In Medias Res: Pressing Ahead 2023

Reading Time: 7 minutes

By Chandrasekaran Shreya (24S06A), Low Jing Kai (24S03H) and Vera Heng (24S03R)

With the advent of social media and short-form content, journalists nowadays have a greater variety of ways to present and disseminate their stories and better engage their audience. Understanding how to effectively utilise the tools at our disposal, while keeping up with trends to tell interesting and nuanced stories, is the foundation of quality journalism. However, in order to truly understand the ever-evolving landscape of modern journalism, we have to immerse ourselves ‘in the midst of things’, which is the theme of this year’s Pressing Ahead, an inter-JC conference for student journalists. 

As the participants from various schools streamed into the lecture theatre, there was palpable excitement in the air as the students chattered amongst themselves, filling the hall with energy and anticipation for the upcoming event.

“I hope to learn more about multimedia journalism, as this has been the new focus of the CCA. It will be interesting to hear from industry experts on how to effectively utilise multimedia,” commented Zong Heng, a member of Raffles Press.

The packed lecture theatre on Saturday morning

This year, our chairperson, Anamika, welcomed the students from the various schools for our first face-to-face pressing ahead in 4 years. In her pun-loaded speech (of course, not missing the long-running “imPRESSive”, “in MEDIAs res”), she ran through the itinerary for the day, introduced the speakers and most importantly explained the key theme of this year’s Pressing Ahead, which concerns the rise of short-form multimedia content. 

Anamika giving her speech

Panel Discussion 

Pressing Ahead officially began with a panel discussion and Q&A with the guest speakers, Mr Michael Ng, a micro-content strategist at Our Grandfather’s Story, as well as Ms Christy Yip and Ms Lianne Chia, CNA journalists with years of experience. 

During the Q&A, the speakers went through the process of crafting an article.

The first step is to find an interesting story or topic to discuss. In order to do so, The speakers emphasised the need for journalists to keep an open mind and to interact with a varied group of people. “You have to keep your eyes peeled. It is your job to be kaypoh (nosy),” Ms Yip commented.

After finding a potential story, the next step is to find interviewees for the stories. For interviews that require journalists to be on the field, the speakers noted that identifying people and putting them in situations where they are willing to talk is an important skill, such as interviewing those who are waiting for something and not someone who is busy walking. While for arranged interviews, Ms Chia explained that networking and connections are very helpful, citing how she used her colleagues’ contacts to find an interviewee for her podcast. 

The speakers acknowledged that getting people to open up is a challenge, with the speakers suggesting that journalists conduct research chats, or pre-interviews, which build trust and help the interviewee to understand the nature of the interview better. People tend to freeze up in front of cameras, and as such, journalists also have the responsibility to make the interviewee comfortable. Ms Chia shared the interview technique of easing the interviewee into the conversation by asking casual questions, such as “What did you have for breakfast?”

“It’s really about getting to the heart of the issue and getting interviewees to understand why discussing this issue is important,” Ms Yip commented.

Unfortunately, amidst the mountains upon mountains of content online, interesting stories may not attract audiences’ attention anymore, with journalists having to rethink the way they present stories in order to recapture their audience. Mr Ng, sharing his extensive experience on social media explained that people are becoming less interested in the depth of a story, but rather the beginning and conclusion. This is the reason why the hook of the story is the most important as appealing to the mind is not as effective as appealing to the heart and gut. “It’s human nature,” Mr Ng wryly stated.

The speakers, Mr Michael Ng, Ms Christy Yip and Ms Lianne Chia with the discussion moderator, Raphael

“How do you deal with writer’s block?” was a question asked by a member of the audience, eliciting laughs from both the audience and the speakers. In response to that question, Ms Chia suggested finding a time or setting a mood when we are most productive in order to get ideas flowing. “Once you get the momentum, it dissolves the anxiety,” Ms Chia commented. On the other hand, Ms Yip felt that taking breaks helped clear her mind. “I have been doing this for four to five years now, but when I am stressed, I will still Google methods on how to get over writer’s block.” 

The method which Mr Ng suggested was to ‘write the worst thing you could and get it out of your system’. He also recommended having creative exchanges with peers to take in new perspectives on how to tackle stories. 

When asked about the value of micro-content, Mr Ng emphasised the need for journalists to be hybrid, utilising micro-content to reach a wide audience, while telling complex and nuanced stories using long-form content. Ms Yip and Ms Chia shared similar sentiments with Mr Ng, adding that social media is essential to boost engagement and discovery for long-form content. Understanding your audience, following trends, remaining original, staying authentic and pacing your video properly were important tips to boost outreach brought up by the speakers.

The rise of AI, the oversaturation of the content creator marketplace and the influx of new social media platforms were also discussed, with the speakers stressing the need to diversify in order to stay relevant.

On the ethics of journalism, Mr Ng shared that quality storytelling is humane and empathetic with Ms Chia adding that we have to treat the people telling their stories and those reading those stories with respect, which entails presenting the story faithfully and authentically. “We need to capture the audience’s attention, but stick to the truth,” commented Ms Yip.

Breakout Groups

After the Q&A, the attendees were split into two groups, with one group attending the sharing by Ms Yip and Ms Chia and the other group attending the sharing by Mr Ng.

“Did you guys have breakfast?” is how Ms Chia opened CNA’s session, referencing the interview-opening technique she had mentioned earlier much to the participants’ amusement. In line with the rising prominence of multimedia journalism, Ms Yip and Ms Chia–referencing their years of experiences and expertise–extensively shared an array of ways to incorporate multimedia into traditional, long-form articles. One of their pieces, a comprehensive look at scams in Singapore, was used as a prime example. 

Groups were then asked to ideate and implement multimedia elements into one of Raffles Press’ existing pieces–Koreans of RI–where the suggestions by the various groups (ft. headlines of “Caught in 5Koreans” and “Finding the S(e)oul”) were met with great reception. Surprisingly, the speakers even claimed that we were better at this than them, bemoaning the generation gap they had to keep up with (which, in our eyes, they more-than-successfully have).

Mr Ng, in a separate, concurrent session, shared insights on effectively utilising social media as a tool for journalism: building a strong, cohesive brand aesthetic and being unafraid to act on out-of-the-box, wild ideas. “The first two seconds of a video are the most important,” he echoed. 

A brief break then ensued, during which participants–seated in their assigned groupings, featuring members from an array of schools and schooling levels–conversed with one another over lunch. Conversation topics ranged from the state of the different school’s presses to their day-to-day school lives. Most were in high spirits, visibly laughing over amusing anecdotes and commiserating over the burdens of JC life.

Lunch after the breakout group sessions

When asked for their sentiments on the event so far, many mused over the insights they had gained from the sharings, finding them especially pertinent and relevant. The sudden group tasks, too, were a source of much delight and fun after the hour-long sharings. 

“The speakers were very engaging, and I really valued the insights and experiences they have shared with us,” commented Syuara, a member of Raffles Press.

CII Sharings

With the post-lunch food coma setting in, some made their way back to LT2 looking slightly tired. However, what was in store for them was a surefire mood-booster.

Onto stage, in succession, went three Cross-Island Impression (CII) groups, each sharing their multimedia pieces.

First up was Group 1. The presenters donned costumes finely hand-crafted from garbage bags (topped off with a bow!), and charismatically opened the sharing with a deep dive into JC students’ perceptions of fashion, with the amusing dynamic between the presenters eliciting many laughs from the audience.

Moving on from the light-hearted sharing, Group 4 explored the all-too-common sentiment of impostor syndrome amongst students. Though it took on a sombre tone, the presentation offered much to reflect on—both as student journalists and as individuals—for the audience.

Group 4 sharing their final multimedia product

Ending it all off was Group 6, featuring the timely, relatable topic of students’ food preferences. With the group’s video featuring spontaneous interrogative interviews involving visibly startled students. audience members found themselves nodding to relatable opinions, or guffawing in disbelief at the eccentric ones.

Group Discussions

Following the presentations were smaller group discussions, where student journalists were given a space to reflect on the events of the day, sharing their concerns, hopes and dreams for the state of student journalism–the present and the future. Mimicking a group therapy session of sorts, the session was a rich exchange of concerns, ideas and solutions between students from various schools. 

Group discussion involving students from various schools

Indeed, it was a rather comforting and fitting activity to end the day: despite coming from different schools, being of different schooling levels, or having different job scopes, we were all in the same boat. No matter the uncertainties and trials faced by the student journalist, we can and will weather them together.

Pressing Ahead 2023 was an enriching experience where participants were taught article writing skills, ways to boost article engagement and most importantly, how to effectively incorporate both multimedia and traditional media in our final products. Equipped with new tools in their journalistic toolboxes, it is our hope that student journalists will continue to involve themselves ‘in the midst of things’.

471510cookie-checkIn Medias Res: Pressing Ahead 2023


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