With the 2021 Honi Soit election in full swing, Honi editors Claire Ollivain and Max Shanahan sit down with CAKE for Honi candidates Ellie Stephenson and Roisin Murphy to discuss their vision for the paper.
Max Shanahan (MS): Could you please introduce yourselves and tell us the name of your ticket?
Ellie Stephenson (ES): I’m Ellie. I’m in my fourth year of a Bachelor of Arts in Advanced Studies and my majors are Environmental Studies and Political Economy.
Roisin Murphy (RM): I’m Roisin. I’m in my third year of an Arts degree majoring in Gender Studies and doing a minor in English. And we’re on CAKE for Honi.
MS: So what’s CAKE’s vision for Honi?
ES: So I think that there are a few parts of our vision for Honi. I think elements of this ticket have been in the works for a long time and have had quite a lot of thought put into them, and I’m personally quite proud and invested in it. I think, for me, a really important part of our vision is having quite radical and student-focused reporting on news. And that might be campus news. So it might be holding the university to account, it also might be federal politics; I think in an election year that’s likely to be really important. But I think broadly, what we really want to bring is a student newspaper, which offers something that isn’t necessarily found in the mainstream media, which allows students to have their voices heard, but also, which is a really strong advocate for student perspectives and students’ needs, I think it’s really important that we have student media to stand up for students, and also, you know, staff at universities in times of increasing casualisation, of really shocking attacks on education. So I think that’s a super important role for Honi to take. And I think it’s something that everyone on CAKE is really passionate about. And which we want to, you know, really reflect, in particular in our news reporting, but also just generally in our ticket’s ethos. Then the second important part of our vision is viewing Honi as kind of like a portal for campus life in a way, you know, it can be difficult coming to university, especially if you aren’t from Sydney, or you’re not from a Sydney private school, and you don’t really know anyone, and I think being able to pick up an edition of Honi, and you know, have a bit of an introduction to what university is like, and the cultural scene and how to really be a part of campus is super important. And that looks like providing a platform for students. But also, yeah, I think it looks like having a really good community with Honi: things like events, things like close editor/reporter relationships. So I think broadly, our vision is quite student-focused. And it’s about creating a sense of community and a sense of radicalism on campus.
RM: Yeah, I will just quickly add to that, before we move on. Ellie covered most of it, but I think everyone who is on CAKE wants to edit Honi because they think that Honi can and should be something that, no matter who you are, you open the paper and you are a part of something bigger than yourself. And we want to provide that to as many people as possible through the news coverage, as Ellie said, through uplifting performing arts on campus, through giving people access to the arts on campus, and the arts at large as well. And yeah, just really acknowledging Honi‘s history and sort of bringing Honi’s sort of great, radical and communal history into the modern student experience.
MS: And I suppose this question has been partially answered already. But why have you decided to run for Honi this year?
ES: Yeah, I feel like, we’ve sort of suggested partly what we really envision and what’s driving us. I think part of wanting to edit as opposed to just contribute, or just be a part of it in other ways, is that I think that we have quite a strong vision of how we want to lead Honi or direct it so I think there are particular types of reporting and approaches we want to put an emphasis on. So for example, myself and a few other people, Sam and Amelia, on the ticket are quite keen for STEM representation. Christian’s quite keen for some good data journalism. So I think those are some examples of the kinds of things that we would really want to direct coverage into doing more of, into reaching students who are not necessarily normally reached but also encouraging those kinds of perspectives and methodologies and approaches to come into journalism a little bit more. And equally, we have other people in our ticket with really extensive performing arts and revues experience. I think that similarly, we want to kind of direct reporting in a way which allows not just really good coverage of those things, but also allows upcoming reporters to learn more about those things and improve and develop their ability to report on them.
RM: Yeah, I also think, just in your question, asking why do we want to run for Honi now, I think one of the most important things, and is the reason why all of what Ellie said is important is like, at risk of sounding like a University pamphlet, campus life and student life is definitely at a crossroads at the moment. And we see Honi as kind of crucial to guiding student culture in the right direction, but also moving into this sort of new generation with it. And yeah, we think that doing all the things that we want to do with the paper is the way to make sure that Honi travels with students going forward.
Claire Ollivain (CO): So both tickets in this year’s Honi race have written for the paper and are left-leaning, what do you think sets your ticket apart as the better one?
ES: Yeah, so there’s a few things I’d point to, I think the first thing I would point to is quite a lot of news writing and editorial experience. I think while DRIP definitely has a lot of writing experience generally, and I think has done some really interesting cultural commentary. I think that our ticket is a little bit more focused around news writing and reporting on big political issues, and campus elections and student affairs. And that’s for a few reasons. Firstly, we’ve got, I think, a little bit deeper representation of people who’ve been involved in the SRC, and in the USU, and other student organisations for quite a long time. I’d obviously point to Roisin, who’s the current SRC VP, I myself have run, sadly unsuccessfully, lol, for the USU. But I think, you know, we have quite a lot of experience in those institutions and reporting on those institutions, which I think is really important, because there’s just quite a lot of institutional knowledge, a lot of familiarity that comes from interacting with, you know, whether it be University committees, or council meetings, or USU board meetings, being familiar with the people in those and the way that they work, I think is really important for having like a depth of reporting and a level of criticism and criticality in that reporting. Then I think the second thing, which sort of feeds into that news reporting is just that we have a lot of experience, you know, as Pulp editor, I think I wrote about 50 news articles over the year, many of them breaking news. Fabian’s done some really great investigative work recently, at Pulp as well. And Khanh’s been doing some good investigative stuff as well. So I think that there’s a little bit more investigative depth, which I think is really important, because that’s the type of reporting which is often essential for holding university to account or the government to account and so forth, and which ends up being like the kind of story that you’d look back on a decade later, and you go, you know, that really was quite important. I think the second distinction I would make between the tickets is just with respect to STEM coverage. So DRIP is 100% arts students and 50% MECO students. And while it’s fine to be an arts student, I am one myself, I do think that there are some perspectives that are missing there. And that’s not to say that STEM representation, like you know, that the STEM students are like an oppressed species, and they need to be promoted. But I do think it is to say that, you know, things like data, things like representing maps, me and Sam are doing a mapping subject this semester, which we hope to bring to the paper. But you know, those kinds of perspectives are more important than ever, particularly in a climate crisis, particularly in a pandemic. I think reaching out to STEM students should be more than just kind of signalling that we want STEM voices, it should be about having people who actually do STEM subjects on the editorial board or like, on the group of editors, and, you know, encouraging reporters to kind of think about those angles and report on things like the environment, you know, like technology, whatever it might be. I think that’s really important as well. I think it’s a really important dimension to add to the paper.
RM: Yeah, I’ll just quickly add to that and I won’t take too long. Just in terms of if you’re because your question was, um, if both tickets are left wing, what’s the difference? And why should people support CAKE? And I think for starters, I sort of don’t need to repeat what Ellie said, but yeah, we have a proven track record of left wing experience on campus and can actually show that we have the knowledge to run a left-wing paper. But I think beyond that, you know, a lot of people say they’re going to run a left-wing paper, and then think that doing that is taking a stance which doesn’t take a political side. But I think the difference between our policy statement and the policy statement of DRIP is that we see running a left-wing paper as radically stacking the paper with opinions that favour students and always upholding the student perspective, because when you look at the sort of things that Honi Soit reports on, which is, you know, management and government, those institutions are stacked against students from a right-wing perspective. And we’ve got a really cohesive plan to actually represent students in a way that is radically political, which is how we see expressing left-wing values through the paper. And I think that is the difference between us and DRIP.
CO: So you’ve already sort of described your politics and some of the political issues you would prioritise. What are some other things you think a left-wing paper’s coverage should be on or that you would plan to do?
ES: I sort of briefly talked about STEM journalism in the last answer. And for me, personally, I think, good reporting on environmental issues is incredibly important. We have two Environmental Studies students on the paper. I myself have written quite a lot of, you know, articles about the environment, whether it be environmental politics, or economics, but also just about things like biodiversity. And I think for me, communication about the environment is incredibly important. Because I think, people often have an impulse to care about the environment, people like the environment in an abstract sense. But I think communicating clearly about it is important for really building energy for solutions, energy for being a part of environmental activism, and things like that. And so, yeah, I guess one of the things that I personally am keen to do more of is environmental journalism and communications from that kind of perspective. And I guess the second thing I would point to is, I think that it’s really important that Honi weighs into federal politics. I think as a ticket we’re super keen to go down to Canberra and cover the federal election in quite a lot of detail from a student perspective, which is often missing from political coverage. I think that that’s something which is owed to students and something that we’ve been talking about for quite a long time and has always sort of been our intention to do. And like, I remember last year, when I went down to Canberra for when the Higher Ed Bill was in the Senate for Pulp, I think that was actually a really fun time. It was really great, I mean, not great, because it passed, but like, great in the sense that I was there witnessing something which was so important for students happening and students standing up to it. And I think that that’s a really important place for Honi.
RM: I think another big goal for our paper is to radically change the way that Honi reports on campus life, particularly the arts on campus. Personally, like everything, I sort of have and am, I’ve gotten through the arts on campus. My whole life is in the arts. I want a career in the arts sort of thing. And I think that Honi is the place that gives people access to that. Yeah, so changing the way that we review shows on campus, having reviews and SUDS shows be reviewed on opening night, every time and by people with experience, really uplifting the arts through the way that Honi communicates with arts communities on campus. But also, I think all of us are really excited for Honi to have a very, very big role in fighting for campus life and having a say in what campus life looks like going forward. Which doesn’t just mean Honi fighting for a really good campus culture and running a campaign to reopen the Fisher rooftop, but also fighting really hard against the SLAM cuts, fighting for Theatre and Performance Studies. You know, taking on all of those roles. So yeah, I think probably, at least on a personal level, I’m really excited to reshape the way Honi does arts coverage. And we could probably talk about a million more things that everyone on the ticket is excited to do.
CO: So in terms of uplifting campus arts coverage, would this imply that reviews of student shows and student-led exhibitions would be in a positive light only? Or would you be open to being critical as well?
RM: It doesn’t mean it would be in a positive light only, but it would mean it would be in a productive light only, I think, because probably our ticket’s fundamental issue with the way that Honi has reviewed shows for a few years now, I mean, a) being critical for the sake of being critical. But also, you know, reviews not coming out until the last night that a show is on; criticism in no way, shape, or form being founded on anything that is substantial from the show. Cast members’ names not even being said in reviews. At the end of the day, whether reviews are positive or negative, there is something in them that makes people want to go and see the show. So I think that’s our main thing with reshaping the way that we do reviews. But reviews are only one aspect of how we want to engage with the arts more and uplift them more. So yeah, I mean, uplift isn’t necessarily the correct word, but engage in a more holistic and genuine way, I think.
ES: Yeah. And I think in a way that like, brings people into the arts, because I think, at the moment, I mean, I’ve reviewed a few shows, and I really enjoyed them, actually reviewing them, I think reviewing those shows got me into watching SUDS shows that I perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise really known about. But I think that that can kind of go a little bit deeper in terms of encouraging people to engage with the arts community. So for example, one of our policies is to include quite experienced people with backgrounds in the performing arts, reviewing shows. And I think that that is the kind of thing which could really help up and coming reviewers to understand those shows more deeply, understand the history behind them, and understand the significance of performing arts on campus, because it’s not something that is immediately presented to you if you’re not a performing arts student. But you know, we’re also talking about things like having a weekly gig guide, providing more platforms for people in the arts, whether it be from multimedia content, or from events. And I think that those kinds of things help to make engagement with the arts, I guess, more casual or something that people would experience quite simply in their everyday life as a student, it’s presented to them very easily and openly by the paper, because I think that the arts is really important to a lot of people on campus, and it can be so important in allowing them to express themselves, so I think the paper should fundamentally play a role in platforming that and allowing people to access it.
CO: So you’ve mentioned how campus life has changed over the years. And in your policy, you say you understand the legacy of Honi. Without using the word radical, which is mentioned in your policy, what would you say the legacy of Honi is, and some examples of things Honi has done historically that inspire you
RM: I think the legacy of Honi is being a part of student life. You know, Honi isn’t just there reporting on stories, it is the stories and it creates those stories and gives opportunities for those stories to happen. And I think that Honi should be something that, whether you like it or not, you write for it because everyone’s reading it, because it’s there. And, I guess when people did live close to campus, because they got so much Centrelink every week that they could, and they didn’t have to work, and they could be there seven days a week, it was a sort of incidental happening that you would pick up a paper off stands, but we know that’s not the reality anymore. And we want to be able to take that legacy of Honi as a very intimate part of the student experience and bring it into the modern student experience, which is that you might only be on campus two days a week, because you’re at a casual job the other three days, but you’re still engaging with Honi in your group chats and on social media platforms, whether or not you’re a hack on those three days when you’re at work, I suppose.
ES: I guess a legacy of Honi that I really care about and obviously this relates to radicalism but is not radicalism in the sense of just as a buzzword or having radical politics, but I think one thing that Honi has done very well, and in a way, which is, I think, very inspiring, and I’ve sort of always found it very inspiring, even as a child who interacted with Honi just on university visits like a debating day or like an open day. I think that just being willing to kind of push the boundaries and run sometimes quite controversial things, run covers that cause a little bit of shock and push political stances that people haven’t thought about before. I think that that’s really important. I think that ideally, Honi should be something which people in the mainstream media or people in the Liberal Party are unhappy about, and are actively annoyed at. I think that that is super important because it is a bit of an anomaly in the media landscape, which is pretty grim broadly, and contains a lot of very dull centrist opinions and very pernicious right-wing opinions. And so I think that what Honi can do is just be really fresh and interesting and push boundaries, and I want to keep doing those things.
MS: Just on that, how possible do you think it is to be so irreverent with Honi nowadays, like, back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, you’re able to do all these radical things, but you don’t have the immediacy of online criticism, and you don’t have articles that you’ve written staying up on the internet forever? Do you think it’s more difficult now to be irreverent? And do you think you can pull that off?
RM: I think it just looks different now. Which I suppose you might interpret as a bit of a cop out. But I think, you know, it’s different in the way that the whole media landscape is different, right? Like, when you look at the national press in Australia, we’ve had, I think the number is like close to 70 laws that limit press freedom in the last few decades. Like, the national media landscape isn’t as irreverent as it once was, which I mean, on one hand means that, you might think that Honi doesn’t have the power to be anymore, but I think it means that we have a role to be just as as irreverent, but we have to do it in a way that’s very different. And I think doing that in the online space, perhaps means not offending quite so many people, but, offending the right people in a really big way. And yeah, I suppose, I’m not really scared of writing an article that takes down a gross Liberal and that being on my name in 40 years, to be perfectly honest.
ES: Yeah, I’m also not scared. Like, I think it is true that people will send you nasty emails or threaten you with defamation. You know, I’ve already had that happen to me. Thanks, Claudia O’Donnell. Delightful. But I think that there’s a few reasons why Honi is well placed to resist that pressure in some sense. I think firstly, by virtue of being a student paper, with a bit of a reputation for radicalism and for pushing the boundaries, I think there is a little bit more willingness to allow Honi to do those things in some sense. So I think it is, in that way, a uniquely good platform to host those ideas. I think the second thing to say is, I think that as much as there is sometimes backlash, or even vexatious legal threats, I think that those things are often a little bit empty, or short-termist. And, people can comment negatively on anything. But I think, at least for me, I’ve found that those comments are often in the minority. And often there’s a large group of people who are willing to engage, quite interestingly, in your opinions. And yeah, it might be the case that there are some people from some niche society on campus, or who agree with the University on a political question or someone that disagrees with you. But I think that Honi sort of has a responsibility to publish those ideas anyway. And I think people often value that we do that when we do it. And so yeah, I think that an Honi that CAKE was editing would hopefully stand up for those principles.
RM: I just want to add, if Honi doesn’t push the boundaries, who will? I think that is CAKE’s kind of broad standpoint.
MS: So who do you think Honi‘s audience is now? And do you think it can be expanded? And who do you think it should be?
ES: So I think Honi‘s audience at the moment is predominantly students, obviously. And I think in particular, students from a little bit of a bubble of like, stupol and the arts. And I think in a way that’s sort of natural and to be expected, in the sense that those people are the most engaged in the kind of things that Honi reports about and in campus culture generally. And then I suppose there’s an additional audience of people who used to be students who used to be really engaged with Honi and stick around for the enjoyment value. And I think, sorry to bang on about STEM, but I think that, as I’ve already mentioned, that probably is an area that Honi can expand into a little bit. We’ve seen it in previous, in-person Honi elections, you know, the PNR booth getting barely any votes, because there just isn’t that engagement there. And I think it’s just important to note that that’s not an inherent thing, it’s not the case that engineers just don’t care at all about the ideas that Honi might be reporting on, we know that because we have STEM students, people who’ve done engineering on our ticket and in our campaign group. And so I do think it’s helpful for us to try and really sustain reaching out to students from other parts of campus, so through things like clubs and societies, you know, forming connections at O-Week, but also beyond that, and continuing to go to events and reach out to those networks of people. Because I think that it is really important that people at large can engage with a vibrant campus culture, and it’s not just reserved for people who might fit into the right social groups.
MS: We’re already running a bit tight on time. So there’s some questions on policies now, and in particular your social media policies. So you’re promising to engage daily with news, have Instagram graphics, news recaps and you said you’ll reply to things on Twitter, and also have long and short form videos on Instagram and TikTok and whatnot. Do you think these promises are realistic given that as editors, you already have a big workload of writing news articles, editing articles, writing your own articles, laying up the paper and so forth? And what gives you the skills to be able to do these things?
RM: Um, I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all to be honest, because I think I mean, for starters, there’s at least five people, no I think like six in our group, with very proficient video making skills and social media skills and all of these things we’ll be able to do through like very basic templates. I can’t imagine making a short form news recap at the end of the week taking more than 45 minutes. Yeah, I don’t. I don’t think there’s much grounding in any time constraint concerns.
ES: Yeah, I would also just say that, certainly, me and Fabian have already done this, in some ways, like Fabian’s massively grown the Pulp Instagram and posts basically every article there, little colour coded posts. I think that’s a pretty decent model for reporting news on Instagram. I’ve made a fair few videos for Pulp, covering campus events, particularly, when we go back in person, I think that that kind of video content becomes a lot easier. And I think also, there’s just a lot of ability to do things like make a long form video for Facebook, and then cut that up into short term videos for an Instagram reel, and TikTok. So I think like, yeah, I think we have the skills and experience to tackle that one.
MS: And another thing you’re promising is anti-hierarchical reporter relationships. We’re interested to know what you mean by that, and do you think that the reporter-editor relationship is somewhat necessarily hierarchical?
ES: I mean, I think obviously, by virtue of one person editing and one person writing there are different roles. And I guess it could be perceived as inherently hierarchical. I think what we mean by that idea in our policy statement though is two main things. Firstly, trying to make the editor-reporter relationship less contingent on particular people who are very enthusiastic and close with editors having more capacity to pitch or more access to reporting on things. I think that’s important, you know, not because there’s any problem with those people who are enthusiastic, that’s great, obviously, but because, I remember being in first and second-year and having quite a lot of imposter syndrome, and not really being sure if I should report on things. And it was only because of the prompting of my editor in second year, Liam, that I really got into doing that. And so I think that the first thing we would say, in terms of anti-hierarchical is a lack of hierarchy between different reporters and really pushing ourselves to, you know, what one of our kind of internal ticket policies would be to meet with each of our reporters as editors, like twice a semester or so just to catch up with them and get a feel for what they’re interested in and encourage them to report. I think the second kind of angle that anti-hierarchical editor-reporter relationship looks like is between an editor and individual reporters. And I think that looks like a few things. I think it looks like not just editing for like grammar and doing a spell check, but doing quite conceptual editing and really exploring and building upon the idea with the person, because I think that as a young writer, when I’ve experienced that it’s been really, really important for helping me think deeper about my own ideas. I think that that process isn’t a hierarchical one. Really, it’s one where both of you, both editor and reporter, are participating in and considering the article quite deeply. I think it’s quite a collaborative process. And then I think the second thing that that looks like is more collaborative reporting. So more, two people reporting on a news piece so that we can help, younger reporters start to get into reporting on news and things like that.
MS: So another promise of yours is critical news writing. What does this mean? And how does it substantively look different to a regular news article that you might read today?
RM: Um, so I think what we mean by critical news writing is kind of going back to what we say is the role of Honi in terms of very much radically prioritising the perspective of students and voice of students, so not just giving students the news like as they could get in the Herald or in the Guardian, but actually picking it apart, and really criticising how each piece of news that we’re giving students is going to impact them. And yeah, really having a very heavily critical lens on chiefly University management, government, University institutions generally. Yeah, I suppose that sort of news writing, which is stacked against management and government and right-wing views.
ES: Yeah, and I think the only thing I’d add is in-depth news reporting. So we’d really love to do, firstly, just more investigative work, we’ve got some experience in doing that. And we really want to continue to do investigative work. But secondly, you know, depth in terms of the way it’s presented. So for example, for things like elections, we want to have quite an accessible feature on the website where people can click through all of our coverage of it. We want to do things like have more data journalism, particularly backing up our claims with presentations of data that can help students visualise our ideas. I think it’s also about making that news reporting quite deep.
CO: So you’ve mentioned investigations, what investigations have members of your ticket been part of and is there anything you’re planning to investigate, or any particular areas you’d be interested in looking at, for more in-depth coverage?
ES: So I think maybe the most pertinent one that occurred recently was Fabian’s investigation, deeper requests into the Uni finances, and their kind of cloaked investments in fossil fuels and stuff like that. I think he has another one in the works as well, actually. Oh, and also, I think it was sort of within an opinion piece, but some investigation with respect to university donations. So yeah, I suppose that’s a quick example. I did some stuff last year, briefly, although it wasn’t particularly interesting, I’m afraid. But, you know, looking into the weird sale of the SRC WeChat at the start of the year, that was quite odd. Yeah, but I think Khanh has some ideas in the works. But regardless, I think there obviously is some investigative experience, we all sort of know how to do key publications and could teach someone else to do that. So it’s something we’re quite keen to do. In terms of investigations that we’d like to look into. You know, speaking for myself, I think one thing that I would like to work quite a lot on is the university and governments’ provisions for preventing academic interference or preventing CCP influence or whatever. I think there’s some quite concerning increased surveillance of academics as part of that, which I think personally grows quite substantially against, you would think, basic liberal democratic values of letting academics do their research in peace. And so I think that’s something I personally would be interested in investigating.
RM: I really want to do a three part investigation into how the university took over the entire community and its surrounds in three sets of decades, and look at the property deals that they did. And also the government legislation that was passed under Cumberland City Council, that kind of kicked it all off, and then leading right up to the late 1990s when they took out the last part of Abercrombie and Rose streets, and knocked down a bunch of a bunch of terraced housing. That’s an investigation that I really want to do.
CO: Returning to that idea of critical news writing, Honi’s relationship with campus activists has been tense for some time. How do you plan to engage with activists in your coverage? Do you think Honi should be critical of activists at all, or provide a platform for them or a mix of both?
ES: I’d say a mix of both. I think the first thing I’d note is we’ve got a number of people in the ticket who have been involved in activist campaigns. You know, I was pretty heavily involved in the Save Med Sci campaign last year and in education organising broadly. Khanh’s been involved in a lot of ethnocultural organising, obviously, more people, but those are two examples. And I think what that means is, we do have pretty good working relationships with the activist community on campus, which means two things. Firstly, I think that we would be able to platform them in a way which is productive, where if there are campaigns that are super important to student interests, and which people within the activist community broadly, have really important opinions to share about, I think we would be able to reach out to them and encourage them to communicate those ideas. And then I think the second thing that we think it means is, we would be willing to criticise activism broadly. And, and I think that that comes from a familiarity with it, but also a desire for it to be really good and effective. I think caring deeply about activist causes is what allows you to critique it effectively, because you want it to be effective, and you want it to do something meaningful. And so I would personally be interested in having debates about what activism should look like and what it should do. And, you know, sometimes that gets backlash, but I think that that’s ultimately productive debate. And I think it’s okay for people to argue about those things and talk about those things. And I think that Honi should give a platform for activists but also a platform for critique of activism.
CO: What past Honi ticket does your team feel most aligned to in terms of vision and politics?
ES: I think we have a mixture of influences. To be honest, I’m not sure that we have any particular ticket that we would like to imitate too closely. I think there’s a few of us who have quite close connections to Spice as a result of maybe having been first edited by them and really enjoying the breadth of their paper, ranging from important investigations for example, their investigation into neo-Nazis on campus, which was really important and quite scary, to just very engaging and quite beautifully presented cultural commentary and arts coverage.
RM: Um, yeah, I think probably, if you asked anyone on our ticket, what ticket they most aligned with, they’d say somewhere in the years between Heist and Spice. I think, definitely, for me personally Scoop probably produced the paper that I would want to most closely replicate. But yeah, any of those few years, I’d say we most align with.
MS: So just some things on experience. So your ticket has, in terms of words written and articles written, is less experienced than DRIP, and some members of your ticket have only written one or two articles for the paper. What do these people bring to the ticket? And how does your comparative inexperience square with your claim to be an experienced ticket?
ES: Well, I think the first thing I would say is I just sort of disagree that we would have comparative inexperience. I think if you look at the number of articles written in Honi, that’s all very well, but I mean, I’ve written like over 100 articles for Pulp, I think Fabian up at about 50. You know, Khanh’s written and edited Saigoneer, an international publication. And the people who are potentially less experienced or haven’t written as much for Honi on the ticket have also often written for other publications, whether it be Pulp or something off campus. So I think it’s important to note that words written for Honi probably isn’t the only metric of how experienced the ticket is. And if anything, having been edited by more people, or editing different publications, I think that that actually leads to more perspectives on how to be a good editor and on what editing should look like, and what good writing should look like. I’d also note that that doesn’t take into account art experience, you know we have quite substantial graphics experience on our ticket and I think we’ve definitely contributed more art than DRIP has. And I personally would quite like a visually pleasing paper. So I would say that that’s probably quite important. But I think, as for the second part of your question, the fact that there are people who are less experienced on our ticket numerically, I think, also, implicit in that observation is that there are people with very substantial experience. And I think that those people are equipped to, where there might be knowledge gaps, where there might be experience gaps, fill those in. I think that we have, across the ticket, lots of multimedia experience, lots of laying up experience, lots of editing experience. And we in the process of putting together a ticket, I think have fostered quite a good and constructive teamwork environment. So I think that we’ll be able to encourage people who might be a little bit new to the paper quite effectively. And I would also say they’re obviously not on the ticket for no reason, you know, they’re on the ticket because they bring a particular perspective, whether it be like, a particular kind of life perspective, or whether it be a degree perspective, or a particular interest, like neurostem or data journalism. So I think that, yeah, overall, I’m pretty happy with our ticket experience. I think it comes from a really wide variety of places, and a really sort of wide variety of backgrounds. And I think that that’s super important to us. And I would sort of suggest that we’re not that inexperienced after all.
MS: So another thing is deadlines, obviously very important in Honi, and a number of your ticket members often send in their articles late and require quite a bit of grammatical editing. Do you think that there’s an issue in that? And if prospective editors can’t abide by deadlines, why do you think they should be trusted with editing the paper?
RM: I’ll answer the grammatical part first. The first thing is, I don’t think not having the perfect grammar doesn’t make you a bad editor. I think, in the first instance, I think it’s of concern to say that our ticket wouldn’t be good because we don’t have the best grammar, particularly considering we have people on the ticket for whom English is not their first language. It also, as you guys would obviously know as editors, is that, you know, writing wouldn’t be going through just one person. And that is a very positive thing, because it would ensure that there’s always two sets of eyes going into a piece of writing. And also beyond that, would totally cross out any grammatical issues, just like reject the idea that being a good editor is about having good grammar, because we see editing as assisting people in developing their ideas and their concepts and supporting a community where people feel able to write and explore new ideas. And yeah, I just don’t think it’s a very substantial concern.
ES: Yeah, with respect to deadlines, I guess the point I would make is just that, I think that there is a very different experience being an editor as opposed to being a writer. Like, I personally, will be working less next year to accommodate being an editor. And I think that that is the case for really everyone on our ticket, which I think suggests that, as a writer, with a busy week, you don’t necessarily complete things in the same way that you would as an editor, when you’ve specifically allocated that time when you’re paid to do it. Although not a lot, admittedly. But you know, when that’s sort of part of your role, I do think it is a different experience. And in my experience of editing things, I think that, um, yeah, it is, just a different approach as an editor than it is as a writer necessarily. But also, I guess the other thing I would suggest is, I think that our ticket has quite a good kind of sense of teamwork and collaboration. And I think, to the extent that people might at times be busy and at times be struggling with things. I think we’ve sort of built up the capacity to deal with that effectively now. I think that there are definitely people with more time on their hands and more capacity, who are willing to do extra work when needed or to cover for that. And that’s certainly something that I would be willing to do. I would obviously be willing to do a grammar read over if need be. But I think that, yeah, likely, firstly, just being an editor as opposed to a writer, but secondly, the kind of dynamic that we have on our ticket would make dealing with that relatively straightforward.
MS: And what qualities do you think makes a good Honi editor specifically?
ES: So I would say a few things. Firstly, as we’ve sort of signalled throughout the interview, I think that something which is really important for editors to be doing is conceptual edits, rather than just grammatical ones. And I think that looks like prompting and encouraging ideas when they’re first sort of germinating and shaping them to begin with. So helping people develop pitches in the first instance. But also, it looks like reading an argument and thinking critically about it, and trying to build it and strengthen it, and potentially work in your opposing opinions or, or added depth or whatever it might be. So I think conceptual edits are super important. As Roi mentioned, it’s not just about grammar as such. I think the second thing which a good editor should do is have an overall vision for the paper, I think, as I mentioned earlier, being able to direct coverage and direct a kind of, like vibe of the paper with the sort of issues that we care a lot about, and the issues that we encourage people to report on is really important. And then I think the third thing I’d point to is, I think an editor should be, to an extent, a face of the paper, and is responsible for recruiting people and reaching out to parts of the community to encourage them to be a part of Honi.
RM: Yeah, everything Ellie said, pretty much. I also just think being a good editor, in my eyes, is about having a real belief in the paper, and having a really strong belief in the vision for the paper and in the history of the paper and, and in what it should be. Because I think having that belief in it gives you a desire to share that with as many people as possible. And I think a good editor is someone who has the ability to sort of support their reporters into sharing that and into having that themselves, through, you know, not only their articles, but also through giving them the confidence to take up reporting opportunities, giving them the confidence to pitch reporting opportunities, you know, unprompted and kind of have that critical lens on the news. I’d also just like developing the community that allows for that, I think, is what makes a good editor. So yeah.
MS: And to what extent do you think that institutional knowledge is an advantage for an Honi editor? Do you think people without institutional knowledge can pick that up quite quickly? And do you think that if you already have that experience within factions, and within the SRC that that might inhibit your ability to critique your own faction, for example?
ES: Definitely not. So I guess I’ll start with the idea that it makes it difficult to critique your faction. I think that this is almost diametrically untrue. In fact, I think that being in a faction makes you firstly, often a lot more critical of that faction, because, you know its dirty laundry, you know I think in a little bit more depth, like what it actually believes, and its strategies and things like that. I think sometimes people’s critiques of factions from the outside can be a little bit shallow, or based on the vibe of that faction. But I think it is sort of worth noting that factions are not hive minds, they’re often not even binding, but also, there are often quite substantial disagreements within them. And I think that would probably suggest that people in a faction are more than able to critique their own factions, have the incentive to, and just within our ticket, we’ve definitely talked about our willingness to do so. I think with respect to institutional knowledge, I do believe that it can be picked up. But I do think it is really important for there to be people in the ticket with institutional knowledge and experience. And that’s for the reason that I think reporting on institutions like the university or student unions is super, super important. And having the depth of knowledge of the history of particular, you know, parts of that institution, of the kind of underlying factional dynamics of the strategies that people use, for example, in elections of the actual politics of people in elections. Having that from the start of the year, I think is really important. Because I think that students are owed really detailed and considered coverage. And I think there are certainly people in our ticket who haven’t really been involved in stupol very much and don’t necessarily have the depth of institutional knowledge that some people do. So I think that there is a balance of approaches to stuppl. But I think it is important to have at least some people with that knowledge. And I’m really glad that we have that knowledge, because I think that’s what allows us to have a depth of critique and the depth of coverage that we are really interested in having.
RM: Yeah, and I will just quickly add to the part of your question, or to address the part of your question regarding if you think it can be picked up quickly if you do not have the institutional knowledge. I mean, I guess for starters, I find it deeply concerning and frustrating to see consistently a sort of dialogue around Honi Soit that it should be run by people who do not have factual experience, because unfortunately, the reality of the matter is, the only way to get a deep and intimate understanding of the institutions, the government, the university, is through being involved in a faction. And I don’t really need to expand on why that’s not an issue in terms of criticism, because Ellie has covered that, but I think it means that Honi Soit is a paper of lower quality when there are tickets who win with no one with institutional experience, because you can pick it up relatively quickly if there are people on your ticket with the managerial and institutional experience. But like, the fact of the matter is, if there is no one on your ticket with the knowledge, and not just knowledge, but experience with university management and the USU and the SRC, then your ticket will not be able to report on those things as efficiently, which I say is crucial for the paper.
ES: Yeah, and the other thing I’d say is, I think oftentimes, the way people can pick things up, is still via people who have been involved in factions, like, just not on the ticket. So I think it’s kind of a discussion with an external person who’s involved in stupol. And I would suggest that, that’s equally if not more, is open to conflicts of interest, and it would probably be beneficial to have a variety of different stupol experiences on the ticket to begin with, to have the deeper knowledge, certainly, but also not be reliant on other people explaining stupol when in the process of trying to report on it in a critical way.
MS: I think it was mentioned in your policy that Honi is often criticised for being a bit cliquey and detached from the student body. Do you think that if you’re positioning yourself as the experienced ticket with experience in student politics, that there’s some dissonance between saying that we will expand the audience of the paper, while still being very much closely involved in student politics in the past?
ES: I don’t think so. Firstly, because not everyone on our ticket is a stupol hack. There are certainly people outside of that bubble. And yeah, I would just say like, I think it’s okay to have a few stupol hacks. That probably doesn’t automatically stop a ticket from being able to reach out to people. But I think the second thing I’d say is, people can contain multitudes. And I think that a number of us are in communities on campus that haven’t really got very much to do with stupol. I’ve already talked about STEM, I’ve already talked about performing arts. And I think that, yeah, it’s not the case that people you know, simply because stupol is perceived as a hack-y thing to do, which you know, which it is. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have friends outside of it, and you can’t kind of draw them in. If anything, I would say that having a ticket which is overwhelmingly from one degree and one major would probably be substantially more cliquey than a group of people who have some shared interest but ultimately come from different backgrounds and different degree parts.
RM: I’ll just briefly add to that, because I suppose if framing your question in comparison between us and DRIP, and I suppose if, you know, how I interpreted your question was sort of looking at us as the more cliquey ticket because we’re the more sort of stupol ticket. I think there’s a few things to unpack because I think if we look at us, you know, there are a few people who come from a factional background, only two who are… no more than two, I’m pretty sure only three who are currently in a faction. Yeah, three who are currently in a faction. And then we also have people on our ticket who are from science, STEM generally, revues, SUDS, MECO, arts. You know, I’m missing areas of campus because we do genuinely come from all areas on campus, we have international student representation. And then you know, so I suppose we do have people from one notably cliquey part of campus, but we have so many other people, that it overwhelmingly outweighs that small clique. Whereas when we look at DRIP, as Ellie said, they are all from the same part of campus. So, although they may not be serving the cliquey audience in question, they’re serving a different one, which is why our ticket serves a much broader audience.
CO: So often the perceived cliqueness of student media is on class lines. Do you think there’s any way student media, Honi in particular, can better engage with working class students?
ES: Yeah, we’ve talked about this like quite a lot in our ticket. And I think it’s really important to us. I think the first thing to note is, unfortunately, by virtue of the editor position being quite poorly paid, it is quite difficult as a student who is not rich, honestly, or who just has to work a job or two on the side, to manage that role. And that gets far harder at the point where you’re working class and you’re struggling, and you might need to do things like provide for your family, or pay for your education if you’re an international student, for example. And so I think it is just really important to note that, by virtue of being quasi-volunteer labour, that kind of structural disadvantage is unfortunately built into the paper in some ways. We have had some chats about how to combat that. We have definitely discussed, for example, trying to locate revenue streams to encourage people to be able to edit and report for the paper if they’re not well off. I think that’s really important. That’s something I care a lot about. I think the other thing I would say is, I suppose this is, I guess, just a personal opinion, I think it is important to note that there’s a lot of students who aren’t from the Inner West who can’t afford to live in the Inner West and who commute to campus and work several jobs. Like I’m in that position. I know a lot of people who are in that position, I think what that means is having coverage, which is very limited to an Inner West perspective, right, you can go to gigs in the Inner West, and you don’t have to catch the 10:25 train home otherwise, you just work at home. I think that that is really important. And so something that we would prioritise apart from just on an individual level, reaching out to students from more diverse backgrounds, is trying to build communities that aren’t just based physically on campus, which I think will also be really important for international students. So that looks like having more multilingual coverage. It looks like building relationships with communities across Sydney, whether you’re in Western Sydney, and also perhaps around the state as well. And I think, yeah, as an editorial perspective, or as an editorial approach, being quite proactive and reaching out to groups that aren’t immediately within the quite elite campus milieu is really important.
CO: Final question, why should people vote for you?
RM: I think people should vote for us because we want to build an Honi that is inclusive for voices on campus, brings the tradition of Honi and what we say are the real values of Honi Soit into sort of modern student life. People should vote for us if they want critical news coverage, people should vote for us if they care about performing arts, if they care about STEM coverage, and people should vote for us if they want stories written by the people who we want to represent. We do have people from the arts, we do have people from STEM degrees, we do have people with knowledge of the institutions that we want to be criticising. I think it’s difficult for a lot of people because in being realistic, we do have a lot of similarities with DRIP, we come from different similar parts of campus in some instances. And, you know, our policy statements are relatively similar, but I think if people want to vote for a team who have a) plan to carry out those policies and b) have not only the experience and the ability, but the sort of intimate personal and emotional knowledge to tell those stories in the right way, they should be voting for CAKE.ES: I think it’s really important to emphasise that we’re not just running because we want to edit or because we think being an editor is a really important position or whatever. We are like, you know, we’ve had really complex discussions already about what we think Honi should be and what we want it to do. And I don’t think I would have joined a ticket that didn’t have that depth of vision and that wasn’t as well considered. And so I think I’m not saying DRIP isn’t that necessarily, but I am saying that I think an emphasis for us was having a really clear set of principles and a really clear vision going into Honi being really, really passionate about the paper and I think that those are the elements which will hopefully ultimately make a really great Honi in 2022.
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.