Honi Soit writing competiton. Entries close July 29

Honi Soit profile: DRIP for Honi

DRIP have a fresh multimedia focus, but are a more culture-focused ticket lacking a coherent political outlook.

Quiz score: 54%
Members: Patrick McKenzie, Ariana Haghighi, Rhea Thomas, Bonnie Huang, Danny Cabubas, Harry Gay, Kristin Miao, Joe Fidler, Amelia Raines, Anie Kandya, Nandini Dhir

While DRIP’s campaign visuals reminiscent of cheesy 90s videos, creative design and a multimedia focus display strong skill and an innovative vision for Honi next year, some glaring gaps in knowledge and their failure to articulate a coherent political vision are worrying signs.

In terms of campus publications, DRIP includes editors-in-chief of ACAR Honi, creative directors of SASS journals (1978), editors of Pulp, Women’s and Queer Honi, SULS journals (Dissent) and ex-presidents and content directors for the Sydney University Radio Group (SURG). They also count a Publications Coordinator for the Sydney Film Festival, a presenter for FBi Radio and an editor for an external publication. 

Most of DRIP’s members have been consistently active, with one reporter (first-year Ariana Haghighi) contributing 20 articles in 2021 alone. Their reliability with deadlines is a positive sign of organisation skills that are critical for the editorship. In Semester 1, DRIP wrote almost twice the number of Honi articles as CAKE did and have since extended their lead (67 vs 104, though CAKE’s Ellie Stephenson and Fabian Robertson have written extensively for Pulp), displaying a commitment to Honi. DRIP also has multilingual and translation experience with Kristin Miao, a former Pulp multilingual editor, although she recently departed for reasons unclear. 

DRIP emphasise their experience in arts and culture writing, both in and outside Honi. They have strong ties with SURG, which publishes music reviews, and their SUDS connections will compete with CAKE’s performing arts focus. DRIP envisions a paper “dripping with culture,” and their regular reporting this year gives credence to this. However, their promises in the culture sphere to “amplify the voices of locals and students” through regular reviews and interviews, while covering events and exhibitions from across the city, doesn’t deviate from what Honi already does.

The most distinctive elements of DRIP’s policies are in comedy and multimedia. DRIP are promising a double-page comedy spread, and in their interview they lamented the retreat of comedy to the back page. A double-page spread would signal a return to Honi’s comedic roots. In Joe Fidler (one-time USU comedy candidate) and candidates who have featured on the comedy page, they have the personnel to pull it off. Whether it will be funny is another question. 

In multimedia, DRIP are championing podcasts, photojournalism and “improved video content.” It is surprising that Honi is yet to expand into the aural sphere (besides a brief flirtation in 2019), and podcasts would appear to be a sensible and efficient way of reaching new audiences, which is another of DRIP’s policies. This would require a further increase in workload for already underpaid and overworked editors, but their experience in SURG, filmmaking and Pulp videography positions DRIP well to deliver on this oft-cliched Honi election promise of tickets past. 

In their interview, DRIP described themselves, rather vaguely, as “pretty progressive” and “very left-wing.” Like their opponent CAKE, they aim to “continue the radical history” of Honi but when asked to elaborate on their political vision, DRIP were unable to point to any substantive experience beyond reporting on protests to uphold these claims, saying that their left-wing credentials could be seen in their engagement with culture (“keeping the arts alive is a very left-wing idea”), rather than through news and investigations. As all of their members study Arts and five study Media/Communications, they may find it hard to keep their pulse on issues in different faculties, and their policy of including “diverse disciplines” is something of a reach.

DRIP only just passed the Honi quiz, raising serious questions about whether they have been paying close attention to issues in the higher education sector and will be able to fulfil their policy of holding University management to account. DRIP’s gaps in general knowledge are worrying. They could not name the Job-Ready Graduates Package which doubled fees for Arts degrees last year, wildly underestimated the University’s 2020 operating surplus as being $8.8 million, incorrectly stated that VSU meant “there needs to be student representation on union boards,” and could only name one of the four Enviro Officers (failing to even name Presidential candidate Lauren Lancaster as one). When counterposed against CAKE’s editorial experience and emphasis on critical news and political coverage, DRIP will find it hard to escape the perception that they’re a more culture-focused ticket lacking a coherent political outlook.

DRIP’s comparative lack of institutional knowledge means that if elected, they may struggle to stay on top of developments in student politics or the higher education sector, and will face a steep learning curve to uphold Honi’s unique role as one of the only politicised campus newspapers left in the country. Without an expressed ability to translate their purported radical politics into substance, DRIP’s editorship is less likely than their opponent CAKE’s to fill the gap left by the mainstream media in covering student issues. With a lot of learning to do, DRIP runs the risk of diverting too many resources towards expanding Honi’s digital presence rather than maintaining quality reporting, even with eleven editors. Although, DRIP’s recent news-writing on issues such as enterprise bargaining at other universities suggests potential for development. In their interview, they said that “being an editor wouldn’t be about who can quickly rattle off statistics in the blink of an eye … [but] more about your ability to investigate and look into things.” 

DRIP is a ticket with an interesting vision for Honi, but if elected they would need to improve their knowledge base significantly in order to excel as editors. In terms of electoral prospects, DRIP’s voting base was never likely to be drawn from Honi’s rusted-on following of hacks. Accordingly, they have focused on Honi’s quieter body of culture aficionados beyond the Stupol bubble. Indeed, DRIP’s unique branding has given them a slight advantage in terms of social media numbers, but will this be enough to propel them to victory?

You can read the full transcript of DRIP’s interview here.

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.