Throughout the past two years, during my IGCSE course, I was becoming more aware of the type of subjects I enjoyed and did well in. Personally, I felt as though I had become better at subjects such as English Literature and Global Perspectives. I had also begun to really enjoy these subjects as I felt they were truly embedded in real life and they helped me to develop my interests in journalism and international relations. Due to this, I took up an internship at the Asian Geographic Magazine. I had taken two internships here, one in the summer of 2018 and another, very recently in the summer of 2019.
The Asian Geographic Magazine celebrates Asia’s diversity, covering environmental issues, science, exploration, travel, heritage, arts and cultures. It is based here in Singapore, the team has its fingers on the pulse of Asia, with award-winning contributors scouring the region to bring you powerful stories and images. Titles under Asian Geographic Magazines include its flagship title Asian Geographic, as well as Passport, Asian Geographic Junior, and diving titles, Asian Diver, Scuba Diver and UW360. The last three, I found particularly interesting because I was yet to come across any magazine which focuses solely on diving, a natural sport that I myself find interesting.
While I was studying Global Perspectives in Grade 10, I realized that I have a very strong interest and passion for the environment and the Asian Geographic Magazine was the perfect opportunity to explore the type of career I would like to pursue in the future. I wanted to join Asian Geo as the company not only recommends magnificent landmarks areas to sightsee but it also highlights the environmental dilemmas in Asia which are fuelled by the current use of power in Asian governments. Last year when I first joined the internship, I was placed under Rachel, who was in charge of the flagship title Asian Geographic as well as Passport. Rachel had explained to me the way the magazine worked and how the editor (John Thet) felt that it was important to highlight all of the significant and most popular Asian news. The magazine also focuses on the diverse traditional cultures through its photography. The aim of the magazine is to cover environmental issues while keeping social and political issue in mind.
During my first internship, I was to research on environmental sustainability which included plastic pollution, climate change and energy crisis. The eventually published magazine, “The Taste of Waste” (issue date.) recognizes one of the urgent environmental issues – plastic pollution. The magazine reveals unexpected statistics of Asia’s plastic consumption and it focuses on the economic development and poor waste management which has caused severe pollution in Asia’s waterbodies and eventually into the human system. It also highlights countries which have taken action towards effective waste management such as recycling and presents viable solutions to our plastic problems in their stories like “Our Battle for Sustainability” and “Changing the Face of Plastic Waste”, in hopes to inspire their readers to take action against the rising issue.
Personally, as I was taught how to research on this specific topic of ocean waste and pollution in Asia, I was having difficulty to find credible sources as well as a variety of information as a majority of websites provided similar information. It often also took me a long time to find any relevant or brand-new data. At the cost of sounding cynical, could possibly reflect that Asia is still living in the past and refuses to look at pollution regulation policies in a proactive manner? However, throughout this process, Rachel taught me how to segregate my information and to look for specific news in particular countries. Thus, despite having to spend so much time researching, the work was relatively easy afterwards as ocean pollution is a global problem which many countries are hastening to control.
Recently, in the summer of 2019, I had rejoined Asian Geo as an intern and had begun working for Terrence who was operating the diving titles, specifically Asian Diver. My work for this summer revolved around focusing on a specific organisation named AIDA International (International Association for the Development of Apnea; Apnea means the temporary discontinuance of breathing) which focuses on freediving athletes and competitions. My aim was to research on a number of Asian freedivers and find their national records. My task this summer was significantly different in comparison to last year as my work had now shifted from an environmental point of view to a sport. Last year, I spent a certain amount of time researching ocean waste. However, this time, the amount of time I spent researching on divers increased as it became more difficult to investigate due to the association’s poorly organized website. This showed me that journalism is not a career which can be taken lightly as it requires serious focus and dedication despite the difficulties the writer faces. The research element needs to stand on strong legs to give eventual article a strong point of view.
The entire operation of research which Terrence and I handled was unorganized and disordered as it was almost impossible to find Asian records on the website. It later became even harder to find specific branches of AIDA International (for example AIDA China or AIDA Philippines). After a couple of days of endlessly searching on pages with no details on Asian freedivers, we realized that all the Asian divers were listed in ranks, which were (thankfully) ordered by country and type of free-dive. The aim for me was to list all the highest ranked Asian divers of every single possible Asian country listed on the website. Despite being such a simple task, it took me forever. A majority of the information on the website was convoluted and disorganised which led me to research individually on each diver to prevent further complication in the research. This process helped me realize that in journalism there is a fair chance of being unable to find information and may be provided with incorrect information. However, it is important to be organized and self-managed and even more importantly, one should be calm and determined despite many difficulties. Once I had been able to find information on a specific part of Asia, I was later able to recognise a pattern in the way the website organized its information, which later allowed me to collect more information on other countries without wasting time. This was a good experience for me to realize that journalism is not as comfortable and secure as it seems and that it takes a lot more effort to find the correct and accurate information than to find inexact data. This has helped me become more open-minded about what kind of career I would like to pursue in the future.
However, throughout the time I spent researching on these freedivers, I came to realize that it was only difficult to find Asian divers in contrast to foreign/Western divers. I also came to realize from my last experience that it was slightly more laborious to find information on Asian sustainability in comparison to Western sustainability. Personally, I feel as though it would be incorrect to say that West has accomplished more than the East due to race or historical events like colonisation but perhaps it is really just the amount of dedication, effort and determination that they constantly place in their work. Am I being too pessimistic here? It is not that the people in the East have not worked hard to achieve the positions where they are today. However, in many cases, for example, this simple case of researching for Asian freedivers, there were very few Asian divers in comparison to Western divers. Of course, that being said, perhaps, the West is provided with the better facility, safety or training but it seems almost off-putting to know that there are only three well-known freedivers in India in comparison to the multiple other divers from Western races which have exceeded in their profession. Nevertheless, I feel that this experience has taught me that companies such as Asian Geographic operate to inform their readers of relevant issues in Asia which are not highlighted too much by mainstream magazines like National Geographic. Consequently, it is a definite step towards achieving a higher level of awareness among readers.
My internship with the magazine also woke me up to the fact that while journalists play an important role in highlighting obscure facts, if I were to pursue a career in international relations or public policy making, I would actually be on the other side of the table and have perhaps more power in correcting what is wrong. Maybe then I could be more of a change maker.
Article on Ocean Pollution:
And a letter from Rachel and Terence!