist of four years, Salasiah is primarily interested in covering stories from Sarawak and its citizens. Her winning entry showcased the stories of several Lawas-based entrepreneurs.

What led you to a career in journalism?
  • Suhael: I ventured into journalism as a Stringer before I became a full-time Journalist. I was always interested in journalism and admired the role of the media in shaping nationalism throughout history. I specifically admire Utusan’s role in shaping Malaysian nationalism, and my passion was further fuelled when I had the chance to visit Utusan Melayu’s building days before its permanent closure.
  • Salasilah: I am considered to be relatively new to journalism; this will be my fourth year in the industry. I decided to kick-start a career in journalism after suspending my tertiary education with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. I initially started out wanting to give journalism a try, but after a few months, my passion for the industry grew tremendously. Journalism brings me great satisfaction, knowing that I get to play a part in delivering news to the public.
Congratulations on receiving the A. Samad Ismail Young Journalism Award! How did you feel when your name was announced?
  • Suhael: It was a very unexpected win for me. This was the first year I was qualified to run as a contender, so I submitted an entry knowing the recognition would be a testament to my work as a Journalist. I was invited to the awards ceremony without being informed that I had won the award. Many attendees on the night were hyping me up as a potential winner, but I brushed it off until I heard my name called as a winner. It was such a thrilling moment for me personally.
  • Salasiah: I was not informed that I was an awardee, so I attended the ceremony as one of the nominees. I had the chance to have a look at others’ entries, and I was really humbled by their astonishing outcomes, so I apologised to my team in advance in case if I failed to bring an award home. That night, I was seated at the same table with senior journalists, and I was really nervous. The moment my name was announced, I was elated and grateful. I dedicate this victory to my company and my beloved state, Sarawak.
Walk us through your winning entries - What inspired your submission choices?
  • Suhael: It goes without saying that COVID-19 has been the main news story in most newsrooms. My job allows me to deepen my knowledge of the mechanics of the virus and the pandemic in general. While most media outlets focused on the physical aftermath suffered by the medical practitioners and the patients, I chose to spotlight the mental health crisis among first responders and front line practitioners. My data-backed reporting was facilitated by the doctors who were severely affected by the pandemic and put their trust in me to channel their vulnerability into my work.
  • Salasiah: For this category, I submitted three human interest entries which revolved around the humble beginnings of several Sarawak-based entrepreneurs. The stories explored how their efforts translated into their business success. I positioned myself in the audience's shoes and tried to empathise with their curiosity, which helped me craft my stories. For my Pusuk Lawas coverage, I asked the entrepreneur to explain his work processing anchovies, a practice which still relies heavily on traditional methods. Our editors helped to refine our coverages without disrupting the essence of the story itself.
As a young journalist, how do you secure your role in the newsroom? Are there any challenges that you regularly encounter?
  • Suhael: I speak my mind and address any dissatisfaction in a professional manner. I am lucky that my colleagues and supervisors encourage me to be truthful about my thoughts and opinions. A nurturing work culture contributes to the quality work of young journalists, but it is important not to devalue yourself just because of your young age.
  • Salasiah: As a young journalist, I try my best to disseminate the news to the public as accurately as possible. Some of the challenges I have encountered are difficult parties who are reluctant to cooperate with my reporting. I too have made mistakes in my choice of words which has significantly affected my reporting. Now, I am more careful with my choices of words.
Digital disruption has changed the way our industry works. What are your thoughts on this?
  • Suhael: Digital disruption really affects the print media, but Berita Harian has taken the right steps by pushing for digitilisation at the right time in history. Print is not dead, as many have claimed, but there is a concern that it will become stagnant at some point. There is currently a digital revenue mismatch within the workforce, and we should acknowledge that print and digital media can't share the same content strategies. It's a struggle to find the balance to maintain operations and retain talent, and the print media scene worldwide is still looking for the right formula to make print relevant on a daily basis.
  • Salasiah: There is no doubt that the rise of digital media has an impact on journalism. In today’s world, it is easier for content to go viral and the responsibility lies on journalists' shoulders to ensure the power and temptation of "going viral" is not abused, but rather leveraged for the greater good.
How can the next generation of journalists ensure the stories that matter are being delivered to the public?
  • Suhael: Young journalists should keep up with the news of the day and continue to explore beyond their interests. Be a Jack Of All Trades, but also pick an area to specialise in. I'd also encourage young journalists to be courageous, experiment with new ideas and mingle with journalists beyond their circle and broaden their horizons.
  • Salasiah: Always be sure to fact-check your news and don't disseminate a story if there is even a small scale of doubt.
What do you think should be done to enhance and improve the journalism industry?
  • Suhael: It is time for the media to be recognised as the fourth state. There are ways to implement this; bring the Malaysian Media Council to life, empower journalists to self-regulate and let us all strive for greater press freedom. Another point to be considered is to establish a clause to make it compulsory for government bodies to disclose data for journalistic purposes. For journalists, we need to stick to our journalistic etiquettes. We need to be critical and address pressing questions. Go beyond, and be fearless.
  • Salasiah: We should recognise journalists’ efforts to keep the public informed and provide greater access and facilities to empower journalists in their work. We should also allow local journalists to collaborate with international media. That way, we can let journalists learn to upscale their efficiency in delivering their reporting to the public.
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