With the 2021 Honi Soit election in full swing, Honi editors Claire Ollivain and Max Shanahan sit down with DRIP for Honi candidates Harry Gay and Anie Kandya to discuss their vision for the paper.
Claire Ollivain (CO): Could you please introduce yourself and tell us the name of your ticket?
Anie Kandya (AK): I’m Anie, this is Harry, and our ticket is DRIP for Honi.
CO: What is your vision for Honi?
AK: Our vision for Honi is basically to continue the radical history of Honi and the reporting of important events and movements with relation to student life. In saying that, we also want to bring in an element of interactivity for Honi readers. And so we want to introduce a lot more things that will make the paper easier and more fun to engage with for students that may be accessing it remotely. But also just the student body in general.
CO: How would you describe your ticket’s politics? And what articles have your team written that reflect that stance?
Harry Gay (HG): I’d say our ticket is pretty progressive, very left wing. I’m trying to think of some articles that reflect this. But I think in our engagement with culture, because we are very much into elevating the arts and keeping the arts alive. It’s a very progressive, and left wing idea.
AK: I was going to point to a lot of like reporting, members of our ticket have done over the years of things like attending rallies, covering the movements behind those rallies, whether that be for collective movements, or whether that be for things like, I know this has been a little while now but I know some of the first articles that I was writing about were covering like refugee rallies and things like that. But also, I think, under our belt, we have a couple more analysis based pieces interrogating certain bodies of USyd. I know, I wrote a couple of articles about the USU and the SUSF and things like that. But in general, I think if you look back, we have a dearth (sic) of articles that are more news related, and then a couple more analysis pieces as well that are under our belt.
Max Shanahan (MS): Both you and CAKE have written quite a lot for the paper and you both describe yourselves as progressive or left wing tickets, what do you think the biggest difference or any difference between you and CAKE is.
HG: I would say, our biggest difference is experience, not just in numerical terms of we have written more for the paper, and more frequently, but also outside of the paper. Both tickets purport to bring in multimedia content, which our ticket has a dearth (sic) of experience in outside of Honi Soit in terms of SURG radio, and starting up podcasts, which we want to do, getting into international film festivals and whatnot like that. And, yeah, just a greater depth of writing within the paper. So we have experience outside and within and through our campaign we have shown so far that we do have a multimedia background that we are going to help train people up in as well as just provide a greater depth of with Honi Soit than has ever seen before.
MS: So you mentioned experience and while it’s true that DRIP has written slightly more in terms of words written and articles written for Honi, CAKE also has people who have edited Pulp in the past and people who have more experience in and around what is like the USU and the SRC. How do you think your writing experience sets you apart from cake when they have previous editorial experience and institutional experience?
AK: Yeah, for sure. I think not to repeat anything that Harry said previously, but while we may not have as many people who have been involved in and around like USU and SRC publications, we certainly don’t have a shortage of them. We do have people that have been involved in those publications as well. But in addressing that, I think the way our experience is, is that it’s in a lot of areas that are outside of uni publications, which is kind of addressing more of the fact that a big part of our policy is to incorporate things like, not to echo the same words, but multimedia content in. And I think, insofar as writing for publications goes, or creating content for publications, we do have a lot of people that come from more creative backgrounds that have made content for other unique publications, such as SURG is the big one that comes to mind. But also, in saying that we follow USU and SRC content through Honi and other mediums. And we have been for a little while now, so I think that that would be able to kind of account for the lack of experience we might have around those bodies.
MS: Who do you think Honi’s audience is and who do you think it should aspire to be for?
HG: We believe that Honi’s audience is very much with people who are interested in politics and the arts. And while we think that is very important, and we value that so much coming from backgrounds in politics and the arts, we would like to broaden Honi’s reader appeal through things like reaching out to faculties, doing live events, and even making the paper more visually interesting to pick up.
MS: In your policy, you make mention of Honi’s proud, radical history. What do you mean when you talk about a radical history? And what are some examples of things that Honi have done in the past that inspire you in this sense?
AK: So I think it’s no secret that Honi being a publication for students by students means that it has the important role of covering a lot of student movements and things that affect students. In doing that, I think it’s very important to understand these issues from kind of a radical perspective, which means taking into account factors like class and race and things like that. And I think that is pretty much the only way that you can adequately write about issues that affect students. Just to name a couple in the past couple of years, I would say the coverage of cuts to higher ed, the increase in managerialism with USyd admin and USyd higher ups. All of those issues, I think, takes a certain understanding of student rights and student movements. I think that you really have to have an acute understanding of that in order to adequately cover those events. And so I think that’s where continuing the radical trajectory of Honi comes from.
CO: So in your quiz, you couldn’t name the higher ed bill that doubled fees for arts and commerce degrees, and couldn’t identify what voluntary student unionism was, among other gaps in knowledge. If elected, how would you be able to cover higher education news in depth?
HG: I think we are researchers, we’re reporters, and we investigate, we will investigate these things. Being a part of Honi and being an editor wouldn’t be about who can quickly rattle off statistics in the blink of an eye off the top of their head. I think it’s more about your ability to investigate and look into things and the pressure of a timed quiz can sometimes make your brain go crazy. And so I think that if we were to cover events, we would just, you know, do what we would do, we would research, we’d ask around, we’d create connections with people from different universities as well and staff. And yeah, we would investigate and look into things and look things up. We would have the benefit of those abilities.
AK: Yeah, I also just wanted to point out that a lot of the gaps in knowledge that the quiz may have indicated, although I don’t deny that there are gaps in knowledge, I think a lot of the things that were asked, we broadly knew the movements or we had an understanding of the topic that the question was asking us about. For example, I understand the repercussions of the bill that initiated the cuts to higher ed courses. Whilst I may not know the name of it off by heart, I think in saying that, we do have quite a good understanding across our ticket of a lot of the issues that we would need to be familiar with, both current and historical, that would give context to our coverage of student issues. And for the gaps that we do have, which you know, are undeniable with any kind of ticket, we’re working on filling them by figuring out what the gaps are with certain people. And everyone has them. And we’re doing a little bit more skill sharing and preparation, even in this time before Honi elections. So by the time next year rolls around, I am confident that we will be confident in the gaps that we have now.
CO: So you mentioned wanting to do investigative reporting. And in your policy, it says you’ll teach reporters to do GIPA and FOI requests. What is your experience in this area? And do you think you’ll prioritise investigative reporting or cultural journalism based off your prior experience?
HG: I personally don’t have any experience in FOI requests. But we would just continue pretty much the output of cultural as well as investigative reporting.
AK: I wanted to say I think certainly we feel more comfortable with writing cultural articles. But that’s not to say that we don’t have the chops to do more investigative pieces. I think they’re some of the most important that Honi publishes. In saying that, I think there are certain things that we can do in order to make sure that we have the skills that are adequate enough to upskill our reporters. It’s a give and take process. But things like first-hand experience of submitting GIPA and FOI requests is something that we can get knowledge from, by looking to previous editors and looking to our previous editors as well. But in saying that, I think there is more to investigative journalism than doing those things. And I think that there would definitely be a focus on making our reporters feel more comfortable to build them up to the point where they would feel comfortable writing more investigative pieces, because certainly, that’s what my previous editors have done with me. And that’s been my experience. And I think it’s worked really effectively, that give and take relationship.
MS: So many of the things that you mentioned in your policy document are things that Honi already does, like an anonymous tip line and extensive news coverage. What’s something substantively new that you plan to bring to the table?
HG: Podcasts, regular podcasts, which is something that we have the chops to do. Pat and Rhea on our ticket successfully started a regular podcast for SURG. We also want to do video documentaries, more improved video content, something which is severely lacking in current Honi. So we want to do that and we have a breadth of experience making video content. Yeah, we also want to bring a bit more of a return to comedy, something which has been kind of pushed more and more to the periphery to the point where it’s almost, it’s on the back page now. And we want to bring it expanded out a bit more, not just with more comedic articles, but also cartoons, comics, and greater interactivity with caption contests and things like that. So we’ve got a lot of interesting ideas like that, as well as improving and bringing about more visual design, more visual flair to the paper.
MS: And as you said, one of your main policy points is having this double page comedy spread. What experience does your team have to be able to pull this off? And how open is your team to pushing the boundaries through comedy?
AK: Yeah, I think we do have a lot of experience in terms of pushing the boundaries for comedy. Like, I think one of our main policies is around redefining what comedy in Honi looks like. I mean, of course, a double page spread is something that we are looking forward to doing. But I think comedy doesn’t always look like stuff that’s in print. And we want to make sure that contributors feel like there is a culture where they can contribute comedy that isn’t just in those formats, and can be things like video content, it can be in podcast format. It can be photo essays, whatever it might be. But yeah, I think we’re very open to pushing the boundaries of what comedy content Honi puts out at the moment. And in saying that, I think our familiarity with certain multimedia mediums means that we can easily incorporate those into our regular output rather than it being kind of like a learning curve for us. So I think that indicates some promise of more regular comedy content that is maybe a little bit different to what Honi regularly publishes in print comedy sections.
HG: Can I also just add that in terms of our experience, just generally, we found ourselves to be pretty funny people. But also we have people like Joe Fidler, who ran a whole USyd comedy campaign, which was a multi modal experience was almost like a performance art where you had him performing in the Eastern Avenue as well as video content and photo journalism, and, and we’ve all done comedic stuff outside of just like the regular little Honi articles in general.
CO: So in terms of the visual aspect of the newspaper, and in your policy you say you want Honi to be thematically cohesive. Do you think this combined with producing more multimedia would possibly go in the direction of turning Honi into more of a glossy magazine, with a focus on online output, like Vertigo, rather than honouring its roots as a newspaper?
AK: I think with regards to that, our vision for the multimedia content for Honi is not so much that we move away from the print or we move away from what is traditionally a newspaper. But I believe that there are aspects of the content that’s already being produced that if we take into account while we’re still in the building block stages, while we’re still accepting pitches, and reaching out to contributors for pieces, if we take into account how those could be translated across different mediums, whether that could be something as small as a playlist that could accompany a piece or something else that could be posted about it, that would condense its meaning into an Instagram post or something that could be shared easily, I think there are certain ways that we can incorporate that with the content that Honi usually produces, that would kind of enhance the experience of Honi as a whole rather than turning it away from what is traditionally a student newspaper, to make it a magazine. I think that’s not really what we are envisioning when we’re thinking of multimedia content.
MS: Okay, and another thing in your policy document is that you say you want Honi to reflect diverse disciplines and encourage contributions from STEM students, but five of your members study MECO and all of you are art students. How do you hope to achieve this policy point, given that?
HG: We’re not in some isolated bubble, we all know STEM students and they’re not some alien part of campus. And through talking to them just generally, they’ve discussed things that they would want to see in Honi Soit and we have visions of doing events with them, actively reaching out to faculties and societies, so chatting with them through there. And also reporting on what’s going on in the world of science and within their disciplines, which is something that I think they’d be keen to see.
MS: Another point is that you emphasise news writing in your policy statement. However, the bulk of your ticket’s experience has been in cultural writing. Are you satisfied that you’ll have the requisite experience when combined with some gaps in institutional knowledge to be able to run the news operation?
AK: So I would say, drawing from your previous question, the fact that we are all, not all, but the fact that multiple of us have a MECO background means that we do have a lot more experience with writing news, than our published articles might indicate. But also in saying that I think use is the most accessible writing that writers can upskill themselves with. And so it’s not so difficult to bring everyone up to par with news writing skills. And not only that, but to bring in a focus on upskilling a lot more newer writers into writing news as well. Because I know from personal experience, it was some of the, like quick news writing opportunities for different publications that got me writing more often. And so encouraging that as a first step for writers as well, which would bring a twofold take on news writing between contributors and editors.
CO: One of your members is a first year and four are in their second year. Do you feel confident that as a younger ticket, you have a strong enough understanding of the recent history of student politics to do election coverage?
HG: Again, all that info can be found out through the proper sources. But also, despite the fact that we have a first year on our ticket, she has written more than anyone on their ticket and only in her first semester being here, which is pretty awesome. And she is very, very keen on writing, as we all are, we’re all very keen, like we wouldn’t be submitting so often if we weren’t interested in editing the paper and upskilling ourselves in the areas that are necessary.
AK: I wanted to say, kind of echoing what you said, the fact that we have a first year on our ticket doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of experience in that way. Ariana has been writing not only just for Honi, but a lot for Honi as well. And I think that, beyond that, as well, the younger members of our ticket are very keen to learn. And even if they haven’t been writing as often for Honi, as Ariana might have, they are very involved with student life. Whether that be one way or another, whether that be through clubs and societies or getting involved with USU campaigns or whatever aspect of student life they feel most passionate about. And so I think that to that point, it kind of works to an advantage towards us, because we do have a lot more people that are connected to a younger audience, which I think maybe Honi fails to fully draw upon when tickets are all kind of from the same factions and part of their degree. So I think, yeah, it works to our advantage that we can diversify our audience that way.
CO: So another question on the makeup of the ticket. And why have you chosen to run on a team of eleven when only one to ten candidates can be on the ballot?
AK: If I may speak on that, I believe that it is not uncommon to have eleven candidates. From what I understand, even though only ten of us can be on the ballot, eleven people can edit Honi Soit. I may be wrong in saying that, but I’m fairly sure that I’m correct. And so we had a discussion as to if there was anyone who opposed not being on the ballot itself, which, we came to the conclusion that no one really minded being left off. And so all eleven of us are going to edit as equals, but only ten of us will be on the ballot, which is just the way that things go.
MS: So if a situation arose where there were substantial disagreements over political stance or an editorial decision, do you have any plans on how you’d go about resolving those differences?
HG: So we sort of decided that we would probably get a majority vote in situations like that. So most likely, if we had a majority of eight, a decision would probably go through. If someone was being particularly stubborn in their decision or unwavering in their decision would probably go more into a discussion as to specific issues and work it out through meetings. Almost all of our meetings as a general ticket, we haven’t really had any disagreements. There might be one or two things where there might be a difference of opinion in an item. But that particular thing doesn’t go through until everyone on the ticket is happy with it. That’s how we’ve done it so far, we’ve done votes. And it depends on the majority, but then we discuss it more and more. And everything that’s been put out has been agreed upon as a whole.
AK: Just to expand on that a little bit, I know there are certain things where political disagreements can be very personal to people. And I think that in our discussions beforehand, we have kind of come to a place where we all agree on the fundamental principles of our politics and how they kind of intersect with reporting for Honi. Of course, we can’t predict all of the issues that may arise from things that happen throughout the year. But in saying that there is a very big importance placed on making sure that if there are political disagreements in that way, that it’s not just put to a vote and put to rest. Like, that may be how we make decision making. But I think that’s not necessarily how the dynamic of our group operates, I think we really do have good communication that we hear each other out, we’re on the same page, we want the same thing for the paper. And we have very clear visions as to how we want to get there. And so, I think operating with compassion and understanding, but also, coming from a place where everyone has the equal standing, those two work quite well, together hand in hand.
CO: So in your policy, you say you have a strong progressive background. Progressive can mean anything from the centre right to the left, and it’s become a bit of a buzzword. What does it mean for you, and what makes your background strong?
HG: I think we’re all quite left wing. And we all have had experience going to protests and writing politically charged material that is very left wing. We use the word progressive, but we are very left wing as a ticket. We’ve attended protests, like just because we might not be photographed at a particular protest or whatnot, doesn’t mean we haven’t been attending them for years, discussing these ideas and thinking about them.
AK: I was also going to say I understand progressive can be a bit of a buzzword. It can be like a bit of a word that people use to cop out of actually, talking about their politics, I would say like, once again, echoing what Harry said, we’re pretty left wing. Radical, I would say. In terms of a strong progressive background, it doesn’t necessarily, like Harry said, look like being an activist organiser, which I think is the experience that a lot of people can point to when saying that they have a strong progressive background. But in saying that, we have two, current or past ethnocultural officers, we have people who are studying politics and clearly reporting on issues that matter to them in a way that reflects their political background. Nowhere in our background for anyone in our ticket, can you find any kind of holes with that, I think pretty much no matter what we’re writing about, that can be shown in our writing history.
CO: And on that note, how do you plan to engage with activists in your coverage? Do you think you have the institutional knowledge to be critical of activists and student politicians?
AK: I was gonna say that, even though we may not be in a lot of activist spaces ourselves, I mean, it may be a smaller majority of the ticket being involved with things like USU and SRC than the majority, we’re clearly absolutely aware of these things. They seep into every aspect of uni life. Things like, which faction has SRC majority trickles down into how student activism operates throughout the entire year. And so, in saying that, I believe we do have connections to a good amount of activists in those networks, multiple of us have backgrounds where we’ve been involved with collectives for years. We’re absolutely aware of the people in and around those circles and the people that are most important to carrying out those activist duties on campus and sustaining student activism around the issues that matter. Yeah, I would say that we do have adequate connections and understanding of those peers to report on them.
MS: Just on that point about that activism, do you think that Honi has a duty to generally be supportive of activists and activist movements or are you open to being critical?
HG: We want to support and mobilise activism that will elevate student voices, and will be in the best interests for students, to help them, you know, keep and foster their education, make sure that everything benefits them. We will be critical, obviously, of any activist organisations and factions that are doing any dodgy stuff, and yeah, are advocating for the wrong things or the things that would not be a benefit for the larger student population, but also marginalised groups as well.
AK: I just wanted to add on to that and say, Honi has a very, unique radical history. And in considering that, I think it plays a unique role, where it can be a lot of people’s first contact with engaging with that activism and with student movements in and around campus. Not just limited to USyd as well. So I think it’s very important that we use Honi to contextualise those movements and really emphasise their importance, not only just on a campus level, but on a national level. Fundamentally, I think it is Honi’s right to kind of hold accountable, not only the usual suspects, but play into and cover the theatrics of what can be student activism as well and all of the things that affect it. And I think that not only are we well equipped to cover student activism, but I think we’re also well equipped to cover the latter.
CO: Not including Bloom, what past Honi ticket do your team feel most aligned with in terms of vision or politics?
HG: We would probably say something like a mix of Spice and Scoop. We’ve really loved the visual design and layout of Spice’s ticket when they were running Honi. But we also really enjoyed Scoop’s push into the new digital age with the new website and whatnot. So we’d probably say a mix of both of them. I’d say, maybe leaning a little bit more towards Scoop, but both are just as equally inspiring towards us.
AK: Maybe this is more personal than for the ticket but I thought for me personally Spice was one of the most inspiring tickets because I really resonated with their editorial vision and their commitment to that vision throughout the entirety of all their editions of Honi Soit. I thought their collective voice really shone through all Honi Soit editions. And that was the year of Honi that I think got me very invested in Honi itself and sparked my love of Honi.
HG: Same here. That was the first time I ever picked up an edition, with Spice.
MS: Honi is a commitment that requires almost constant attention. Are members of your ticket willing to reduce study loads, and whatnot to give attention to it next year?
AK: Yeah, definitely, it is pretty much a full-time unpaid job and I don’t think that that reality is lost on anyone. We all have different financial situations and time commitments, but we are willing to reduce other commitments like reducing uni loads amongst other things in order to clear out this whole year. So we can reasonably focus on Honi Soit as a collective. It’s not lost on anyone how big of a role it is, and how little compensation you get for it in terms of time and money. So yeah, absolutely. We’re on the same page with that.
MS: So last question, why should people vote for you over CAKE?
HG: I think the experience that we are promising to bring to the paper in terms of multimedia content, specifically, outside of Honi. I already mentioned it, starting podcasts and making films, all this stuff. We have the experience. Past Honi tickets have promised things like more multimedia and regular podcasts, and we have the goods to deliver it like we’ve delivered in the past.
AK: Yeah, absolutely. last note, I believe that DRIP can really continue the legacy of Honi keeping to its journalistic standards, while also bringing in all of those new elements to further amplify it. I think if you’re looking for a fun multimedia platform, DRIP is the paper for you.
MS: One more final question, sorry. Podcasts are something that’ve been promised for a few years and by a few different tickets. And was only really tried a little bit in Spice as far as I’m aware. What sort of things do you propose to do in these podcasts? Do you think of it more as a recap of the week’s news or something entirely separate?
HG: We’ve got a whole host of ideas. And as mentioned before, things like comedy doesn’t just have to be the print, the two-page spread. It can be other things, including a comedy podcast would obviously also have the news podcast. It would be one of those things where we’ve got a few podcasts going on, at any one time, about a variety of different topics that we feel the most comfortable and skilled in, as well as even reporters who feel very comfortable and skilled in and we would upskill our reporters to be able to do podcasting. So they too, can also contribute to that aspect of the paper so it’s not all falling on the editorial team. So we’d obviously do news, culture, comedy, everything where we’re interested in.
AK: In saying that, I think the kind of structure we have to back that idea up is that Pat, Amelia, Rhea, all SURG execs current or former have been actively doing this and would have been the people that brought in regular podcasts to SURG, and so they know how to navigate not only doing regular podcast outputs themselves, but also encouraging contributors to run their own podcasts and using them as like a column almost, in that they can vary from pitch to pitch from contributor to contributor and what they the contents of them would be. We would equip them with all the skills and tools to actually produce them. And I think it’s been proven that we can do that. I’ll leave it at that.
Disclaimer: Editors Vivienne Guo (a candidate for Council) and Marlow Hurst (involved with DRIP’s campaign) have declared a conflict of interest for election coverage (including this edition) and are not involved in any of the 2021 coverage of Honi Soit, NUS and SRC elections.