The attachment proclaimed that participants of “Writing for Hope” will be “in a better position to make the social changes they want to see through active contribution to civil society”. Organised by The Online Citizen (TOC), the seminar promised much, and had an exciting list of notable personalities lined up. For me, as an amateur socio-political blogger and citizen journalist, the two-day training programme seemed fairly fascinating. Besides picking up certain know-how, I looked forward to meeting other Singaporeans and writers.
Full-day on Saturday and Sunday. It’s okay, I signed up. $15, no lunch. It’s okay, I paid.
As I mused during the three OSC sessions (here and here), it always fascinating to me that individuals would be willing to spend a weekend away from the family and their commitments. There were 30 to 40 participants – professionals, retirees, and students – who were generally older demographically.
Most of the guest speakers gave the group a better appreciation of their respective areas of expertise. Cherian George spoke on journalism ethics and responsibility. PN Balji explained the importance of providing sound context and background in professional journalism and news reports. Alex Au shared how he has been involved in advocacy journalism, getting stories for Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), and writers can change or influence public opinion effectively. When asked about a gap in the online status quo, Alex also made the point that more can involve themselves in reporting, to supplement writings with first-hand accounts.
The other speakers and facilitators – Howard Lee and Ng Yi Shu (on the basic skills of interviewing, media literacy, and corporate communications), Richard Wan (on his experience in the management and moderation of Temasek Review Emeritus), Ravi Philemon (on activism journalism and his time with TOC) – did a fair job, but did not possess the same rigour or sophistication which would have made the modules more enriching. The entire structure of the seminar was not well thought out, and it would have been useful if the organisers had provided a big picture and conceptual progression in the beginning. In other words, to expound on the significance of each segment, how the segments were related to one another, and how the entire endeavour would eventually culminate (or continue).
More thought and preparation (despite the last-minute pull-out by one of the speakers) – particularly on the key modules of interviewing skills, media literacy, and narrative or expository writing – was desired. The activities could have been refined and details explained more precisely, because the information shared was, at times, rather elementary (for instance, the haphazard talk on logic and fallacies). Perhaps the infancy of the programme and the lack of experience were at fault, but coherence and comprehensiveness are of utmost importance in such initiatives.
I missed the final highlight, where participants got the chance to pen their perspectives through an experiential practice, with a final piece to be sent to TOC for possible publishing.
Ultimately, is the seminar worth attending? The cause is certainly a noble and well-intentioned one, but as it stands, it will only be more productive for individuals who might be absolutely new to the entire socio-political commentary landscape in Singapore. Personally, it was largely underwhelming (though I was had been forewarned by the introductory document, that the course was for the teaching of “basics of journalistic craftsmanship”). Didn’t do it for me.
So a thumbs-up for the objectives, a thumbs-down for the overall delivery.