By Leong Junwei (23A01D) and Nicolle Yeo (23A01D)
From controversial takes on school culture, to social experiments on the unsuspecting student population, Raffles Press has certainly had a colourful history since its foundation in 2012. As we celebrate the illustrious legacy of Raffles Institution, we are inclined to look back at our very own CCA’s background as well!
Press has been around for a decade, with its members conscientiously reporting on school events and giving their (sometimes) unsolicited opinions about every matter from Raja block to the Raffles Bust.
From commentaries on Rafflesian culture and customs, to light hearted pranks on the student population, we decided to take a look at the past press pieces that had the most impact on the school’s history.
2016 — Lets Talk: RI Slur Culture, by Joan Ang (17A01B)
Every opinion piece has a trigger event sparking the interest of the reporter to bring attention to their issue of choice, and this article is no exception.
For Joan Ang (17A01B), the tipping point was when classmates referred to her disabled brother with an ableist slur, spurring her to set out on an impassioned call-out of slur culture in RI.
Little did she know that this article would go down in Raffles Press’ history as one of the most controversial opinion pieces ever published, evident from the unusually heated comment section of the article and the 400:300 like-dislike ratio on the old Press website.
As we sit down with Joan to ask her about the arduous process of writing and publishing the article, she still remembers the initial inspiration for the piece clearly. To a younger and more innocent version of herself, who had come from the relatively sheltered environment of her secondary school, the unapologetic use of slurs in casual conversation was shocking.
Fuelled by a righteous sense of justice, Joan was willing to fight to get the article published, despite the numerous rounds of scrutiny and revisions by three of Press’ editors at the time. “We knew it was going to get backlash,” she remarks, explaining that the team was well aware of the potential negative reactions to their article.
However, much to the delight and relief of Joan and the editors, the general consensus of the public was that of support and approval, echoing the article’s argument against the use of slurs.
Although Joan was initially branded as a “social justice warrior”, she also reveals that she was glad she wrote the article as many of her batchmates had approached her and “thanked [her] for writing the article, saying that the article said what they had been afraid of saying, for fear of being ostracised.”
Even today, its impact on the readers of Raffles Press can be keenly felt. “I still have people coming up to me and telling me how they’ve read my article and their thoughts about it,” Joan recounts with a satisfied smile.
Reflecting on her own journey, Joan is thankful for Press allowing her to “to develop [her] own opinions and express [herself], as well as allowing me to collaborate with a myriad of people—reporters, editors and interviewees.”
As our interview comes to an end, Joan urges her future juniors to “develop diverse hobbies, and write about what you care about.”
2018 — Things People Search, Vol. 2: 2 Fast 2 Curious, by Soh Ying Qi (18A01C)
The 2018 article ‘Things People Search’ is one of Press’s more orthodox articles, with a list of exactly what its title dictates—things people search for, on the Raffles Press website.
Spanning three volumes across two years, the popularity of the ‘Things People Search’ was surprising to the author Soh Ying Qi (18A01C), who reveals that her role as Vice-Chair of Editing meant that she “spent a lot of time on the website checking engagement.”
“I realised that the things that people are searching are kind of weird,” she says. This led to the creation of the aptly-named article exploring the strangest queries entered into Press’ innocuous search bar.
In contrast to the typical heavily opinionated Op-Eds or the ever-popular annual CCA previews, this series of articles differed in its lighthearted intent and tone. ‘Things People Search’ was a mere listing of top searches with few opportunities for personal commentary, something that went against every instinct of a standard Press piece.
In this way, it taught Ying Qi the importance of “stepping out of what has been established”, as she built up the authorial confidence to let her article stand on its own.
Looking back on her Raffles Press journey, Ying Qi wistfully reminisces how it was an “eye-opening experience” that helped her “explore and develop my interest in writing.” She also states that she was glad that Press is “branching out beyond just coverage” and that “there is diversity” in the Press pieces that batch after batch had put out.
With the conclusion of the interview, Ying Qi urges future Press Members and readers of Raffles Press to embrace the diversity and keep pushing the boundaries of student journalism.
“Blaze the trail; don’t be afraid to try new things.”
2020 — Keep Calm and Carry On: Confronting Covid-19, by Huang Beihua (20A03A) and Sarah Lok (20A03A)
While the pandemic may have caused disruptions in various industries worldwide, Sarah Lok (20A03A) and Huang Beihua (23A03A) were inspired by the spiralling of events around them.
The duo felt compelled to pen down and record how, despite the world coming to a gradual halt, life in RI appeared to continue—or as Sarah puts it, the ‘continuity amidst disruption’.
Sarah recalls that the pair had sat down to compile all the ground-up initiatives and relative changes and instructions in response to the coronavirus that had just broken out at the time the article was written.
From the myriad of ways in which subject tutors attempted to make their lectures more interesting, to the online orientation plans that had sprung into action, Sarah and Beihua spurred to document each and every change that the school population was making in order to accommodate the virus outbreak.
The purpose of the article was not to only “capture the moment that the RI community collectively found [themselves] in,” but to also “show and reassure readers that everyone was facing, and finding their own ways of adapting to, this uncertainty together.”
The writers had hoped to drive the message that “everyone was doing their best to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances and [to] remain as optimistic as possible.”
To the pleasant surprise of the writers, the article had resonated with many and Sarah recalls wistfully that she “received numerous compliments on the article shortly after it had been released.”
2021 — To Student’s Council, With Love, by Faith Ho (22A01A), Mei Feifei (22A13A), and Sophie Goh (22S07B)
From an outsider’s perspective, a critique of the Student Council would appear subversive at best, and deliberately incendiary at worst. Yet, this particular article ‘To Council, With Love’ was not borne out of a contrarian disposition, but rather, a genuine desire to start the conversation around reworking some of Council’s election processes from the ground up.
“We saw how tired and stressed our friends were when running for Council. They had to stay back for hours on end and sacrificed so much sleep in the process which made us question if all this really made sense.” Mei Feifei (22A13A) shares with us, on behalf of her co-writers Faith Ho (22A01A) and Sophie Goh (22S07B).
Surprisingly, their main obstacle did not involve pitching and approving the article, but the process of journalistic investigation. Hyper-aware of the potential repercussions of being involved in such a contentious and critical article, many of their sources had to be kept anonymous, “especially those inside Council.”
Feifei explains candidly, “We heard there was a fair bit of buzz in Council about it. I heard from Council friends who again, cannot be named, that some councillors didn’t agree with [the article].”
However, with the article racking up more than 100 likes on the Press website, it was evident that the sentiments of the writers were one that was shared by the school population. A few anonymous readers also left comments praising the thoughtful manner in which the sensitive issue was handled.
In fact, the article went so far as to have tangible effects on the Council election process, as Feifei shares that “the 2023 batch [of Council members] did have fewer deadlines” after their yearly review.
2022 — BREAKING NEWS: Teddy to Be Given Away, by Tay Yu Ning (23S06E) and Noh Sangeun (23S06Q)
For the concluding article, we sit down with our own batchmate, Noh Sangeun (23S06Q), to discuss her rendition of the annual April Fool’s Press article, co-written with fellow batchmate Tay Yu Ning (23S06E). For the uninitiated, the April’s Fools article is published on Team Raffles Day each year to continue the long-standing Press tradition of pranking unsuspecting readers.
Past April Fool’s articles showed that Raffles Press could do more than coverage and commentary, from “introducing” nonsensical new rules about school facilities, to making outrageous claims of fictitious scandals.
Hence, the writers had large shoes to fill in terms of eliciting an emotional response from the student population. “We were looking for a topic that would attract as many hapless April fools as possible. An article about Teddy seemed fitting because he’s so well known and popular,” Sangeun shares.
Indeed, the article managed to stir up strong sentiments amongst students, to a surprisingly extreme extent. “People approached me in school […] to tell me how much they would miss Teddy.” According to Sangeun, one classmate of hers only realised the nature of the prank a full month after its initial publication.
Curiously, the article faced little resistance behind the scenes as well, with the writers being able to bypass the standard process of surveying and interviewing students. “In a sense, it was easier because basically everything was fabricated.” Sanguen notes wryly.
Overall, it was a deeply rewarding and enjoyable experience for the writers, as they were able to uphold a well-loved Press tradition while crafting a humorous article. Sangeun ends off by encouraging future batches to “make the most of [their time in Press] and always sign up for last-minute writer calls.”
“Who knows? It might turn out to be a really fun article.”
Evidently, Raffles Press has had its fair share of diversity, ranging from controversial to unconventional articles. Perhaps the colourful and varied history of Raffles Press over the decade serves as an archive of the larger, broader changes of Raffles Institution.
With luck, we will be around to document the next few decades of RI’s future.