SINGAPORE: Straits Times journalists win big at SPH awards

Leslie Lopez wins Story of the Year for breaking news of casino tycoon Stanley Ho's plan to purchase 10 percent of Star Cruises

The Straits Times
Thursday, February 28, 2008

By Arti Mulchand

Journalists of The Straits Times swept the main prizes at the annual awards for Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay newspapers yesterday.

They took the awards for news story, feature, news picture, illustration and layout of the year, as well as two special awards for excellence.

And property reporter Fiona Chan, 25, was named Young Journalist of the Year.

The awards honoured the best work done last year by journalists in The Straits Times, The Business Times, The New Paper and the Malay-language Berita Harian.

Taking top honours was veteran journalist Leslie Lopez, the ST's South-east Asia Correspondent, who landed Story of the Year.

He scored with his scoop last January on how Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho was about to buy 10 per cent of Star Cruises.

The story caused a stir here as Singapore-listed Star Cruises' parent company, Genting Group, had just won a bid to build an integrated resort and casino on Sentosa.

At the centre of the controversy was Mr Ho's alleged links with organised crime in Macau. For a while, Genting's casino licence here looked to be in jeopardy.

Eventually, Genting and Star Cruises restructured and separated their shareholdings in the Sentosa and Macau projects.

Mr Lopez, 44, credits constant networking and hard work for how he stumbled onto his story, adding: 'There's no substitute for legwork.'

Senior China Correspondent Sim Chi Yin won the Feature of the Year award for what was a labour of love.

She spent her vacations travelling through Java to find out where Singapore's Indonesian maids come from and produced a moving account in words and pictures of one woman's decision to leave her family again to work overseas.

Veteran artists and multiple award winners Lee Chee Chew and Prudencio Dengcoy Miel Jr won big again. Mr Lee took the award for Layout and Page Design, and Mr Miel for Illustration of the Year.

One of the most delightful pictures of the year earned veteran lensman Chew Seng Kim the news photography award.

He snapped the exact moment when ex-Nominated MP Kanwaljit Soin planted a kiss on the cheek of a surprised Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at an event last July.

Thailand Correspondent Nirmal Ghosh and Senior Political Correspondent Lydia Lim won special awards for excellence.

ST editor Han Fook Kwang said the paper's haul spoke for the passion and commitment of its journalists, and added that compelling story-telling, attention-grabbing visuals and exciting design helped keep readers engaged.

SPH's English and Malay Newspaper Division editor-in-chief Patrick Daniel addressed the gathering at News Centre, and highlighted the need to value and manage talent in an ever-evolving industry.

He said this was key, if the division was to be a 'crucible of innovation' at a time when the newspaper industry worldwide was changing.

While there were discouraging reports on the newspaper industry elsewhere in the world, the picture here has proven quite different.

All the newspapers in the division were in a strong position in terms of circulation, advertising revenues and profitability.

'I've been saying for over a decade that we are not yet a sunset industry,' Mr Daniel said.