In the beginning, we called ourselves Gemonologists – for the simple reason that we called our previous closed site GEMonitor. But since we were permitted to go public, we changed the title to Class Notes. After all, these are our class assignments and every article would count towards us getting a degree - or not!
We got started when Bertha Henson joined the university as a full-time lecturer in the Communications and New Media Department in July last year. She’s a blogger and wanted time off work to cover the next general election when it rolls around. Instead, she was offered another role: to come up with a course that will involve students in reporting, research and writing about issues that would come up in the run-up to the GE which is due by April 2021. Now, that’s a long time away and we have no idea when it will be held. Some of us might have graduated by then…
So who are we?
Besides Bertha, whom we call Madam, there are four people in the core team. They are Christalle Tay, Sean Lim, Daryl Choo and Chandreyee Ray. Except for Sean who is from the Political Science department, the rest are CNM students who want to join the media industry on graduation. All of them are final-year students taking up Madam’s module in the first semester of 2019/2020. Then nothing happened…. No GE.
So for this second semester which starts in January, we decided that our classes should be continued and the university allowed the topic to be taught as a fourth-year module. So more people have come on board like Wong Shiying from Yale-NUS, Lauren Ong from the Psychology department and Alvina Koh from the Political Science department. Other CNM students came on board, like Liang Lei and Ethan Tay. The whole class list is appended below if you want to examine us...
The website was done by Wang Xinman from NUS School of Computing, whom we have made an honorary class member. Other honorary members are CNM graduate, Joie, who makes our charts and tables look more friendly and Bertrand, who goes through our drafts before Madam signs off on them.
What do we do?
Well, we were assigned a whole lot of work involving both reporting and research on the electoral, parliamentary and political scene. All of us are first-time voters, so our instant immersion into this domain will make us more “expert’’ voters. Haha. In fact, we see this site as something for first-time voters by first-time voters. We believe everyone should have enough news and views about Singapore to cast an informed vote. Believe us, our own survey of our fellow millennials (akan datang) shows how poorly prepped we are.
Madam, of course, is, ahem, a veteran and makes it clear that we can’t be too “millennial-like’’ or indulge in too much “millennial-speak’’ in case our writing goes over the heads of fuddy-duddies, who are also known as older folk. So we’re trying to tread a fine line here.
Our work can be divided into a few categories.
There’s the electoral system itself and Christalle has gone nearly blind looking at voter rolls. Also near-blind is Sean whose job it is to read Hansard, the parliamentary record. We also have Chan who is in charge of stories that have to do with social media, as well as our Instagram posts. Daryl? He’s doing a hotch-potch of things, mainly at the grassroot level, like whether our town councils are really serving us. All our reporting stuff is categorised under Features.
Madam has made it very clear that we are not to inject commentary into what we write. She wants everything based on numbers and verifiable information. Our job is to surface data, whether on the past record of Members of Parliament or the goings-on in political parties. She’s upfront about being totally kiasu in making sure we don’t get flamed or worse, have the university bearing down on us as possible dissidents. In any case, she says we’re just kids, so what do we know anyway?
But she was quite chill about allowing us to say our piece on different topics buzzing in Singapore – but only from our point of view (and in the first person) as young, enthusiastic citizens wanting to do good. The emphasis is on the word young. You can read them under We Say
Although we are ambitious millennials, we are pretty wary of treading political waters, or worse, getting POFMA-ed. But we can assure you we did plenty of research and reporting to come up with news reports and features, background papers categorised under Hot Topics, infographics and columns.
This semester, we will be getting off our backsides and into the field. The word is REPORTING. Statistics and facts are fine, but what do people think, say and feel? So we have been tagging along with politicians’ at their walkabouts, trying to get a feel of grassroots issues at Meet-the-People sessions and, hopefully, behaving like professional journalists. We’re not - and you can read our adventures here.
We invite you to read our Class Notes.
Meet The Team
“I’m beginning to feel like I’m back in a newsroom again, cracking the whip on a team of very, very green reporters and writers. And I deserve a pay raise.’’
Bertha Henson, also known as Madam, is Associate Professor (Practice) at the CNM Department in NUS. She blogs at Bertha Harian and was formerly with the Singapore Press Holdings stable of newspapers. She is now combining the roles of reporter, writer, copy-editor, editor and more importantly, the academic who will be grading our work.
"Now, I don’t have to pretend to know the political figure whose name popped up in the conversation. I think I know them all.’’
Christalle is in her final year as an undergrad in the CNM department. Prior to her stint as Madam’s research assistant, she was an irregular consumer of political news who thought GRC stood for Grassroot Committees.
“Here’s my elevator pitch: Class Notes' millennial pivot will leverage on our core competencies as future-ready undergraduates to help other first-time voters breakthrough the clutter of public servant-speak. Net net, we hope our stories don’t read like this.”
Daryl Choo is a final-year undergraduate at the CNM department in NUS. Visionary wordsmith. Marcom genius. I type words and it becomes CONTENT.
“Not good enough to be in Parliament for now, so in the meantime I write about it instead.”
“I stalk our ministers on Instagram like my life depends on it. Oh wait, it does.”
"I've learnt more about Singapore politics in the past month than all three years of college combined. Also hoping this training will spare me from being featured on #berthablowsup in the not-so-distant future."
Sean is a final-year political science student. He first understood what elections was in 2006 as a primary five kid (he even made a scrapbook about it, which he still keeps). He was naively puzzled over the need for regular elections. He once thought there isn't a need to, since the same government should be there forever no matter what, like our parents, when voted in after the country is formed.
Chandreyee is a final-year undergraduate in the CNM department of NUS. While she is narrowly avoiding carpal tunnel in her thumb from scrolling through politician’s facebook pages everyday, she’s also learning more about the local political scene through this module than she ever has before.
Shiying is a final-year undergraduate at the Literature department in Yale-NUS. She helps with managing the site and anything CPF related.
"My parents always tell me not to anyhow post things about myself
online. Guess I'm doing quite the opposite."
While most of her Political Science friends aspire to greater things in life, Alvina's life goal is to do more of what makes her happy, which is why she chose to audit this CNM class in the first place. Though it might be disappointing for her relatives to know that she would not become a minister, Alvina still wants to be a useful person in society. She hopes to keep herself updated with political affairs during her stint here.
“The first time I met Madam, I was presenting a pitch to the CNM department on behalf of my club. Two slides in, she burst out laughing. That was when I knew I should stick to her.”
While no one knows what a Psychology major is doing in a CNM independent study module, Lauren misses her time in a newsroom. Parliamentary bills and town council websites might not be her area of expertise, but she recently accepted a friend request from her neighbourhood’s MP. She hopes that this connection might be of good use.
Val Alvern Ligo
"Joined cause I kaypoh, stayed cause there's so much to learn (and I still owe madam tons of work)"
Val is a final-year CNM and Philo major and really became part of this great project by accident - he happened to be there when Madam invited Shiying and hopped on with no regrets. Prior to joining, he only wanted to know when the elections were to prepare for his NS recall but the more he writes about Singapore, the more interested he gets.
"What better way to learn than to walk in the footsteps of Madam? Except I have to sprint to catch up."
Liang Lei is a final-year Environmental Studies undergrad with a second major in CNM. People think he's aiming for Nat Geo with that combination. Sexy idea, but he's not convinced that's what he should work towards. He met some amazing journalism mentors in university and now he's hooked on joining the news industry.
*When an election happens*
Pol Science kid: “The time has come for my unrequested analysis.”
Thaqif is a final-year undergraduate studying Political Science and Social Work. When he’s not busy ranting about his insufferable idealism, he can be found at his favourite corner of the MRT train (next to the door) listening to a podcast.
Loraine Lee Yen
“With my increased knowledge in politics from this class, I’m tempted to shout POFMA every time my uncle says something political at family gatherings.”
An undergraduate majoring in CNM, Loraine’s interest in politics was piqued in 2011 when her mother dragged her to a political rally. Realising how entertaining politics can be, she lurks on the interwebs of political news for fun, and now for her grades.
“Instead of constantly being the lost sheep whenever people engage in political discussions, I am now half a shepherd.”
Calida is a final year undergrad with a major in Communications and New Media. Her interest in writing started off as a fun way to pen down the conglomeration of story ideas in her head. Soon enough, she started to dabble in other genres…. and here she is today. Nothing makes her happier than immersing herself in a good book with a cuppa coffee.
“I thought I was well-versed in politics than most of my friends… until I enrolled into this class. Now I feel insecure about my status.”
Ethan is a final year student studying communications and new media in NUS. Wouldn’t call himself a great writer but thought that his prior knowledge on politics can put him on a level playing field with the peers in this module. So he enrolled. Never did he know that some of his peers were already working hard on this module the prior semester.
“Stop asking me if I want to be a politician just because I'm a Political Science major. I’m actually more interested in political commentaries. It’s always easier to point fingers at others than doing it yourself right?”
Gwen is a final-year undergraduate studying Political Science and Chinese Translation. Because it’s rather unconventional among her peers -who all hated their Mother Tongue classes- she is always shy to admit that her favorite subject is Chinese Literature.
Cheng Yui Seeng
“I was hopelessly lost in the first lesson of this class. I used to be very ignorant about politics but now I’m starting to find it interesting.”
Yui Seeng is a third-year undergraduate majoring in CNM. She likes to write, which is the main reason why she’s here, but little did she know that it demands that much political knowledge. Hopefully she’s catching up and also growing thicker skin.