Can you tell us a bit more about your role as Deputy News Editor at The Business Times and what it entails?
I supervise two teams at The Business Times - Property and Garage. Our Property team covers Singapore’s real estate markets and also looks at the overseas markets that our audience follows. Our Garage team tracks startups, venture capital, and tech. Like the other editors, I assign jobs to reporters, work out story ideas, and help shape and edit stories. I also write our premium newsletter Property Insights
, where we offer a week’s worth of property news wrapped up, digested and delivered to your inbox.
What property and real estate trends or issues your team is following at the moment?
Real estate markets across the globe are under stress. The Fed’s rapid hiking cycle has jacked up debt financing costs for homebuyers and investors, property companies and funds. Values have run up in heated markets and some have deflated. Office landlords face rising vacancy as companies cut costs and workers resist the return to the office. Creditors are closing in. Meanwhile, in the housing market, young adults struggle with affordability. We are watching data and behaviour closely now across sectors in Singapore. We aim to give readers an accurate sense of how and what forces are moving in the market, especially when government actions come into play.
Which aspect of the property industry do you think lacks spotlight in news? How do you think this can be changed?
We should look more carefully at sustainability and green buildings as issues to resolve for our built environment. But data is patchy and incomplete, and greenwashing is a serious concern. Comprehensive and neutral audits are needed for us to be able to tell what should be done and how to get there.
You have joined The Business Times since 1994, how has your journey in journalism been? Any key learning points you have picked up along the way?
The most important thing I have learnt is that content is everything, but it must be relevant to the audience. In the sea of information that today’s media is swimming in, every bit of news we put out will only hook the reader if there’s something in there that they wanted to know and didn’t already know. And in that environment, delivery of content has become crucial. We have to make sure our stories, views and insights get to our audience. We no longer operate in the era of a newspaper brought to your doorstep. The channel you choose could be a podcast, a newsletter, an event, a seminar. Our readers have diverse needs and habits, and we’ve developed a range of offerings to suit.
For journalists, the basics that applied then still hold today. Write clearly, so the reader can see your point. Drop the jargon, ditch the fluff. The reader wants you to cut to the chase, and show them the way in - or indeed, the way out.
You’ve covered the property / real estate beat on numerous occasions and at different points in your professional life. How have you seen the coverage of property / real estate and the industry change throughout the course of your career?
In one sense, we have gone hyper-local. We have always tracked the private residential, commercial and industrial sectors in Singapore. We now also follow the public housing market - where 80 per cent of Singapore residents live - which supports the base of demand for private property. Prices also move from the bottom up.
At the same time, we’ve seen huge inflows of funds from overseas. These are coming from high-net-worth individuals, large funds and institutional investors now looking for a base in Singapore, from which they plan and park money in real estate here and in other Asia Pacific markets. So we’re covering markets with that global-facing audience in mind as well. We take the wider view too, because the people who read us do.
What advice do you have for PR professionals who want to put forward potential story ideas related to property? What are three things you look out for in a good PR pitch?
Clarity, brevity, and relevance. A press release that announces a deal but does not give key information like value, prices and other relevant numbers is not useful. A lengthy pitch takes too long to process and is likely to be left unread. Reading our published stories will also give a good idea of what kinds of angles are likely to be picked up, and which are not.
Any advice for the younger journalists who aspire to report the housing, property and real estate beat?
There is great appetite for property-related stories because real estate is an asset that draws interest at all levels: from first time home-buyers looking for an affordable entry point, to sophisticated investors who want to know if their yields and gains will stay intact, to hawk-eyed funds that are circling in on assets in distress. More significantly, what happens in real estate doesn’t just stay in real estate. Property market movements are often indicators - both leading and lagging - of economic events, business health, migration and money flows.
Property is a data-heavy beat. It will require you to be able to put numbers in context, interpret data accurately, work an angle, and pick out emerging trends. The good news is, there is information and intel in many places. Property is a very “visible” beat. But as with other news beats, it’s often the undercurrents that make the most interesting stories.
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