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By CARLOS RUBEN DOURADO and CHOO XIN ER
brats@thestar.com.my

TEENAGERS, here’s your chance to be the voice of your generation – and have a tonne of fun doing it.

Every year, The Star selects about 100 of the most talented teenagers from across the country, sends them on a crazy 4D3N journalism training camp, then gives them their own section in the newspaper where they can contribute stories throughout the year.

It’s all part of The Star’s BRATs programme, and you can apply for a spot today! Details at rage.com.my/bratsrecruitment.

Successful applicants will not only get to attend the BRATs Camp, they will also get to volunteer to cover awesome assignments all year long. We’re talking about celebrity interviews, overseas trips, cultural experiences, educational trips and so much more!

Overseas assignments

One of the best parts of being a journalist is getting the chance to travel – for free! We’ve sent BRATs on assignments all across the country, but every once in awhile, we get to send a lucky BRAT overseas.

Probably the most epic of these overseas assignments happened back in 2008, when we flew BRATs journalist Cheah Kok Hin to watch Manchester United play Portsmouth at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

And what a game it was too! The likes of Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand featured in the match, which will forever be remembered for star defender Ferdinand taking over the goalkeeper’s role after United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak was sent off.

But being a BRATs journalist, Cheah didn’t just get to watch the game.

He also watched a team training session at United’s famous Carrington training ground and attended a press conference with the players – an opportunity exclusive to members of the media.

BRATs journalist Cheah Kok Hin covering the FA Cup quarter finals between Manchester United and Portsmouth. - Handout

BRATs journalist Cheah Kok Hin covering the FA Cup quarter finals between Manchester United and Portsmouth. – Handout

BRATs Malacca 2014 participant Carissa Tan also went on an incredible overseas assignment, having been selected to attend the Aye! Write News International Young Journalists’ Conference in Glasgow.

The conference was all about inspiring and empowering teen journalists from Commonwealth countries around the world, and Tan was assigned by BRATs to be one of two Malaysian delegates (the other was selected by British Council Malaysia).

There, she attended lectures and panel sessions by journalists from world-renowned news organisations including the BBC, CNN and Reuters; and she also had a tour of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games venues and media facilities.

“The lesson that made the biggest impression on me was the one on journalism ethics,” said Tan. “I learnt about how in journalism, there needs to be a balance between finding the truth and protecting the privacy of the interviewee.

“But getting to meet the other young journalists from all over the world was definitely the highlight of my trip,” she recalls fondly.

RELATED: THE FUTURE OF NEWS

Tan toured the STV News Studio during the Aye! Write Future News Conference in Glasgow. — Filepic

Tan toured the STV News Studio during the Aye! Write Future News Conference in Glasgow. — Filepic

More recently, and slightly closer to home, a few lucky BRATs flew to Singapore for the award-winning Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and Nobel Peace Prize exhibitions at the ArtScience Museum in 2015.

One of the BRATs, Naveena Nathene James, said it was an eye-opening and educational experience.

“I’m a science student, so having the chance to see and learn about the actual LHC was a really cool experience,” she said.

“The BRATs camp also helped me learn to speak spontaneously on camera and get the right information for writing my story.”

VIP access

This year, BRATs will be reviving its weekly section in The Star, so all of you who’re selected for the BRATs Camps will get a chance to tell your stories to a nationwide audience!

The R.AGE team used to coordinate the section, but it was put on hold last year so R.AGE could focus on the hugely-successful Predator In My Phone campaign against child sexual crimes.

But in 2017, the team behind the popular Stuff@school programme will be taking over the weekly print section, so we’ll be giving our BRATs even more exciting assignments and writing opportunities throughout the year!

One of our most memorable BRATs assignments was our tour of the AirAsia Academy, where we were allowed to fly on the flight simulator (and crash – twice), watch the flight attendants-in-training go through a water drill, and interview licensed aircraft engineers on what it takes to keep those planes safely in the skies.

“Like any opportunity you get as a BRAT, there’s a sense of exclusivity and excitement. I was thrilled!” said Denielle Leong, one of the lucky BRATs who visited the academy.

RELATED: BRATS TOUR AIRASIA ACADEMY

The BRATs managed to speak to licensed aircraft engineers (LAE), watch flight attendants-in-training undergoing a water drill and try out a flight simulator. - JASON LIOH/BRATs

The BRATs managed to speak to licensed aircraft engineers (LAE), watch flight attendants-in-training undergoing a water drill and try out a flight simulator. – JASON LIOH/BRATs

The perks didn’t stop there – Leong has also represented the BRATs at celebrity interviews with the likes of Christina Perri and B.o.B!

“Also, I was apparently the first Malaysian to get an interview with Austin Mahone – this was before he really made it big!”

Other awesome celebrity interviews the BRATs have been able to score include British boyband The Wanted, K-pop girl group Kara, Manchester United legend Teddy Sheringham, teen pop sensation Greyson Chance, and American Idol finalist and Postmodern Jukebox collaborator Haley Reinhart.

But Leong was quick to add that these BRATs experiences aren’t just about the glitz and glam.

“Yes, these are opportunities that would make most teenagers swoon, but I learnt a lot through them as well, especially what it’s like to work as a journalist at big press events.”

“When I conducted my first interview, I was not prepared, which left me with really bad content for the article. But over time, I learnt how to ask the right questions, carry myself and write an article properly,” she said.

Leong later went on to act as the editor of the BRATs section for a year, and she is now working at a top digital communications agency.

“BRATs and my experience as a R.AGE intern definitely gave me a clearer idea of how journalists work,” she said.

“Having that understanding is important in the work I do now, where a major part of my job is media relations.”

“Most importantly, I’ve taken away with me the strong ethics of journalism, and I know how to discern information I see online before sharing anything.”

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