(R.AGE journalist and chief reporter, 2006-2014)

I can describe my years in R.AGE with just one example. In 2009, I flew first class to Germany for an amazing assignment where I was treated like royalty. Days after I arrived home, I went to Penang for a BRATs assignment where I, together with a bunch of scared kids, were scolded publicly for taking up a hawker’s offer to waive payment for a bowl of noodles. Yup, that’s working in R.AGE for you … you never know what you’re going to get.

I had eight amazing years writing for R.AGE, learning about young Malaysians – what made them tick, what made them lame and what made them who they are. I’ve met the worst bunch of privileged kids and the most persevering poor children who believe that the sky’s the limit. More important, with R.AGE I’ve learned that the most predictable thing about young people is that they are unpredictable.

This is also the place where I cut my teeth in journalism. I have a degree in IT (although the only thing I know about computers is how to switch them on and off – and even then I sometimes get that wrong), so my editors and seniors are the ones who taught me everything I know about this big, bad world of newspapers.

Thanks to them, I know that when it comes to work, one always has to get up, dress up and show up no matter what – through hangovers, Mariah moments (*inside joke*) or even H1N1 – we still had to get the interviews done.

With R.AGE, I saw the best of all worlds, made the best friends, had the most fun and collected years of stories worth repeating.
I came, I R.AGEd and now I’m just A.GEd.

Favourite story:
The Young Abuser article that I wrote in 2008 about drug usage among college students. It won me the Best Print Publication Award at the National Anti-Drugs Agency Media Awards, making me a legit award-winning journalist. *pats self on the back*

Favourite interview:
I had the opportunity to interview Kimora Lee Simmons when she was in Kuala Lumpur to promote her show Kimora: Life In The Fab Lane. She was funny, entertaining, impressive and all round fabulous.

Favourite story by a R.AGE colleague:
I can’t pick just one because my colleagues are all awesome writers.
But I just want to mention that I loved Nasa Maria Entaban’s Nasassistic column and read it religiously every week. Bring it back!

Most inspiring moment at R.AGE:
The Honda Dreams Fund assignment in Kelantan and Terengganu was really inspiring because I met so many underprivileged kids with big dreams.

(R.AGE sub-editor and deputy editor, 2005-2012)

(Right to left) Goh, Sharmila, Nasa, Ivy Soon, and Qishin Tariq, receiving the Outstanding Achievement in Print Media award during the Red Ribbon Media Awards ceremony in 2012. — MOHD SAHAR MISNI/The Star

(Right to left) Goh, Sharmila, Nasa, Ivy Soon, and Qishin Tariq, receiving the Outstanding Achievement in Print Media award during the Red Ribbon Media Awards ceremony in 2012. — MOHD SAHAR
MISNI/The Star

Having been part of R.AGE before it even began – if memory serves me right, I was one of the few people responsible for choosing the name (I’m sure the current R.AGE team is grateful that we vetoed several, um, #epicfail suggestions). I am very happy to see how much it has grown today.

When R.AGE first launched, it was a novelty and many people didn’t think much of it … and of the team behind it.

That we were branded as a “young team” meant we had to prove ourselves to everyone, from our bosses and peers to our advertisers and readers, in almost everything we did.

Although we did not manage to always be the best, especially in our first few years, at least we tried and gave our all. Yes, even that time we played dodgeball with college kids at a shopping mall …

Today’s R.AGE may not be the same as when we first started but that’s OK because the brand was always meant to constantly evolve and stay ahead of the game.

I can confidently say that we’ve done well for ourselves over the years as we’ve got several international media awards to prove it.

It’s difficult to compress seven years’ worth of memories and experiences with R.AGE into one concise story; there are simply too many things to share!

I’ll just let these pictures do the talking for me and hope that the current R.AGE team gets to have as enriching an experience as the rest of us “oldies” did.

(R.AGE journalist, 2006-2012)

Nasa with Megan Fox at the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen press junket in Tokyo. Over the years, the R.AGE team has interviewed people like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Andersen Cooper, Daniel Radcliffe, Jake Gyllenhaal, Gerard Butler and Lionel Messi.

Nasa with Megan Fox at the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen press junket in Tokyo. Over the years, the R.AGE team has interviewed people like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Andersen Cooper, Daniel Radcliffe, Jake Gyllenhaal, Gerard Butler and Lionel Messi.

I covered R.AGE’s official launch as an intern for The Star’s newsdesk in 2005. Little did I know then that I would eventually join the desk and stay for six years, learning a variety of skills, producing some of my best work as well as meeting people and going to places I never imagined possible.

In my time at R.AGE I wrote stories, coordinated shoots, covered events and produced videos on topics that ranged from social issues to sports to entertainment to fashion, as well as coordinated and facilitated youth-related events, projects and the BRATs young journalist programme.

For about two years I had a style, fashion and beauty column called Nasassistic (see what I did there) which gave me the contacts, knowledge and experience that would come in handy in my current role in The Star’s luxury pullout Life Inspired.

As a journalist at R.AGE (often doing stories for other sections like Metro, News, Entertainment and the Clove desk), there were fun assignments like travelling around the world for movie junkets, concerts, and interesting features on youth trends.

Then there were the serious issues like our yearly HIV/AIDS pullout (for which we won numerous awards), urban poverty, living with disabilities, other social development topics, and everything in between.

I’ve interviewed A-list celebrities, up-and-coming athletes, promising fashion designers, students, people living with HIV and children living below the poverty line. I’ve travelled to the most glamorous places in the world and visited villages with 15 people to a shack. I’ve spoken to amazing young people, annoying young people and average young people with extraordinary experiences.

The most memorable moments were also the most challenging – from learning to tread carefully with interviews and writing for sensitive issues to the long hours that came with covering the elections and rallies, to making sure workshops ran smoothly and the annual CHEER competition didn’t kill us. In retrospect, the hard work, long hours and constant learning were the best learning experience I’ve had, and what made it better was an efficient team and superb guidance from our leaders.

When I felt I could no longer grow in my career or contribute to the desk, and when the roles of Wife and Mother became a part of my life, it was clearly time to move on and embrace new challenges, but I’ll never forget the valuable experiences I got during my time at R.AGE.

Favourite story:
This is a tough one. “In the right direction” – a cover story about urban poor in Thailand and Malaysia (World Vision brought us to Thailand). It was an eye-opener and a story I wanted to tell – I learned a lot and I hope readers did too.

Favourite interview:
Also tough. Probably BryanBoy who was an up-and-coming fashion blogger back then and is now a famous superblogger, fashion icon and entrepreneur.

Favourite story by a R.AGE colleague:
“In familiar territory” by Sharmila Nair – like most of Sharm’s stories, it was hilarious and still one of my favourite reads for a good laugh.

Most inspiring moment at R.AGE:
Every time we won an award – because it meant our hard work was paying off and we were receiving recognition not just locally but regionally and globally as well.

(R.AGE journalist, 2005-2008)

Yam (front) and (clockwise from left) Star photographers Darran Tan and Chua Kok Hwa, and Star marketing executive Nurmalis Abas using a satellite device to send their stories and photos. They were at a BRATs camp on elephant conservation at Kuala Gandah, Pahang.

Yam (front) and (clockwise from left) Star photographers Darran Tan and Chua Kok Hwa, and Star marketing executive Nurmalis Abas using a satellite device to send their stories and photos. They were at a BRATs camp on elephant conservation at Kuala Gandah, Pahang.

Writing for R.AGE was my first official job after graduation.

We were a small team, so we had to learn a lot of things the hard way. Didn’t know how to do something? Find out. Research. Ask someone.

Thankfully, my colleagues at the time had endless creativity, and I gained some priceless skills alongside them.

I learnt how to manage projects and events, and how to plan a video production from script-writing to recording voiceovers, which we had to do in this small, cold recording studio on Level 6 at Menara Star.

Life at R.AGE was exhausting, but extremely fun.

I had the privilege to meet exceptional young people whose endeavours and careers were just starting to take flight.

Today, many of these brilliant Malaysians have carved a successful niche for themselves. Young Malaysians truly are a force to be reckoned with.

I also had the privilege of telling the stories of young people who lived on the fringe of society, sometimes smack in the middle of bustling townships.

They lived in poverty, struggling to keep up in school, and the only comfort they found was strumming an old guitar with a few other teens under the stars.

I learnt that many of our young people face injustices that all of us can help put an end to.

Today I am a school teacher.

I have taught in a high-needs school in rural Perak under the Teach For Malaysia fellowship, where my Form Two students could hardly speak a word of English.

One of my Form Five students had to stop coming to school to do odd jobs in place of his ailing father.

The skills gained in R.AGE helped me a lot in managing and persuading stakeholders, bringing real-world information to classrooms, and running a mini action research project to fast track speaking, listening and reading skills among my students.

The classroom and newsroom are similar in many ways. The challenges are enormous and the deadlines are tight.

The students I see in class today may not show up tomorrow, or sometimes, ever again. The work we do as journalists and teachers can be easily for forgotten the next day.

At school, the students can forget what I teach within an hour.

So why do we still write, and why do we continue to teach?

For me, both fields gave me opportunities to be a part of someone’s life, and that broadened my world and taught me grit.

And for that, I am grateful. Happy 10th Anniversary, R.AGE!

Favourite story:
It was a story about the hopes and dreams of Orang Asli youths and what stopped them from getting there. This story was a lightbulb moment for me and the conversations would replay on my mind often after that.

Favourite interview:
Interviews with graffiti artists in the Klang Valley who taught me the difference between vandalism and art, between tagging and graffiti, and how more public spaces in Malaysia can benefit from graffiti art instead of walls plastered with ‘ahlong’ or ‘ubat kuat lelaki’ ads. A reader even wrote in after that to offer a wall for graffiti enthusiasts to use!

Favourite story by a R.AGE colleague:
It’s hard to name a particular one, but Sharmila Nair’s stories often made me laugh and until today I wish I could write as candidly as her.

Most inspiring moment at R.AGE:
Observing colleagues in the editorial department strive for excellence in their work, whether in asking difficult questions, taking rare photographs or illustrating with love.


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