Telum Talks To… Madeleine Lim, Chair of the SOPA Editorial Committee and Senior Executive Editor for Bloomberg News

Telum Talks To… Madeleine Lim, Chair of the SOPA Editorial Committee and Senior Executive Editor for Bloomberg News

Last year, SOPA received more than 700 entries for the awards from journalists and media across Asia. Have there any interesting trends in submissions over the past few years?
The award entries have been remarkably steady in the past three years which is great given how tough the environment has been for publishers and media outlets. The pandemic has shown the importance of reliable, timely, on-the-ground reporting – and that’s the kind of reporting that has dominated the awards.

SOPA gives out awards in three categories, global, local / regional and Chinese language. One notable trend is a decline in submissions in the regional and Chinese language categories. There are several possible reasons for the downtrend: Budget pressures make it tough for smaller outlets to commit resources to major multimedia projects or enterprise work that would require extensive travel, which has been further curtailed by pandemic restrictions. Local media organisations are facing increased political pressures in several Asian countries, leading to closures of several outlets, most notably in Hong Kong.

Is there any theme or new category / selection criteria this year? 
One of SOPA’s goals is to highlight the diversity of our region and create space for local voices. This year we’re excited to add a new language category to our awards line-up, the award for excellence in reporting in Bahasa Indonesia, to honor stories that set the domestic agenda in 2022. We have also slightly tweaked the submission rules for the audio category to allow for more entries per publication.

Any tips to journalists who would like to win a SOPA Award? 
There’s good advice in the FAQs, Question 3, p. 2 on how to think about the awards package – I would like to highlight the importance of a strong nomination letter; one that shows why the submission is an outstanding piece of journalism. Readers can find the link here.

One thing I want to stress is that outstanding journalism can take many different forms, as reflected in the broad range of SOPA’s award categories. Impactful local coverage is just as important as topics of global significance – which is why we, together with the Google News Initiative, subsidise submissions from smaller outlets. I would like to encourage all newsroom managers, but particularly those running smaller newsrooms, to think about the work they are most proud of from the past year and submit it – it's an incredible boost to newsroom morale and a great way to recognise the hard work of your reporters and editors. Submissions deadline is 16th February, Thursday 3pm HKT.

What are the challenges journalists and publishers in Asia face in this era? 
Journalists and publishers around the world are facing similar problems – dealing with the challenges of dis / misinformation, loss of trust by the public, and, sadly, threats to the personal safety of not just the journalists themselves but also their families. The media landscape is deteriorating everywhere, whether it’s in the developing or the developed world. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists found that 363 reporters were jailed as of 1st December, 2022, another record high, with Iran, China and Myanmar among the five top jailors. Publishers, meanwhile, are pressed to find new revenue models amid tougher economic times.

But it’s not all gloom and doom: As the SOPA Awards show, media outlets remain committed to journalistic excellence – just look at award winners of the past years! Demand for reliable news is as strong as ever; it’s up to us journalists and publishers to rise to the occasion. Innovation is essential to the publishing industry’s survival, as SOPA’s news sustainability report last year showed. And we must continue to engage with our audience, serve them the news they need to know and make it easy for them to find it.

Apart from the awards, what other plans does SOPA have for 2023?
The awards gala in June is the highlight of the year, but we also have a suite of events during the year, from media insider panels with SOPA members and industry leaders to workshops with award-winning journalists. We are in the process of setting our strategic goals for this year; check out our website or better even, sign up for notifications when new events are scheduled.

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