“I’m already regretting applying for this club,” was my initial thought when I first stepped into the newsroom to see only 2 students sitting around the round table.
To be fair, that was not the only reason I doubted my decision to join The Republican Post – I was assigned to the Digital Desk, the total opposite of what I had initially hoped for as I applied to be a journalist in either the News or Lifestyle Desk.
Nevertheless, I decided that since I was already assigned, I would fulfil my duties as best as I can. Little did I know, I would grow to love being at that very desk and receive the opportunity to not only lead the desk but the entire newsroom.
I recall the first-ever content that I had contributed for The Republican Post. The process was not exactly the easiest, going on-site with the team to take photographs and staying up until 3am to finish up the social media post drafts. However, the outcome was certainly the most rewarding – despite personally thinking I did terribly, the editors and advisors loved my work and designs. Naturally, I was over the moon because that was the first acknowledgement I had received from them. Since then, I decided that I genuinely wanted to do well at the Digital Desk.
We started off with a small team, but as the numbers at the desk grew, so did the number of fresh ideas coming in. Besides amplifying events within Republic Polytechnic (RP) like IGNITE, we also expanded our coverage to other noteworthy external events like the Anime Festival Asia (AFA) and popular outdoor market, Artbox. Everything had been smooth sailing and soon, we were planning to hand out our upcoming monthly newsletter issue to the students and staff in RP.
Unfortunately, an unforeseen circumstance overthrew all of our plans completely. On January 23, 2020, the first recorded Coronavirus case in Singapore sparked widespread closures and restrictions. Our plans for the newsletter release were affected and on-ground event coverage was out of the question. Apart from the internal communication challenges, The Republican Post needed to find ways to adapt to the new online-focused environment and stay relevant among students and staff of RP.
As the digital deputy editor at the time, I felt a strong sense of responsibility to assist my team in overcoming the stumbling blocks that we were facing. The first problem we had to resolve was making our newsletter accessible to all RP students and staff online. Pushing out promotional emails for our newsletters was minimally effective as not many students typically check their emails regularly. But what if we brought our newsletter to an online platform they would not be able to avoid – social media? Hence, I started my search to find potential ways and finally landed on the most simple yet effective answer – a landing page that hosts multiple links, specifically a link in our Instagram bio called linktr.ee.
However, a landing page was not the full answer, we had various resources besides our newsletter issues – new online articles and even follow-up links to our social media content. Then, it occurred to me, why not make multiple landing pages for different types of sources, and compile them in one landing page? From there, one can easily navigate and access everything they need from The Republican Post. It was difficult to get used to utilising the different tools, but once I had gotten the hang of it, we were able to get people to interact with our link in bio and ultimately, increase our readership for our articles and newsletter.
The second problem was finding a way to come up with relevant content amidst Covid-19. Without any time to waste, our team kickstarted an exhaustive list of content ideas for our social media. Eventually, we decided to “refresh” our social media profile and centre our content around interactivity and tips, suggestions or information that students and staff may find useful. This varied from light-hearted topics like homemade recipes, productivity tips to slightly heavy topics like mental health and cultural appropriation. Our number of followers was on an upswing and we received more positive engagements.
After a full year of adapting to the new environment, The Republican Post team had regained our confidence and achieved our goal of staying relevant amidst Covid-19. However, our job was far from done. With half of the senior batch going out for internship and new editors – myself included – and advisors, The Republican Post was in for yet another thrilling but arduous journey in transitioning The Republican Post into a digital-first publication.
Due to the lack of members, we no longer had a Sports, Community or Photo desk but instead, we had a News desk, Lifestyle desk, Social desk, Design desk and the RepTV team to rely on. Nevertheless, as the chief editor leading this current batch, I saw this as an opportunity rather than a weakness. For a newsroom to be digital-first, it would mean we needed to provide a multi-integrated online experience for our audience and being a small team, this would be easier to achieve. However, to do that, the different teams would need to collaborate more closely than before to exchange their content ideas. Needless to say, carrying this out was no easy feat.
Although we have adapted to communicating through online channels, it does not change the fact that internal communication still remains a challenge from time to time, which was particularly apparent while carrying out this plan. Even so, we managed to publish 23 social media posts and 35 articles online within 6 months – a few of which were works of collaboration with external organisations like Mediacorp and AsiaOne.
Just when we thought things could not get any better, we also received exciting news that The Republican Post will be launching a new website after 8 years. On the flip side, the more stressful news was that we needed to produce the number of stories we usually do within 3 months, in a month, including the planning process. Yet, our teams were motivated enough to exchange ideas for potential stories. We managed to push forward the content creation a week earlier than expected.
Some of the writers were assigned to write stories for new categories as part of an exciting and massive overhaul of the website and operations. These include Style, Food and People. A special ‘The Exclusive’ section on the homepage has been reserved for interviews with well-known personalities or newsmakers. There will be a greater emphasis on blogs which are opinion pieces or commentaries on important topics for the audience. To add further, special sections have been dedicated to the RepTV and Podcast teams to showcase the newsroom’s integrated and multimedia capabilities.
As I supervised the entire team, I was deeply moved by how passionate all the members were in working together for the website launch. Despite being a small team, the Design desk was willing to help out with the content creation process – whether it was volunteering in writing an article or contributing to the social media publicity process. The Social desk was able to deliver various unique ideas for the publicity of the articles and the RepTV desk were quick to think of video ideas to follow up with certain articles. Without even realising, I sincerely believed that The Republican Post had already achieved the goal of synergy within the different teams and I was only glad to be a part of the journey.
Steering the transition and all that came along with it would not have been possible without my deputy chief editors and the team of editors, reporters and producers. I am grateful for all the effort and teamwork that has defined this period. As I pass over the torch to the next batch of leaders, I would like to convey my best wishes to them as they bring The Republican Post to even greater heights!