LAST year, just as it has done so for decades, The Straits Times told the story of Singapore and the issues that got it talking. These ranged from an attempt to wrest a rich widow's wealth and the shortage of C class beds in public hospitals to the controversy over what books should be allowed on the shelves of public libraries. Reporters who uncovered these stories were among the winners at the English, Malay and Tamil Media annual awards yesterday, with ST sweeping 11 of 19 prizes.
YANG YIN SAGA (Story of the Year)
This fascinating tale on the tussle over a rich widow's $40 million assets was more than a saga about money, but raised awareness on the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) scheme.
The saga centred on how a Chinese national, tour guide Yang Yin, allegedly manipulated wealthy widow Chung Khin Chun into giving him control of her fortune by giving him an LPA in 2012. The LPA lets people appoint guardians to make decisions on their behalf should they lose their mental faculties.
She also made him the sole beneficiary of her estate in the event of her death.
But the LPA was revoked after a court hearing last November. The saga also raised questions on how Yang was awarded permanent residency.
ST journalists Carolyn Khew and Toh Yong Chuan didn't just break the story- they also kept on top of it as it developed.
The story went viral and was picked up by the global media.
On Monday, the courts here threw out Madam Chung's previous will, leaving Yang with nothing as her fortune goes to charity.
TALES OF A TAXI 'UNCLE' (Feature of the Year)
This is part of a three-part series that took ST's manpower correspondent Toh Yong Chuan a year to plan and complete.
Besides being a taxi driver, Mr Toh, who also bagged two other awards (Journalist of the Year and Story of the Year), also went undercover to become a security guard and eldercare worker.
Mr Toh drove the taxi for not one but 11 days, after two weeks of training - all done on his own time. In the course of his experience, Mr Toh nearly got into an accident and even developed haemorrhoids.
But his efforts paid off, resulting in a compelling tribute to taxi drivers who take people across Singapore.
The feature was widely-circulated and moved hundreds of readers to pen tributes to taxi drivers.
NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD SAGA
The National Library Board (NLB) made headlines last July when it said it would remove and pulp three children's books that had references to same-sex couples.
The books were And Tango Makes Three, about a pair of real-life penguins who hatched an egg together; The White Swan Express, about adoption; and Who's In My Family, about alternative family structures.
Readers were upset that existing books were being pulped instead of being donated. The White Swan Express and And Tango Makes Three were eventually returned to shelves in the adult section.
Ms Pearl Lee, one of three nominees for the Young Journalist of the Year award, was not only able to break the story about the withdrawn titles online, but also got detailed information on the books. Her 12 subsequent stories prompted petitions and sparked a national debate on censorship.
HOSPITALS FACING SEVERE BED CRUNCH TAKE UNUSUAL STEPS (January 2014)
ST's senior health correspondent Salma Khalik's story revealed a major problem festering in public healthcare - the shortage of sufficient acute hospital beds for people who cannot afford to pay for private medical care.
It highlighted the plight of patients, some of whom had to wait for two days or more for a proper bed, and the unusual steps hospitals had to take to cope with the bed crunch.
Such measures include setting up beds along the corridors of wards and housing patients in air-conditioned tents.
The story was picked up by other media, both local and foreign. It also led to many forum letters and a robust debate in Parliament.
Ms Khalik also bagged the Commentary of the Year with another health-related article that criticised the Singapore Medical Council's decision during a disciplinary hearing of a general practitioner in treating a patient.
OCEAN'S FURY - E-BOOK TO MARK THE 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE INDIAN OCEAN TSUNAMI OF 2004 (Cross Media Story of the Year)
This was the ST newsroom's most ambitious cross-media project of last year, involving 22 local newsdesk reporters, foreign correspondents and the digital content producers.
The effort was also the first major editorial collaboration with members of the Asia News Network such as Malaysia's The Star, Indonesia's The Jakarta Post and Thailand's The Nation.
Besides a 15-page print package last December, there was also a five-chapter e-book and a special microsite.
Besides essays that told emotional stories of how tsunami survivors picked up the pieces, there were interactive graphics that explained the science of a tsunami, such as a 3D animation showing how tectonic movements resulted in the tsunami.
There were also photo essays and video clips featuring survivors and government officials.