Photojournalist Terry Xu is laden with bags as he strolls in for his interview at a coffee shop in central Singapore. Carrying camera cases in his hands and a large rucksack on his back, he explains he’s preparing for a 16-hour bus trip from Singapore to Thailand to shoot a documentary on Singaporean political exiles.
A stocky man in his mid-30s, Xu is a well-known face in Singapore’s media crowd – if anything newsworthy is happening, he will almost certainly be covering it as a photographer, videographer and reporter. The difference is that Xu, and the organisation he works for, are very much the outsiders in Singapore’s press corps.
For starters, Xu is an electrical engineer by trade. His camera gear has been accumulated over the last five years by scrimping and saving from a meagre salary, and his travel and work costs, including his current documentary, are entirely self-funded. But being out of pocket and constantly on the move is part of life while working for The Online Citizen (TOC), a site set up to provide an alternative to the Singaporean news agenda….