Best of ‘the best’ 2017

After a year of commissioning, editing, subbing, and crying, here are the editors' picks for articles you should read again.

Living life on the line

By Edward Furst

It’s not easy to interview a world class journalist, let alone, perfectly capture the experience of being attacked by a suicide bomber or “running for hours” while being shot at by Taliban soldiers. But that’s exactly what this article does.

“During our conversation, Lamb leans across the table and shows me her WhatsApp messages: one is from an Afghan MP who has had her car blown up; another is from an Afghan woman with an abusive husband. She reads one message out loud: ‘Can you help me, I need some help’,” it reads.

Balancing description of the incredible life of foreign correspondent Christina Lamb and the lives of her subjects — perhaps, most famously, Malala Yousafzai — the article delves deep into the power of journalism for good, when so much of the world is suffering. Maani Truu

Do as the Romans do

By Jocelin Chan

I’ve always felt that the best Honi pieces are the ones that surprise you, the ones that begin with a seemingly random premise and take you somewhere you never expected. This article is, for me, the perfect Honi piece. In the space of just a few hundred words, it provides a fascinating snapshot of Rome’s forgotten multicultural history, takes a sledgehammer to odious right-wing revisionism, and owns a few Nazis along the way. Read it. Kishor Napier-Raman

Yaama, Tracey ngaya

The fascinating thing about language revitalisation is how, once it is set in motion, its positive consequences have the potential to permeate every layer of life in a community. Experts in a whole host of different disciplines are continuing to find improvements to the lives of indigenous populations around the globe as a result of language revival — from improved mental health to stronger community ties, and even the possibility of better diabetes management.

In helping to rebuild the Gamilaraay language, Tracey Cameron illuminates the linguistic richness and diversity of our numerous Indigenous nations, and works directly to counter the destructive consequences of colonial power.

Given that our schools teach us woefully little about Indigenous languages, a lot of us have a lot of learning to do — so why don’t you start here? Ann Ding

Biology over ideology

In research, logic and writing, Imogen Harper’s article on a biology lecturer who presented an ideologically skewed take on abortion is meticulous. It takes a deeply complex, highly charged subject and leads the reader on a path so clear that even the most entrenched opponent of abortion would be hard-pressed to disagree with her. Combining the best of Honi’s analysis and opinion sections, Harper’s article is my pick for the year. Nick Bonyhady

Do scholarships entrench privilege?

By Garnet Chan

USyd pours millions of dollars each year into scholarships. Some are inflexible endowments but many come from a pool of uni money. Those scholarships are, in many ways, a subsidy provided by other students to the recipient. When so many of those scholarships aren’t means-tested, you might mutter ‘merit’ and move on. But when the majority of those scholarships repeatedly end up going to people from privileged backgrounds, the defence known as ‘merit’ begins to feel a little flimsy. This piece examines a new scholarship program as a way to pick at that problem. Jayce Carrano

Why The Simpsons couldn’t survive the new millennium

By Jacob Henegan

While it might not be the most politically eye-opening article we did this year, Jacob’s week four feature was a really well argued and intricately researched piece of culture writing, the likes of which I’d never seen in Honi.

Although he comes at the article from the perspective of a Simpsons super fan, it’s written in such a way that it’s accessible for anyone who’s watched over the Springfield family’s gradual decline (which sadly is most people in our generation). Aidan Molins

The Death of Journalism

By Zoe Stojanovic-Hill

“Today’s budding journalists were born into a world in which journalism was, ostensibly, already dying. Optimists would argue that the appropriate term is changing. Pessimists would point out that this change is called death.” Written around the time when Fairfax announced it was cutting 125 editorial jobs, Zoe Stojanovic-Hill’s feature provided insight into an industry falling apart before journalism undergraduate’s eyes.

Not only was her analysis clear-cut and well-worded, but the number of journalists and media officials she coordinated to sit down for an interview with her is downright impressive. Sure, the journalism industry may be on the verge of a cataclysm, but, given her demonstrable talent, I’m pretty confident that Stojanovic-Hill’s writing career will nonetheless flourish. Justine Landis-Hanley

Four Birthdays in Manus Prison & Meditations from Manus

By Imran Mohammad

As the situation on Manus Island stagnates at a point of crisis, not for the first time, I would say that some of the more meaningful pieces Honi has had the privilege of publishing this year have been 23-year-old Imran Mohammad’s accounts of what life is like as a prisoner in Australia’s immigration system, and how he ended up in limbo in Papua New Guinea after fleeing Myanmar at age 16.

“I was hopeful of a life in a place that is safe and which would give me the opportunities to contribute to this world,” he writes. “Despite being twisted so painfully, I am determined to keep hope alive somewhere in my heart. I know that I was sent to this earth for a reason and I will give my sweat and blood to create a better world.”

If you are to revisit anything from the year, I’d ask you to spend a few minutes reading the words that he carefully assembled, while keeping in mind he has taught himself English over only the past few years. Natassia Chrysanthos

Lost in translation

By Veronica Mao

This article was sent in by someone who hadn’t previously reported for us, and I’m so glad she did. Honi has published articles this year about international student workplace exploitation, but this was the only one from a first-person perspective. In it, Veronica explores some of the reasons international students continue to work despite poor conditions and pay, as well as her own conflicting feelings engaging with this system.

“I well understood that I was exploited, but I kept working under these conditions — like most international students — because it’s virtually impossible for us to find a job that pays properly. Thinking of this makes me feel vulnerable. It also reminds me that I play a role by colluding with this corrupt system,” she writes.

Given increasing attention around the issue from the exposure of poor working conditions and the Fair Work Ombudsman’s efforts to get international students to report poor working conditions, it’s important to listen to those actually affected by the issues. Siobhan Ryan

Porto is a troubled portrait of ephemeral love

By Joseph Verity

Too often, review writing is relegated to the bottom of the journalistic ladder, dismissed in favour of more ‘insightful’ articles. But it’s deceptively difficult — and to write a review that outshines its subject, perhaps doubly so. This online-only review of one of the late Anton Yelchin’s last films, produced as part of our Sydney Film Festival coverage, epitomised all the best, and beautiful qualities of cultural criticism. It was fair in its assessment, delicate in description, and ultimately probing in its dissection of modern love — so much so that it made the film itself seem lacklustre. Michael Sun