Good Ol’ Newspaper


Ever wondered why newspaper are still around when we can get all the news at our fingertips – literally – nowadays? 

Tap your finger here and tap it there and you got news from all around the globe popping up on your smartphone or tablet PCs. 

In a time where owning a computer and no other gadgets – like iPhone or iPad – would make you feel outdated in the technological scene, why in the world would anyone subscribe to newspapers or buy newspapers anymore? You can just get it online. 

But here’s the thing – how many people actually bother to read the online versions, say, on your transit to and from work. Would you rather read the news or play games on your devices?

There are plenty of news applications that are free but there are many that require payment. When we look at the payments for the e-versions, we feel like it’s overpriced. Why? Because you can get it free elsewhere if you bother to look for it. 

OR, someone will share news on Facebook or other social networking sites. 

OR you can just switch on the TV or visit YouTube to WATCH the news instead of READING it. 

I feel like the majority of the people still prefer the hard copy to soft copies of newspapers. Don’t get me wrong; they like the soft copy, but just to browse through to stay updated on current events. 

The mobile apps come with pop up notification whenever a new article is published. The news websites send daily e-mails with headlines and links to the articles. You just browse through these notifications and mails and you’ll get a rough idea of what’s happening locally and internationally. 

But to really read and know more about the news, people still prefer the good ol’ print edition. This is because our attention span when we’re reading something online or on a mobile device is very short. It’s just human nature. 

That’s why we would read a long article when it’s printed in a newspaper, but prefer to skim through the same article if it was published online. 

Print Editions have a small advantage because of a small trick. The margins are small and articles are written in short columns rather than in long lines. This shortness is what makes it easy to read and keeps you going to finish the article.

Below is one of my articles, published online and in print. It’s the same article. Just to prove the point I made above.

Another reason that print editions still make the rounds is because – believe it or not – the surface area of a newspaper is larger than that of a mobile phone or a tablet PC.

Doesn’t make sense? 

Well, it’s just got to do with our attention span again. 

Newspapers are bigger than mobile devices. It’s lighter too – most of them. The feel of newspaper is different from the feel of mobile devices. You do a lot of things with mobile devices but not as many things with a newspaper.

So naturally, your brain only associates newspaper with news and reading and that is why you can concentrate better when reading printed articles than online ones. 

Same applies to magazines and books.

I for one prefer the printed versions to online ones. Let me know what you think. Leave a comment.  

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Photographs and captions


Everyone knows that photographs add dimension to an article, be it blog posts or newspaper articles. Today I’m going to share a very important lesson that I learned about photographs and captioning them properly, especially if you are submitting it to a print publisher.

One of my feature articles was published on the 29th, in a local newspaper. It was the same article I was referring to in my earlier post about the importance of face-to-face interviewing.

So it turns out that the article I wrote was chosen to represent the start of a series, and as such it was printed as the cover story. Naturally I was happy and excited so I started browsing through the article as soon as I got hold of it. It was just a basic instinct to check if everything was ok..

AaaaaaaaND THEN!!! And then I had the shock of a lifetime – literally, because this was the first time such a thing happened to me. The photo of one of the persons I interviewed was printed wrongly! They printed a photo of someone irrelevant to the article and in the caption they printed the name of the person I had interviewed. What a Mix Up!

It just so happened that this person – a man – and his wife were good friends of mine and I had interviewed them as a couple. So both their names were written in the article, but separate photos of them were printed.

The mix up was an honest mistake from the assistant editor’s part. As soon as I informed her about it, she apologized to me and informed me that they would run a correction in their next issue. But I was very nervous about this mistake because I didn’t know what I could do for my friends to compensate for this mix up. I felt especially embarrassed because they were really helpful throughout the whole process of writing the article.

I apologized to them personally, but I was a whole bunch of nerves for the rest of the day. I felt like apologizing was simply not enough!

Eventually my fiancé told me to contact the editor, who was away on vacation. I sent him an email and since I was so desperately worried, I asked him for advice – something that I don’t usually do.

To my pleasant surprise, he called me shortly after, calmed me down and gave me a couple of good advices, which I thought I could share here.

For one, I realized that although I have been a freelance writer for more than a year and have received a lot of appreciation for my works in such a short span, I am still a child in this field and I am bound to make mistakes. It was a fact and I must accept it, and learn from it. I should take this in stride and not beat myself up for a small mistake.

Yes, I realised after talking to my editor that this was indeed a very small mistake that can happen to anyone. Even experienced journalists make this mistake. We are humans after all, and it is only human to err. Apparently, there have been instances of people publishing the wrong photos in the obituary section of newspapers. That is way worse than what happened to me.

Secondly, why do I consider it my mistake? The sub-editor got it wrong. That isn’t my fault, right? Well, it is partly my mistake, because I didn’t caption the photo properly when she asked me for more details. There were two men in the photo, one holding a medal and the other just standing beside him. I just captioned it as, “Mr. ABC at an award function.” Naturally, the Asst Editor – who was busy since the Editor was out of town – didn’t have the time to call me up to clarify this, and assumed that the guy holding the medal was Mr. ABC. Mr. ABC was actually the one who was not holding the medal.

The proper way to caption it was, “Mr. ABC (left) with Mr. XYZ (right) at an award function.” I still can’t believe I forgot to add those few words when I submitted the photo. I completely let slip the fact that my editors do not know how my interviewees look like. It is the duty of the writer to specify things like this in as much detail as we can, even if it means mentioning left, right, up, down, centre or even foreground, background etc etc. Use whatever words needed to avoid all misunderstanding.

This may have been a small mistake but it is an important lesson that I leaned. Because of this lesson, I will never forget to be specific when captioning photographs in future. 😀

P.S. I absconded for a few days because I was busy with a literature essay work. Will be writing all about it in another post.

The Most Effective Way to Interview People for Articles


I had an article to write and needed quotes from a number of different people. The way I looked at it, there were many ways to interview people or get opinions on something.

But which is the most effective way to gather opinions?

Allow me to share what I learnt…

I thought that since everyone is online most of the time nowadays, it would be easier to just send them my interview questions via e-mail or via Google survey. I thought that I was saving time for myself, while doing them a favour of not requesting a meet up or interrupting their busy schedule.

How wrong I was!

I didn’t realise that what’s important to me, is not necessarily important to the people I am interviewing, unless they are benefitting from it.

I learnt it the hard way when I had to wait 4 days – in vain – for the people I contacted to fill up my questionnaire and send it back to me.

I even kept reminding each and every one to do the survey throughout the 4 days.

The result after 4 days?

One person replied with really good points that I could actually use and quote in my article.

And another person replied with just ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘no comments’ and one word replies.

So in essence, I had just created double work for me, ’cause now I had to call up everyone else for a phone interview or to request a meet up to conduct face-to-face interviews.

I was really mad for a while because I thought I had given them such a simple work. But then as I was ranting, my husband shed light on the fact that everyone has their priorities and what’s top priority to me may not necessarily get the same priority with others, especially when they have nothing to gain from it.

It was I who needed their help, and they were the ones doing me a favour; not the other way round.

It was such a simple fact that I had overlooked simply because I thought everyone preferred technology over human interaction these days.

And as I started interviewing people through the phone and in person, I started noticing that it was easier to collate the information I needed.

This is because, when something is in written format (especially online), if you feel confused about the question asked you have no option but to leave it like that or just give a simple, harmless, short reply.

It creates a gap between the interviewer and the interviewee, and this gap affects the flow of information.

In this gap, the interviewer may lose precious information that he/she was looking for.

But when you are talking to a person, and you are confused about a question he/she asks, you can just clarify the doubt on the spot.

This makes interviewing a breeze, and it is for this very reason that writers, especially reporters, prefer to conduct face-to-face interviews, no matter how tedious it may be.

This also explains why many news corporations send journalists to other countries to cover news – because nothing beats being physically present at a venue to witness an incident or interview a person.

It also gives us, the interviewer, an opportunity to ask more relevant questions, branching out depending on the interviewee’s answers.

And so my friends, the most effective way to interview people – as I learnt the hard way – is to just request for a meet up and get it over and done with.

Sometimes the oldest methods are the best methods, and people still do certain things the old way for a reason.

Daily Prompt : A close call


I am going to deviate from writing about writing today. As most of you might already know, the daily prompt for today (or yesterday? Time difference is confusing.) by the daily post is close call, and I have a perfect story to share along that line.

Back in 2007, when I was 19 and studying, I was sent to a Nature Reserve here in Singapore, for an internship sort-of attachment. It was just a 2 month stint that was deemed compulsory by the Polytechnic where I was studying.

This Nature Reserve is an offshore island called Pulau Ubin. For those of you who are not familiar with Singapore, if you look at the world map, you can find a little red dot just below Malaysia, named Singapore. That’s us. Tiny. And we have even tinier little islands surrounding us. One of them, is Pulau Ubin, also known as the last village left in Singapore. It was a small Island of about 11 square km with a population of about 100. It’s not a modernised island, although there are roads.

This is how most of the island looks like. Filled with greenery and serenity... Photo taken from Wikipedia

This is how most of the island looks like. Filled with greenery and serenity… Photo taken from Wikipedia

 

Abandoned Quarry in Pulau Ubin. Picture taken from Wikipedia.

Abandoned Quarry in Pulau Ubin. Picture taken from Wikipedia.

I was assigned to the park rangers’ office and basically my duty was to run around with all the rangers and help them in their duties. An assistant of sorts, I used to help with paperwork as well as field duties, like birdwatching, hiking through the forested areas in search of abandoned houses or buildings, checking on the abandoned quarries left behind after granite mining stopped in the 1960s etc. So it was a very interesting and fun job. I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t even mind getting suntanned.

One month passed in the blink of an eye, and on the same day that marked one month of my working there, I was assigned to follow 2 rangers on their trip to find and identify all tall trees in the island that had been fitted with lighting conductors. They had a list and this job had been done before, but we were supposed to check on them and use a GPS tracker and create a map of where these trees were standing.

We were required to cycle around the island. Everything was going well until 12 noon. We had to cycle down a steep downhill slop, and turn at a 90 degree turning with a speed hump right at the turning. We were cycling like pros and the other two went ahead of me. The wind in my face as I went down the slope was thrilling and the usually careful me decided against breaking in between to slow down.

Down I went, and then came the turning. “That’s ok”, I thought. “Done this thing before.” I took on the speed hump and the turning at top speed.

And before I knew it, my bicycle was on the other side of the road and I was among thick bushes and trees. My first concern? “Please tell me there are no spiders nearby.” There weren’t any. All I wanted to do was to just gather up whatever pride I had left (although there was no one else around) and catch up with the others. About 100 metres ahead of where I had fallen down was a cemetery. I just could not wait to get up and get going.

While wiping the dirt off myself with my right hand, I tried to push myself up with my left hand, but for some reason, I couldn’t feel my left hand. It was numb. I couldn’t get it to move at all. I glanced to my left and realised that my hand had somehow shortened in length. My forearm was half the length, fingers were turning purple and I couldn’t move them at all. There wasn’t a lot of pain, but I could see that the portion just below my elbow was bulging. I was very confused.

I shouted for help but my voice didn’t travel far. Checked my pockets and, glory be to God, I had taken my mobile phone with me that day. In my one month of working there, I had never taken my phone with me whenever I went for field work. That day I was lucky. I quickly called my co-workers and they came back soon after. The senior ranger took one look at my hand and went “Oh dear, I think you broke your arm!”, and proceeded to call the police stationed on the island. He looked like he dealt with this kind of stuff on a daily basis. -.-

After some waiting, the police arrived and helped me to stand up. My knees almost gave way but they held on to me, did some basic first aid, called the ambulance and rushed me to the boat jetty. The only way out of the island was through a boat. I was given VIP treatment as they loaded me on a stretcher into the police patrol boat.

After arriving on the mainland, we waited a while for the ambulance to arrive. I had gone into shock. I wasn’t crying, I wasn’t feeling pain and I was chatting with the police and my senior manager who was in charge of me while I worked at Pulau Ubin.

I still hadn’t believed that my arm was broken. It was later on after I was brought to the hospital and had the x-rays done that the doctor confirmed “yep, you have  broken two bones in your upper left arm.” They gave me two options:

1. “We can pull your arm back, place your bones back in position and put up a cast around it,” or

2. “You’ll need to have a surgery done.”

I chose the first option and the moment they touched my hand I regretted it and told them I’ll go with option 2.

So I had my surgery done and the rest is history.

The reason why I wanted to share this story for this prompt was because of something I found out some time after my surgery. Three people had fallen down at the exact same spot where I fell down – all cyclists. I was the second person to fall and hurt myself there. There was one person who fell some time before I did, and one lady who fell shortly after I did. And both of them had died from head injuries sustained from the fall. After the 3rd accident, that road has been officially closed down and no one, except officers, is allowed to travel that way.

I wasn’t wearing any protective gears apart from mosquito repellant the day I fell. I consider myself extremely lucky that I escaped with just a broken hand, which has healed completely and is functioning well now.

EzineArticles dot com


In my journey to becoming a freelance writer, one of the best things I ever did was to sign up at EzineArticles.com.

Not only can you publish your works with them, but they also send you regular e-mails with great writing tips.

The best part is these writing tips are given by professional writers with years of experience. So they know what they are talking about.

Their articles are really straight to the point, and really easy to understand.

There are some really great advices on how to manage your time, how to handle multiple projects at once, how to keep creating original content, how to work in such a way that you don’t burn yourself out, etc.

For all fledgling writers out there, like me, I would really recommend you to sign up with EzineArticles.com – it’s free by the way – and take their expert advices and get on your way to success.

Oh, and don’t forget to work hard too. Success doesn’t come overnight.

Good Luck!!

The journey to this blog – a history of my blogging


Just wanted to share a brief history of my blogging life. 

I started blogging in 2007, when I was a student. I was introduced to blogging by a friend who used to blog about her personal life. It was a public blog. Back then, I didn’t know about the pros and cons about blogging, and it was an up and coming trend so I created a blogger account for the fun of it. I tried to mimic my friend in writing about my personal life, but I really wasn’t comfortable about letting the whole world know what was happening in my life. I also didn’t find the purpose of 2 types of blogs:

1. writing stuff indirectly such that someone who doesn’t know you might think you are crazy or something. 

2. privatising your blog so you can choose who can read your blog.

What’s the point in blogging then? You might as well just keep a journal where you can write in with a pen. So because of these points, I found myself at a conflict with myself (it might serve me well to add here that I was extremely naive as a teenager). I loved to write. So I wanted a blog. But I didn’t want to write about my personal life, and I didn’t bother to explore the blogosphere because I was busy with my studies. 

For 5 years, I went back and forth with the above mentioned blog – changing the name, writing just one or two posts, changing the theme, and then ignoring it. It was a cycle and I just hated it.

Then, last year, I read about a top blogger and it intrigued me enough to check out the blog. When I visited her blog I was taken aback! She had thousands of followers and she was earning a lot. She was getting sponsored for all sorts of things and man did I get jealous. I mean, who wouldn’t? She was living the life! 

And that is when I decided that I am going to restart blogging and become a freelance writer. I saw a lot of potential in it. But, I just jumped right into it without bothering to do any research. So in effect, I was back to square one after a few months. I didn’t know what to write about and I started getting distracted. 

Just like that, a year went by, and I thought, “this isn’t right. I have to do something about this.” Once again I signed in to my blogger account and stared blankly at my blog. My blog stared right back at me. I felt like if it had a mind of its own it would probably have told me, “I’m real tired of your shit missy.”

But this time I wanted to succeed. Desperately. I started reading up and gathering knowledge about blogging. I had plenty of questions before me – Which blogging platform to choose? What name shall I give my blog? I should be careful not to embarrass myself with my blog name and URL. How can I get followers? The list goes on.

But the biggest questions of all were, “What to write about?”, and “Should I have a niche topic?”

What was the deal with ‘niche topic’ anyway? Everywhere I looked, all advices said to pick a niche topic and stick to it. Well, I was defiant. I refused to pick a niche topic because I don’t really have an expertise in any particular topic. I just wanted the freedom to write about anything and everything, except personal stuff. 

I thought and I thought. Then I thought more. Finally I decided that I will have the best of both worlds. I decided to start a blog based on a niche topic – writing – in WordPress and a blog about everything else in Blogspot. While my WordPress blog has taken off, on a pretty good note, I am still working on my other blog. I hope to get it started by this week and when I do, I will definitely announce its birth here. 

I am learning something new everyday and I am probably the happiest person around because of it 🙂

Day 2 of blogging on WordPress


I have to admit – I did not think that WordPress would be so amusing. 

In one day I managed to get 5 followers! I don’t know about others but that is a pretty damn big deal for me. Just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of you who read my blog yesterday and decided to follow me. It has given me great motivation. 

I am very new to WordPress, and I spent the whole of today trying to figure out and learn how to use WordPress.

Previously I was using Blogspot and it was pretty easy to use. However, one main difference I noticed in WordPress is the amount of views, followers and comments my blog received in just one day. There seems to be a close-knit community in WordPress, whereas Blogspot bloggers are just scattered all over Google. It was so difficult for me to even get a good blog URL in blogger – mostly everything was taken and when I checked out the blogs that belonged to those URLs they were no longer in use. In some blogs, there was not even a single post. I spent days on end just trying to get a good name. 

Honestly, I think Google made a stupid move by allowing one account to access all Google services. This has really led to a lot of unwanted and unattended blogs. 

Anyway, I am still trying to find my way around WordPress. I would be grateful for any tips and tricks I can receive from the more experienced fellow bloggers. I’m doing some research online too.

My motto at the moment? Slow and steady wins the race. 

I am really curious to know more about using WordPress. Eagerly looking forward to comments and feedback 🙂