2021 Honi Soit interview: Bloom for Honi

A full transcript of Honi's interview with 2021 Honi Soit ticket, Bloom for Honi.

Honi Soit: Can you just start by introducing yourselves and the name of your ticket? 

Bloom: We’re Bloom. I’m Max, and this is Juliette. 

HS: You’re framing yourselves as an experienced ticket per your policy statement with regards to contributions to the paper and editorial experience largely elsewhere on campus, yet your experience within the SRC as an organisation is arguably somewhat limited. How will you be making up for these gaps in knowledge when you start editing the paper? 

B: Well, I think that we still have a few members that have been involved factionally and have been involved in the SRC as well. But we think that it’s probably a benefit that we haven’t been involved in the SRC to a great extent because it means that we are able to approach things more objectively, but also we are open to getting to know the SRC and getting to know the SRC and getting to know all the positions. We have been following it from a distance, so we’re still aware of all the positions that are held and what the SRC is essentially responsible for, we just haven’t been involved actively within the SRC itself. 

HS: One of the first things you’ll be doing as editors in early December is covering Natcon, do you believe that you’re sufficiently prepared for this given its live and a very hectic environment? 

B: We haven’t really thought about it, to be honest. We’ll cross that bridge fairly shortly, I’d imagine. But I don’t see why we wouldn’t be prepared. I think it’ll be like any other event.

HS: You’ve said in your policy statement that you’ll conduct extensive investigations, yet nobody on next year’s editorial team has ever published investigatively for Honi. How can you assure students and Honi’s readership that you do have these skills? 

B: I think, while we haven’t done any articles that have been framed as investigations as such, we’re very much willing to go out and do the digging and speak to people and just by being involved more in Uni life and around the SRC we’ll have a greater opportunity to do that, once we’re in our positions. I don’t think there’ll be any barrier to us doing investigations. 

HS: Is there anything specific that you’d like to look into? 

B: I think we can’t predict what investigations will happen. We just pitched you an investigation that we investigated, and there was nothing to investigate really. So I don’t think we can say what we’re going to investigate, without knowing if there’s anything to it. 

HS: So much of editing Honi is about relationships with people on campus, for example the NTEU, do you believe that you already have these relationships, and if not how are you going to go about developing these connections? We’ve marked the quiz in the meantime which Deaundre and Vivienne have done and, for example, you weren’t able to name the national president of the NTEU, and next year, I’m not sure if you’re aware but the EBA expires, so you’ll likely be covering that and there’s the potential for strike action which has happened in the past. Are you worried about those critical gaps in knowledge? 

B: Well I think across our ticket, because there are 10 people, it’s not just like, isolated individuals, that we have quite diverse contacts and we also have positions in different parts of campus life. And of course we’d have to get to know new people but that’s sort of part of working with any publication so we’re open to getting to know these people and also having to learn new things along the way. Like, no ticket goes into Honi completely prepared for everything, no-one knows everything. And I guess we need to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to learn. And I think we’d be leaning on Fit to pass on some of their contacts and talking with you and other people who know those kinds of people and getting in contact with people. Because we might not know them directly at the moment but as editors they’re people we’ll have to get to know. So yeah I think we’ll be trying to get to know as many people as possible. 

HS: There was another interesting gap in general knowledge where Vivienne and Deaundre named Dan Tehan as the state education minister. Do you think that signifies some lack of general knowledge? Obviously you aren’t going to know everyone on campus and that is a process we will help you with and which will happen next year but naming a federal education minister who has been in the news almost everyday for the past few months – it isn’t a particularly good look. 

B: Well, knowing every politician is also not necessarily going to be in everyone’s ball park, and obviously also the quiz is representative of two people on our ticket, not necessarily all 10, and whilst they are representatives of our ticket it doesn’t mean that the knowledge represented there is the complete knowledge of all the ticket. So I think that needs to be taken into account when we’re looking at the experience or the knowledge of Bloom as a whole.

HS: Just moving on now, what would you say Bloom’s vision for Honi is, and further to that what do you think the role of Honi is on campus? 

B: I think one of Bloom’s main things is, obviously there’ll be a lot of continuation of what Fit has done, in being a fairly progressive ticket, and there’s always that role of a student newspaper being, you know, pushing the boundaries to an extent, but I think Honi has a great potential in a time where people are really disconnected from uni, even before corona, people spend not much time on campus, aren’t involved in many societies, don’t really have any connection to university life, and even those who do spend quite a bit of time around might not be interested in Honi and the things that get printed in it. I think one of the things we want to do is try and increase readership as much as possible, and just try and get as many people involved in writing and reading the paper, because that’s one of the only ways to get people involved in what’s happening on campus — it’s a hard thing to do at the moment, but I think you just have to get out and shove it down people’s throats. The role of Honi more broadly as well is that university newspapers and publications generally have a unique position within the market, because we aren’t under the command of this Murdoch authority figure and thus we are able to make statements and opinions that are probably contrary from more mainstream media. So that’s one of the advantages of Honi Soit, that you can really advocate for a student voice which is supposedly a unique voice within the public discourse.

HS: Great. The majority of your policy statement is recycled from previous tickets, what would you say is something new that you’re bringing to the table? 

B: I think there’s only so much you can really change in a newspaper which is the same size and has the same resources and so on. There’s only so much you can change in your Honi year — but again I think the main thing is get it to as broad an audience as possible, and not being exclusive in the demographic you’re trying to write for or pitch to. I think just trying to broaden it as much as possible so it’s a thing as many people are interested in and want to read and want to get involved in. I guess what differentiates us from Fit this year is that we haven’t been as news centric, and Fit has been intensely news centric which has been really good and we definitely want to take some of that forward but our group also has white a cultural focus, and an artistic focus. We’re going to have a more visual paper, and a little more of a visual showcase of some of the creatives on campus, which we think is a valuable thing that isn’t necessarily capitalised on currently. 

HS: In terms of broadening Honi’s readership, and the people reporting for Honi, are there any specific ways you would go about doing that next year?

B: I think it’s just a matter of lecture bashing — you can’t just expect people to turn up and write for it. There’s only a narrow section of people that are going to turn up at uni and say I want to write in this public newspaper. You really have to get it out there. Obviously you’ll target faculties that have a predisposition to writing and people that can string sentences together but also other faculties- there’s no reason why engineering and science and commerce students shouldn’t be writing. I think you have to do groundwork. That’s also where our connections with clubs and societies will come in — for instance there’s Writing Society, which has a group of writers who are willing to write but just don’t have anywhere to put it, or aren’t putting it into any publications. So we think that’s also another opportunity to go beyond the arts bubble. The clubs and societies attract more people than just those doing arts and law, which is what Honi primarily attracts these days. I think another thing is, I don’t know how previous years have done it, and this years obviously a lot different, but if you’re writing for honi trying to make writers feel as though they’re more involved in the paper, and that can just be a simple matter of just having social get togethers of writers, so people know other people who are involved with the paper. I think, pandemic permitting, just trying to get as much face to face involvement with the paper and getting it out there to potential writers. 

HS: Moving on to your policy statement. One thing you’ve mentioned is that you want to make the pitching process more discursive — do you want to expand on what that means? 

B: Of course it’s still in development because we haven’t started our term, and we don’t start until December, so we’ve still got a while to work things out. Our main objective is to encourage greater discussion between editors and writers, particularly first time writers, because it can be intimidating when you’re approaching an editor you don’t know, and you’re trying to discuss your ideas, and sometimes there’s a bit of hesitation to workshop. So we want to encourage people to workshop ideas and also potentially put in pitches earlier, so that they can be discussed, particularly in the culture and analysis sections where they’re not as time sensitive. So I guess that’s the main objective in making the process more discursive, it’s just kind of increasing the relationship between the writer and the editor.  

HS: You’ve also mentioned specifically alumni as a group of writers that you want to shine a light on, why is that important to you as a ticket, and what is that going to look like? 

B: Was that alumni in the sense of getting them to write for the paper? 

HS: Yeah.

B: Was it? I think it was more about subject matter — more engaging with what people from USyd, or even past honi writers, are doing now. Because there are a lot of USyd alumni that are doing really important and interesting things, so having an eye on the University campus is one thing, but also being able to tell people that there’s life beyond the University is another. So being able to shine a light on the future successes and also maybe some of the work that might be valuable or important to current studies is valuable and interesting. 

HS: You’ve also talked about engaging with satellite campuses and international students — what existing relationships does Bloom have with the satellite campuses or with international student bodies? 

B: So we know — well I don’t know him. But I think we know the President or something of the Rozelle campus, or the students association. We have friend connections with people on the Arts campus, the fine arts campus. There are also quite a few connections with the Con. It’s mostly those two, the creative campuses, that we really want to showcase their work as well, because it aligns well with Honi. In terms of international students — on the ticket we don’t have a large supply of international students, because currently there just aren’t enough writing. And also because it’s really difficult at the moment with Covid because a lot of international students have been forced to go home. So it’s a little more difficult to keep up open communication when people aren’t around. But we do have Shania who is an international student, and even though she’s not from China we kind of have this like slightly close minded conception that all international students are Chinese international students, and I think that we need to broaden that mindset and embrace international students from a variety of backgrounds. So we have Shania to connect with others, but we also have a lot of friends who are international students that could be interested in writing for the paper, that perhaps haven’t had the chance yet, or haven’t had the confidence to. 

HS: Moving onto the types of coverage that you might be including. Sport coverage was mentioned in your policy statement. By sports coverage do you mean coverage of campus sporting events, like what Cream pitched last year, or more analytical pieces about sport in general? 

B: There’s not going to be a dedicated sports section every week I don’t think but I’m happy to go down and watch the rugby and write a report. There’s people that are interested in writing about cricket and tennis, so there’s plenty of people out there willing to write about those kinds of things. If they want to write about it then we’ll have it. If there’s significant sporting events on campus, like the rugby which often gets televised, or the basketball — if it’s significant and on campus then it’s probably worth a report. 

HS: That sort of coverage hasn’t really been done in Honi before — is there anyone on bloom that has experience covering sport or live sporting events or things like that? 

B: I wrote batch reports for my under 12 rugby but that’s about it. 

HS: Another policy that has been pitched before is forming closer relationships with USU clubs and societies. How do you intend to engage with clubs and societies? 

B: We’re aware of the distinction between the SRC and USU and clubs and societies are a part of the USU and thus not really under the jurisdiction of Honi. So, firstly, our engagement with them will be on the basis of trying to attract writers from them. Because they’re a group of people that have interests that align with what Honi needs. But we think it’s a good opportunity to increase the readership, because if you’re discussing some of the events or some of the things that are happening in those societies, not necessarily in the print of the paper, because we’re aware of the limitations of pages and that type of thing, and you don’t really want to use pages for USU publicity, it’s an opportunity to increase online engagement with the online honi publication.

HS: Speaking of the USU, Honi has sometimes had a parallel, sometimes competitive relationship with Pulp. What role do you think Honi should have as an on campus publication, in comparison to other publications like Pulp or perhaps journals put out by SASS and those sorts of things?

B: I think the journals are generally more literary, and longer form writing, which you can have in Honi as well, but they’re more dedicated to that. As for Pulp, I don’t really read it. I think Honi is there on campus, it’s apparent, it’s easy to see. I don’t know, you seem to hear about it a lot more often. I think they can coexist fine. I think Honi also has a responsibility to hold the SRC to account, and holds a position in student politics more than Pulp does, in a way. I think that’s one of the distinguishing factors of Honi Soit vs Pulp. 

HS: You mentioned in your policy statement that you’re actively seeking writers from faculties across the University and as you said before, presumably from outside the traditional arts and law writer base. Do you think this is an inherently bad thing that needs to be fixed? 

B: I don’t think its a problem as such, you’re naturally going to get more Arts and Law students writing, but it’s always good to have people from all over the campus contributing, and it’s worthwhile — even if no one wants to write from those faculties, it’s worth going out and trying to get them involved. The greater the amount of people writing and reading and engaging with Honi, the better it is for the paper and the campus itself. Part of the problem with engagement from those faculties is a confidence thing, or the idea that they can’t write for Honi because they’re not an Arts or Law student. So I think it’s important to break down that barrier and democratise the writership of Honi so that more people from more disciplines are encouraged to write, rather than just the people that write all the time. 

HS: We’ve noticed that there’s no mention of comedy or satire in your policy statement. How do you intend to approach comedic content next year? 

B: I think this year’s comedy has been — I’ve enjoyed it. We’d love to continue that, Marlow’s written a bit of comedy. The pitch meetings haven’t happened as often —- but that’s something that we like, going out and engaging with people to get pitches. We’d be happy to continue that, we’d still keep the comedy section but I don’t know if we’re as funny. 

HS: Closer to the end of your statement you talk about digital focused content and expanding digital content — what are you thinking of producing? 

B: There are a few things, the first thing is the Instagram page —- at current the instagram is just visuals, so we want to move away from the strictly visual instagram and also highlight some of the parts from articles, or even just infographics — because that’s one thing we acknowledge that Pulp has been doing really well this year and we would like to introduce it to Honi but in a slightly different way, and also we want to engage more on the different social media platforms with protest and public events reporting. For instance we were considering having audio recordings and things of different events so you can get more perspectives , because we think that it would be valuable — particularly when not everyone can attend such events — to have a more interactive, immersive experience.

HS: You’ve highlighted the importance of “progressive” student media, though we think that the term progressive has become increasingly confusing and hard to pin down over the years. Could you talk about what you mean by progressive? 

B: I think — the nature of the people on our ticket —- it’s going to be, a more left wing ticket, as is the case with most Honi Soit tickets. I can’t define our political leanings because there’s 10 of us, but the broad vibe is progressiveness. But I can’t define what progressive means. I guess generally progressive, you could say controversial – but more progressive to use the word you say has not been defined – opinions within the paper. Encouraging people to push barriers and push what is in the norm. But generally politically left and progressive. 

HS: Do you have examples of articles your team likes that have been particularly progressive, or maybe stances that you agree with? 

B: I think there have been a few articles, but potentially a controversial one which was Nina’s collectives article, which came under quite a bit of scrutiny, and because there are members of our ticket that are in collectives; it was also scrutinised within the paper, but in terms of that kind of content we don’t really want to shy away from that kind of content, we want to embrace it and include it in the content we are hoping to produce next year. 

HS: Another phrase that you’ve used in your policy statement is “the issues that confront our generation.” In your opinion, what do you think are the most important issues facing students at the moment? 

B: Obviously the funding cuts, that are happening at universities — there’s been a huge amount of politics surrounding university funding, surrounding the fee increases, also job cuts within the university –those kinds of things that are directly affecting us as students, but also as people that are more widely involved in the university. Also environmental issues and climate change. We have a number of people on our ticket that have been quite involved in activism to do with climate movements, so we think that those are two of the primary issues that we would like to discuss or draw attention to. 

HS: Something you’ve highlighted already is the limited space that you have in Honi — what issues would you be prioritizing your coverage on? 

B: I don’t think we can say what will be happening in the next year. I think a focus on the environmental things, I imagine they will be continuing issues into next year — the environment and uni cuts — but that depends on what pitches we get. You also need to prioritise time sensitive content, but obviously things change in a short amount of time, and thus we need to be able to prioritise the things that are going to go out of date or change really quickly, so that’s at the front of our minds as editors. 

HS: You’ve mentioned transparent journalism — what do you mean by transparent journalism? 

B: I guess that transparent journalism means a few things — first of all it means encouraging as many opinions as possible, and encouraging discussion and debate rather than putting out one idea and saying that it’s gospel. Another thing about transparency is trying to encourage transparency within the university, because part of the role of a student paper is to hold people to account. If you don’t have, for instance the SRC reports that come out each week from the office bearers, if you dont allow people to include things within those parts of the paper than you cut off people from the politics of the uni. So we think it’s important for Honi to increase the engagement with student politics but not endorse hackery.

HS: If you had to pick one Honi ticket from the past few years excluding ours, who do you feel you are most aligned with? 

B: I don’t really know. Spice? 

HS: How about politically, are you aligned with any particular year? 

B: I don’t really know. I’d say that Honi is generally fairly pretty left. I guess that we generally align historically with Honi, but particularly the more contemporary Honi tickets that have come up in the past 5 or so years. Spice is one ticket that we align with in a few ways, partly because they were quite heavy on visuals and cultural parts of the University institution, and I think that generally just looking at what we have written our content as it stands probably aligns most with spice. 

HS: One challenge of editing Honi is that the paper often receives harsh criticisms from all corners of the campus. What strategies or policies will your team implement when faced with such backlash? 

B: The first thing that we need to is discuss as a ticket, because if it’s just one on one backlash then it’s not necessarily productive and leads to an unhealthy atmosphere, so I think that the most productive thing in that frame is discussion among us, then trying to think of a potential response. How to support a writer if they’re not in the Honi group, I think those are the most important things to do in those cases, and also to be sensitive to the complainant, because often they will have some substantive reason as to why they are complaining, and you have to put a bit of a light on yourself and think whether your decisions are right or wrong, and sometimes you have to be open to accepting some criticism, because as editors we have to accept we won’t always be right and the opinions that we publish aren’t always going to be the most thoroughly researched, or the opinions we will continue to agree with in six months or a years time. Open mindedness, discussion, and appreciation of the fact that people can be wrong. On more substantive issues, I’d love to encourage people to write a rebuttal to be published in Honi, or at least a letter to the editor, rather than Usyd rants. So if you think you have a decent case to argue then argue it publicly through an article.

HS: Our ticket has been no stranger to controversy and backlash throughout this year, we’ve been criticised for our O-Week cover, USU pull out, Jew vs the Catholic comedy section, amongst other things. Would Bloom have published the aforementioned content and why or why not? 

B: I think that the cover for O-Week was fairly harmless in many respects, even though it’s confronting for some, it’s not anything that is blasphemous or really that terrible, so I think that in regard to that one, yes we would have published it. In regards to the Christian vs the Jew, obviously we can’t speak for the jewish community who had a few problems with it, particularly one member of the Jewish community, so I think that we’ll refrain from commenting on it, because there were a jewish and catholic writer that facilitated that content, so they have their own ability to have those perspectives that we aren’t liable to comment on or produce ourselves. So, we think that’s a cultural issue within the paper that needs to be dealt with on the basis of who is writing it and who is editing it. So long as the content is fairly harmless — a lot of the content is going to be satire, and satire is always controversial, we need to accept that embrace it as a community, particularly as a progressve paper. 

HS: Would you publish the USU pull out from our O-Week edition? 

B: I remember it generally — the absolute boy bit — the absolute boy comment is similar to the Catholic and the Jew, we don’t have the cultural or religious backgrounds to publish that content ourselves, however if there was something specific to our collective then we would be open to publishing something controversial. 

HS: The threat of getting misconducted by the University is becoming more and more prevalent within the SRC, would you tread more carefully because of this risk?

B: No. I don’t think — well I don’t know the nature of the misconduct claims, but I don’t think we should tone down the tone of Honi, its at its best when it’s pushing boundaries — if you’re making complaints about a student paper, that says more about you than what’s in the paper, but I think we wouldn’t tone down anything. If the student paper isn’t controversial it’s not doing its job. If there aren’t any views that people question or are willing to argue with, no-one would read it because it would be boring. There still needs to be a willingness to argue and be controversial. 

HS: After Bloom was automatically elected, articles pitched by editors either failed to meet submission deadlines or dropped out completely after they had been approved and paginated for the paper. This occurred two weeks in a row. To what do you chalk up these mistakes, do you think this reflects a larger problem in Bloom, and how will you improve before your term begins? 

B: The only one I know of is the covid investigation, we went and investigated, and there wasn’t any substance to the investigation. You can’t really write what isn’t there. That was a matter of there not being anything to write about. With the photo essay —- it was quite a sensitive topic and there were some last minute changes regarding privacy — I think that was a bit of a unique case and I think that it’s been two unique investigation style pieces that were put back with some forces out of control of the writers, and were also subject to the difficult process of having to get a piece in within a week that requires research and a lot of personal opinion from the community. In future we’ll do the investigation before we pitch the investigation. 

H: Just going back to the photo essay, that was actually pitched over a week in advance. Obviously sometimes articles will be late but there was also a real lack of communication.

B: I think that’s also partly down to the sense that there needs to be greater communication between the writers and editors and not just greater accountability on the part of the editors but also the writers so that if you are running behind you tell your editor so that they are aware. In future, if we set a deadline everyone will stick to that deadline.

HS: We heard a few weeks back you were looking for an 11th editor — do you still intend to fill an 11th spot? 

B: No, we’re no longer looking.