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Thread: How I came up with the Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship Initiative

Kirsten Han
Kirsten Han
4 min read

This is a compilation of this thread, published on Twitter on 11 June 2021.

Catch up on my chat with @splicenewsroom this morning via this recording! 👇🏼

Also, here's a 🧵 with some key points about the thinking behind @wethecitizenssg's Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship Initiative:

I used to hear journalists say that they want to be "a voice for the voiceless". I thought that too. But over the years I've come to really understand that no one is actually "voiceless"—what they really are is marginalised, ignored, oppressed, silenced.

One way I've tried to offer support and stand in solidarity is to cover stories that might not get coverage (or independent coverage) otherwise. That's why a lot of my work has focused on human rights and social justice, 'cos these are issues that matter to me (and society!)

My early years in civil society and in journalism were spent bumbling about, trying to figure things out and learning on the job.

Freelancing is still tough and unpredictable, but I'm not in that "flailing about" stage anymore. Or rather, I now flail with experience. 😛

I've been able to carve out a bit of a niche for myself. And, with the @wethecitizenssg newsletter, I now have my own platform/outlet. I started it in 2018 as a hobby, but spent the past year working on it in earnest, and it has received more support than I'd ever imagined.

All this combined puts me in a very fortunate position: experience + platform + control. At the same time, I (and peers in civil society) have spent years reflecting on issues like the difference between charity and solidarity, "speaking for" and "speaking with".

I want to reject "a voice for the voiceless". Instead, I want us to recognise that everyone has a voice—what people need is space and opportunity.

With @wethecitizenssg, I have space. And I don't want to be the only person occupying it.

Another thing is that the newsletter format holds a lot of potential. @wethecitizenssg is different from a lot of the professional work I've done. I have more freedom to experiment. I'm the only one working on it, so overheads are low and I don't have to worry about salaries.

I've been able to try out different tones and approaches than previous professional writing. I don't need to conform to styles or structures used by newsrooms or publications.

@wethecitizenssg's main offering is the curated weekly wrap. But I've also published longform journalism, commentaries, GIF-laden rundowns, personal messages updating about projects/checking in. I started a temporary Telegram group, shared a Google Sheet of party manifestos.

I wouldn't say there are absolutely no rules, but with @wethecitizenssg I've been able to focus mostly on "What would be helpful to people? What's important to add to the discourse?" without having to think about having to fit things to a broader house style/newsroom policy.

The main consideration of each issue I send out is that it's interesting enough for someone to read it and find food for thought. Apart from the weekly wrap, I also don't need to conform to strict schedules or "breaking news" deadlines.

It can be difficult for professional media publications to take on newbies or people with no writing experience. When editors have to work to a publishing schedule and are already swamped with emails, they don't have time to hand-hold and walk you through copy.

But @wethecitizenssg doesn't have those pressures. I don't need people to file within tight time frames, or conform to a particular writing style or tone, or produce the most sensational/clickbaity angles. There's time for people to stumble and learn.

There are plenty of important stories out there. Journalists are important, but we shouldn't be the only ones with platform and opportunity to tell them. Debates about inclusivity in media also show we're not always in a good position to write about marginalised communities.

All these thoughts have been sloshing about in my brain for ages. The result was the Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship Initiative.

(I named it kaya toast to match the Milo Peng Funders theme, and also kaya toast is delicious.)

If you can communicate your idea to me via a Google Form or an email, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to communicate it to others. Where I come in is to provide support to help you communicate it as well as you can.

I'm not running a j-school with this mini-mentorship (but if someone *does* want to become enter journalism, that's great too, and we can chat about that). The goal of this initiative is not to produce journalists, but to create space.

Since I launched the initiative on the 6th, I've received almost 20 applications. I already love some of the proposed pieces, but am always ready to fall in love with more.

There's still 10 more days to go! Read more and apply here:

Introducing the Kaya Toast Mini-Mentorship Initiative
This initiative is something that I’ve been wanting to try for some time, although I wasn’t sure how best to go about it. I’ve finally decided that the only way is to just do it, and learn as I/we go. Here’s how it works: starting
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Kirsten Han

A Singaporean independent journalist, activist, and cat slave.