Many readers appreciate a well-reported article. But few know the back story to what it takes to write one that matters. Straits Times Senior Correspondent Radha Basu, this year's winner of a major SPH journalism award for Feature of the Year, offers an insight into the energy and resources required to write a winning story. The award she won is part of SPH'S annual event in recognising newsroom excellence. Ms Basu is also a two-time winner for feature writing and human rights journalism respectively given by The Society of Publishers in Asia. She is also the recipient of the Aware Heroine award from the Association of Women for Action and Research for promoting gender equality.
In late April last year, a Straits Times Forum page contribution by reader Lim Fah Kiong, 68, caught my eye. His wife had dementia and he exhorted readers to seek treatment early if a loved one showed symptoms of the debilitating disease.
While the letter was penned in a measured, matter-of-fact tone, the last line left me concerned: Could the Ministry of Health get volunteer social workers to assist "lone caregivers" in distress, suggested Mr Lim, who is childless. Was he speaking from experience, I wondered.
At the time, I was considering a feature on the needs and concerns of Singapore's growing army of caregivers.
I gave Mr Lim a call. Over three hours at his Bishan home a few days later, the ageing Straits Times reader proceeded to share with me a heartbreaking story of love and loss, of strength and sacrifice.
For nearly five years, he had struggled by himself to care for a soulmate who had lost - part by painful part - the ability to remember, to reason and to love.
Thus began my journey to chronicle the lives of caregivers, which would take me into the homes and lives of almost 25 families.
The two-part Special Report recently won a Feature of the Year prize at Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) annual awards ceremony. As with Mr Lim, readers sometimes form my eyes and ears. They help me feel the pulse of Singapore society. Some become friends. Their collective experiences and concerns - rather than press releases and public relations pitches - are vital sources for stories.
In May, I will complete 13 years with SPH. These days, a key part of my work as a journalist with The Straits Times involves working on in-depth features that take time and energy.
Many of these features focus on underdogs in Singapore society such as the elderly or the working poor, the disabled, single mothers or low-wage migrant workers.