SINGAPORE – A multimedia investigative piece that exposed a love scammer’s ruse over three months, and unravelled common tactics used by fake Romeos, won The Straits Times a Gold award at the Asian Digital Media Awards on Thursday (Oct 15).

A separate item by ST, which provided readers with credible information about Covid-19 amid the ongoing pandemic, won a Silver award on a day that saw Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) emerging as the biggest winner at the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra) event.

The love scam expose won in the Best in Lifestyle, Sports, Entertainment Website or Mobile Services category.

The longform journalism story saw a reporter going undercover to communicate with a con artist via Instagram and WhatsApp. The interactive item used a scrolly format to display selected messages between the reporter and scammer, putting readers in the shoes of the victim.

In the first three months of this year, Internet love scams increased by more than 30 per cent from the same period last year. About $6.6 million was stolen as a result of the online casanovas.

ST senior correspondent Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, who worked on the piece, said: “At one point, the scammer used a voice scrambler, which alters the pitch of a person’s voice, to pretend to be a woman.

“All it proved was that he was willing to try all means to cheat a vulnerable victim.”

The female reporter who went undercover added: “It really took an emotional toll on me having to maintain the interactions with the scammer with daily texts and good night calls.

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“But what really struck me was how easy it was to lift the veil behind his ruse – as long as you were looking for the inconsistencies.”

Interactive graphics journalist Rebecca Pazos, who packaged the story in the multimedia form, said the format of the piece helped readers empathise with scam victims, as “presenting key moments of their conversation helped to make readers feel like they were the ones being scammed”.

Ms Pazos added that young readers, most in their late teens, found the piece very intriguing and memorable.

ST’s efforts in engaging with readers and answering their questions related to Covid-19 on its AskST platform won in the new Best Project for News Literacy category.

AskST served as a credible and accurate platform to help readers understand the pandemic, in a time where misinformation and fake news prowl the Internet.

Since late January to early May, readers have written in with more than 5,000 questions on Covid-19, spanning topics from healthcare to travel.

The project involved 22 journalists across the various desks. They answered readers’ questions by writing to government agencies and experts, to source and fact-check information.

A major concern among readers was the circuit breaker in April, with over 800 queries received.

In fact, ST received the highest number of questions on April 8 – a day after circuit breaker measures kicked in – to seek clarity about mask-wearing and whether it was still possible to visit elderly parents, among others.

SPH’s Chinese Media Group clinched three awards. They were for its China-focused e-magazine ThinkChina, Lianhe Zaobao’s multimedia story “70 years of waiting”, and the newspaper’s rewards loyalty programme.

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Other award recipients here and in the region included Mediacorp, South China Morning Post, Reuters and Indonesia’s news website Kumparan.com.

The awards recognise Asian publishers who have delivered unique and original digital media projects, from new approaches to digital subscriptions, to impactful advertising campaigns.

Those that win the Gold award will automatically enter Wan-Ifra’s World Digital Media Awards, where they will compete with top winners from regions such as Africa, Europe and Latin America.

Winners of the World Digital Media Awards will be honoured at the World News Media Congress next year.

WINNING ENTRIES IN SPH

1. Best in Lifestyle, Sports, Entertainment Website or Mobile Services – Gold

How The Straits Times uncovered a love scammer’s 3-month ruse by The Straits Times

2. Best Project for News Literacy – Silver

You ask, we answer: Questions about a pandemic (AskST) by The Straits Times

3. Best News Website or Mobile Service – Gold

ThinkChina.sg by the Chinese Media Group

4. Best News Website or Mobile Service – Silver

70 Years of Waiting by the Chinese Media Group

5. Best in Audience Engagement – Gold

Zaobao Rewards Loyalty Programme by the Chinese Media Group





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