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Star2, Friday 8 February 2013

In the b
Switchup.TV senior
executive producer Tan
Ju eng with a copy of
the pullout from the
first braTs expedition
in 1995.


N 1993, The Star organised its

first ever young journalist programme as a way to give back
to the community. There were just
nine participants, and they would
gather every month at the The
Stars office to learn all the skills
they needed to be a journalist.
After six months, the nine 16year-olds published their very own
pullout in The Star. By then, they
had already given themselves a
name, the BRATs Bright, Roving,
Annoying Teens.
It would prove to be the start of
a truly remarkable run of workshops held every year. In 1995,
the programme grew to its current format, with three four-day
workshops a year each held in
a different city and with 40 new
Even in 1998, during the economic crisis, we forced ourselves
to organise one workshop, which
we did at our old office in Section
13, Petaling Jaya, said Tan Ju Eng,
one of the founders of the programme and the current senior
executive producer of SwitchUp.TV
(The Stars online TV channel).
And now, the BRATs will be back
for its 20th year, continuing a fine
tradition that has already produced

The remarkable
story of the braTs
young journalist

many professional journalists currently in the industry.

You might even be familiar with
some of their names, because their
bylines appear regularly in The
Star Teh Eng Hock, Sharmilla
Ganesan, Jo Timbuong, Fiona Ho
and Michelle Tam were all products of the BRATs programme.
Some are now columnists for
The Star, such as Niki Cheong,
Xandria Ooi and David Lian.
Everyone at the time was saying that young people only knew
how to lepak or run away from
home, said Tan. What we wanted
to do was say hey, listen to them!
Plain and simple.
For Tan, the programme is also
unique because it provides opportunities to teenagers who dont
always get that chance to shine.
We made it a point to select
those who werent straight-A
students, or presidents of their
Rotaract club, she said.
And even though it is essentially a journalism programme,
Tan believes the skills you learn at
BRATs can benefit you in so many
ways beyond journalism.
One participant, she recalls, a
renowned pharmacist in Britain,
once emailed her saying she
thinks about the BRATs every time
she goes on stage to give a talk,
because it was the programme that

gave her the confidence to speak

Lets face it, you cant teach
someone to write in three days,
said Tan. What we can really do
is open their minds and plant the
seed to help them think differently,
to teach them to listen, and to
stand up.
n Want to join the BRATs? Log
on to to
apply! Deadline for applications is
February 22.
BRATs 2013 is organised by R.AGE
and supported by ExxonMobil.

Calling all BRATs!

If you are a former BRAT,

we want to hear from you!
Tell us your fondest memory
of the BRATs, and send us a
photo from your workshop if
you have one.
Our email is brats@thestar. You can also tweet
us at @starbrats, using the
#BRATsIs20 hashtag.

Ole BRATs!

Niki Cheong
digital culture

CHEONG joined BRATs in 1995 and

returned in subsequent years to help out
with the programme. He participated in
the first year-end expedition trip which
took him and 30 fellow BRATs rafting down
Sungai Perak in Perak.
Since then, Cheong has become a prominent digital media personality and journalist
known for his ReWired and The Bangsar Boy
columns in The Star. He was formerly an editor with R.AGE and came full circle when he
spent five years running and facilitating the
BRATs programme between 2006 and 2011.