How to talk like a smart person

Do you find current affairs boring and irrelevant or do you just not get it? Channel NewsAsia presenter STEVEN CHIA shares a current affairs cheat-sheet to help you sound smart


Steven Chia, 44, Channel NewsAsia presenter who moderates current affairs talk show Talking Point. Prior to this, he co-hosted and produced CNA’s current affairs and lifestyle show, AM Live!.

Donald Trump's presidential campaign
In a nutshell: Donald Trump wants to be the next US President, and has gone from a punchline to a punchline with a ridiculously real chance of getting Obama’s job, even with his outrageous policy proposals and those ‘does he think before he speaks’ bon mots. His unfathomable popularity at the ongoing primary season, which has puzzled even the most experienced political analysts, means that you could almost see Trump and Hillary Clinton duking it out as presidential contenders in this November’s showdown.

His first thoughts: “Is this really a presidential campaign? Seriously?”

Why should we care: “No one thought he’d come this far, but obviously there are a large number of Americans who agree with what he is saying and have been waiting for someone to say all those things. But in this day and age, no country can survive in isolation and the way he acts and talks is not going to win him any friends around the world.”

What to say to sound smart: “How do you think the Democrats or Republicans will do on the eve of the primaries?”

ISIS attacks
In a nutshell: The jihadist group has claimed responsibility for deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, among others, claiming thousands of lives.

His first thoughts: “Terrorist. Inhumane. Extreme.”

Why should we care: “Because they can strike anytime, anywhere.”

What to say to sound smart: “The ISIS is asking Muslims to swear allegiance to the caliphate, an Islamic state led by a political and religious leader. And ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Most folks don’t know that.”

Bukit Batok by-election
In a nutshell: Former Bukit Batok MP David Ong resigned in March after his alleged extra-marital affair was brought to light, resulting in Singapore’s third by-election in five years.

His first thoughts: “It’ll be interesting to see how people vote. In the past, one would’ve imagined the PAP would be guaranteed a win, but not these days.”

Why should we care: “It matters ’cos this is happening in our country.”

What to say to sound smart: “Is it a by-election or a ‘bye-election’? It’s both, but I like the ‘bye-election’ version since you’re kind of saying ‘bye’ to the previous guy.”

Changes to PSLE grading
In a nutshell: From 2021, the PSLE will adopt O-Level-like test scores to reduce emphasis on academics.

His first thoughts: “A change but not enough of a change.”

Why should we care: “This is how we groom our future generation of leaders. What they learn today will shape them into who they become in the future.”

What to say to sound smart: “We need a major paradigm shift in our thinking and in our teaching. In order to create well-rounded thinking individuals, we must realise that there is no model answer. It is a life skill that is largely learnt through experience.”


8 DAYS: What would you say to the average person who doesn’t care about current affairs?
STEVEN CHIA: We live in a global world today and everything is inter-related. So, even a terrorist attack in a country on the other side of the world affects us here in Singapore. What if that was to happen here? How would we react? We can then better prepare ourselves. Similarly, if one country finds a way to increase their birth rates, we’d like to know how they did it so we can learn from them. With more awareness and information, we are then able to make better choices.

Some people think that current affairs are boring. How does Talking Point make it relevant and interesting to a young crowd?
Let’s say if the topic is on education, just talking about policies is no fun. So what we do is follow a primary school student through a day in her life to show how packed her schedule is. We try and pick topics that aren’t too dry. We did one episode about all the new car-sharing options with Uber and GrabCar. These are things that many young people may be using in their daily lives.

How did you get your start in current affairs?
My first contact with news and current affairs was like everyone else — watching it on TV. But it was only after I joined Channel NewsAsia to front Prime Time Morning that I began to really see the amount of work that goes into creating a TV show. I spent about nine years with the news team before moving to the current affairs team full time. With current affairs, we take a deeper look into the issues at hand.

Debunk a common misconception people have about your job.
They think our TV studios look as nice as they do on TV! The truth is our sets are far smaller and often held together by glue and masking tape. So when they see the real set, they are often surprised.

What’s one thing you learned on the job that they never taught you in school?
People skills. You can be a genius at what you do but if you can’t get along with others, no one will want to work with you. One other thing I’ve learnt: As much as we love watching others on TV, many people hate to be on TV themselves!

Talking Point airs every Thur, Ch 5, 9.30pm. 

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