Dear reader,

We’re super excited about Jom’s next live event at 7pm on Monday, October 16th, at The Projector. “Jom cakap, let’s talk: correspondents in Asia—how three top journalists cover our region” will feature Shibani Mahtani, Karishma Vaswani and Sue-Lin Wong.

Shibani is an international investigative correspondent for The Washington Post. You may recall a recent piece of hers, “In Singapore, loud echoes of Beijing’s positions generate anxiety”, which looked at many aspects of mainland Chinese influence in Singapore, including Lianhe Zaobao’s relationship with Beijing.

Karishma was, for years, an instantly recognisable face on TV for the BBC, having interviewed the likes of Jacinda Ardern and Lee Kuan Yew. She recently joined Bloomberg Opinion as its Asia political columnist. Two recent columns looked at Singapore’s prosecution of rapper Subhas Nair for racism, and the ongoing brouhaha between Canada and India over the alleged state-sponsored assassination of a Sikh activist.

While many people first got acquainted with Shibani by reading her words, and Karishma by watching her on screen, they might have first heard Sue-Lin, literally—she’s the host of “The Prince”, The Economist’s award-winning podcast series about Xi Jinping, China’s president. After working in China, she’s now based in Singapore as South-east Asia correspondent for The Economist.

The four of us are friends, but we’ve never actually been in the same room together! We’ve got a lot of ground to cover. This includes the actual practice of journalism, in a region where access isn’t always easy and criticism not always well-received. But also career stuff, such as what first attracted each of them to journalism, how they got their breaks, and, for Karishma, how she thought about and navigated a major mid-career shift in organisation and format. (Does she miss being on TV every day?)

We envision a session useful for young and aspiring journalists, which is why we’re offering journalists under 30 a 50 percent discount on tickets. It’s the same benefit we’ve extended to Jom’s Supporters and Patrons: check your e-mail for the discount code sent on Wednesday. Meanwhile, for those who cannot afford to pay, for whatever reason, we’ve reserved 15 free tickets. We strive to organise these “Jom cakap” sessions in a financially sustainable way, while keeping them as inclusive as possible.

Get your ticket now, and we’ll see you at The Projector on October 16th.

Our essay this week, similarly, brings together three friends. Aditi Shivaramakrishnan, first-time Jom contributor, has reviewed “Psychobitch”, a one-woman Wild Rice play starring Sindhura Kalidas and written by Amanda Chong, her ex-schoolmates.

When I first heard about this potential commission, I was a little hesitant. Is proximity between reviewer and the reviewed going to be a problem? Any doubts were swept away when I read Aditi’s review earlier this week. Having stated her positionality and potential conflicts up front, she does a fabulous job of contextualising the play within broader currents of feminism and racial justice, noting its strengths while gently teasing out some of the problems she had with the show.

Criticism in Singapore isn’t easy, many have told me, partly because sub-communities, whether in music, theatre or any genre, are so small. Everybody knows everybody. Nobody wants to piss off anybody.

While many around the world shy away from writing about their friends, Aditi’s piece is very much in keeping with Jom’s approach to journalism, as articulated in our About us page: “...journalism today must be founded on collaboration and empathy. Its starting point is a harmonious relationship between readers, writers, interviewees, communities, the planet, and other stakeholders—a harmony that thrives on the contestation of ideas.”

“Psychobitch” is one of the stellar commercial successes of 2023, deserving of a deep, thoughtful review—which we’re all grateful to Aditi for.

Finally, in “Singapore This Week”, our weekly, opinionated digest, we look at Lawrence Wong’s plans to tackle inequality and improve social mobility, the universal screening of pregnant women for depression, the Singapore Writers Festival 2023, a brief history of world war two bombs lingering around town, and much more.

Jom baca, and see you at “Jom cakap”,
Sudhir Vadaketh
Editor-in-chief, Jom

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