Dear reader,

It’s a quiet week. Jom’s founders are busy finding themselves on distant shores. Sudhir is battling the elements off the English coast, Waye is settling into her new life in Spain, and Charmaine continues her PhD in Germany. Meanwhile, almost two months in, I’m still finding my feet here at Jom. This break—as Sudhir mentioned in his previous newsletter, we’ll take a fortnight off at the end of the year, and one in the middle until the team is large enough—feels like a good time to introduce you to Jom’s weekly rhythms, as seen through the eyes of its newest recruit. 

On Mondays and Tuesdays everyone in the team is off exploring their own patches of the Jom world. Editing, research, illustrations, partnerships, event planning, admin. The humdrum tasks essential to the long-term health of our weekly. Slack, the IM-ing platform that serves as our virtual office, is mercifully quiet.

The momentum builds on Wednesdays. It is when we pick stories for Singapore This Week (STW). Usually, Sudhir, unrepentant despot that he is, keeps the juiciest ones for himself and leaves the rest for us. Before joining, STW had seemed like the easiest thing to do—summarise a news story, slip in your two cents, slap on a snappy headline and voilà. I was disabused of that notion quite quickly.

The problem begins with picking the story. Some weeks there is a glut, when picking one or two seems like an impossible task. Others, it feels like time itself has stood still and nothing has happened. Both bring existential turmoil—either from tumbling down countless rabbit holes or from staring haplessly at a blinking cursor on an empty page. I won’t even go into the unremitting suffering that comes with trying to think up a snappy headline.

Often, my mind casts envious glances at our History and Arts editors—Faris and Corrie—who I’m convinced carry a perpetually refreshing pinwheel of interesting stories with them. One spin, and off they go, scribbling engrossingly about whatever the needle is telling them to scribble engrossingly about. They may tell you STW is tough on them too. Be sceptical.

Thursdays bring more urgency. Sudhir wields his editorial shears to clip and trim STW and the week’s essay. Jean leaves perplexing questions on the shared Google docs, unforgivably asking for sources to any claims made in the blurbs or essays. Layout begins. This is when Jom’s to-be-published content is moved from Gdocs to Ghost, the content management system which serves it onto the website. Images are uploaded, captions added. Buttons are toggled; settings changed; URLs updated. Slack chatter intensifies. Friday, publishing day, is almost upon us. All is anticipation.

On many previous Fridays, I have felt like a well-intentioned but callow sailor who has eagerly set the ship’s compass to Melbourne only to be later told that the destination is Tokyo. Questions, valid ones, of competence apart, these initial weeks have been akin to entering a land where the language is supposedly English but the words have stopped making sense. Trello, Canva, Ghost, Mailchimp. What?! And then there’s Slack, the one-stop shop for turning the 21st century worker’s (at least this one’s) brain to mush. There are channels and threads and DMs; when you get a message, you’re supposed to hover over it and click the speech bubble to reply “in-thread”. Failure to do so starts a new thread and spoils everyone’s day. As someone who has spent most of the last six years in solitary research, my view of these collaborative technologies is the same as my view of leafy greens: Essential, but unlovable.

So, Fridays. By the time I’ve readied my daughter for school, Slack has erupted. I rush from one thicket of messages to another. Blurbs in STW need sources, an image caption is missing, there are last-minute edits to the essay, Sudhir’s newsletter is ready to read, social media copy (Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) needs to be vetted, Mailchimp—through which this newsletter reaches you—has to be scanned and tested, those who’ve unsubscribed (#sadface) need to be removed from our mailing lists; new subscribers (yay!) added, more Ghost settings have to be adjusted. 

And then there’s the style guide. 

Recently, Jom was described as a “hoity-toity magazine”. Hoity-toity is mot juste, partly because we use phrases like mot juste and partly because we have a strict style guide. The style guide is a manual to describe what kind of dashes should be used—em—how units, years and non-English words should be represented, when titles and honorifics should be capitalised, when numbers should be depicted as numerals and when as text, along with myriad other tiny rules that tend to make one question all life choices. Do you know the difference between curly quotes and straight ones? No? Consider yourself lucky. At some point on Friday morning, Waye and Jean will gently point out the 43 different style guide violations I’ve made while laying out the essay. 

By the time all the kinks have been ironed out, the essay and STW published, and this newsletter nestles in your inbox, an eternity appears to have passed. It’s barely 2pm. And our weekly team meeting, all three hours of it, is yet to begin. It is here that the effort put in on Mondays and Tuesdays fructifies. New pitches and upcoming essays are discussed, business strategy finessed, updates given, and new ideas tabled. After the morning described above, can you imagine what it takes to sound remotely like you know what you’re talking about? I have no idea how these guys have been doing it for two years. 

You won’t be surprised, then, at the respite this Friday has brought. What makes it even better is that Pink Dot beckons! In honour of that, we have a whole section below on Pride Month so please browse, read, and share widely. And I hope to see some of you at Hong Lim Park tomorrow! 

We’ll be back next week with our usual offerings.

Jom beraya,
Abhishek Mehrotra
Head of content, Jom

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