You can read the full transcript of Shake’s interview here.
Following the second uncontested Honi Soit election in three years, Shake for Honi will edit your student newspaper in 2022. The ticket consists of Misbah Ansari, Katarina Butler, Luke Cass, Bipasha Chakraborty, Ethan Floyd, Christine Lai, Veronica Lenard, Luke Mesterovic, Eamonn Murphy, and Andy Park.
Shake (represented in the interview by Butler and Mesterovic, and in the quiz by Cass and Lai) is proposing a platform that reflects the priorities of Honi editors over the last decade. They admit this — with Mesterovic explaining that there is much the ticket wishes to maintain.
“Our vision for Honi is, in one sentence, something that is bold, provocative, cultural, whilst holding management to account with our radical student voice,” he said.
Shake hopes to emulate the investigative journalism into the colleges conducted by Wet in 2017, the culture writing of Bloom in 2021, and the coverage of NTEU strikes in 2022.
They will continue the STEM and Environment section from this year and broadly believe that Honi’s social media presence should continue as is.
With that said, they are evidently moved by the opportunity to edit the country’s only weekly student newspaper, speaking at length about its importance within Australia’s higher education landscape. They have several strong policy aims of varying ambitiousness.
At the achievable end sits their plan for more multimedia comedy and Instagram reels, as well as an ongoing higher education live blog to cover developing stories within the sector. They hope to create more explainer articles about student politics, which they plan to link prolifically through their coverage.
Despite the team’s middling quiz result, Cass in particular has demonstrated impressive initiative in chasing down university news, and recalled relatively esoteric facts about university management and the NTEU with ease. This puts the ticket in a good position to fulfil their promise of ample and accessible university coverage.
Excitingly, Veronica Lenard promises web design expertise to the paper, hopefully providing much needed upgrades to the labyrinthine Honi website.
More ambitious is Shake’s suite of policies regarding editor-reporter relationships. The ticket plans to hold semi-weekly reporter meetings and was unwilling to reject pitches, preferring to encourage repitching or publish articles online. When challenged on the viability of this plan, given the large volume of pitches typically received, Shake emphasised that “most of us are going part-time, which we are really lucky to do”.
This may be true, but they will likely face challenges in sustaining meeting attendance and allowing weak pitches to accumulate.
There are some dimensions in which Shake appears scantily prepared for editorship. In several respects, Shake is still solidifying their personality, politics and procedures as a ticket.
A joke from Honi that ‘name the members of your ticket’ was the interview’s hardest question hit a little too close to home: inauspiciously, it took Butler and Mesterovic three attempts to accurately recall and pronounce all their ticketmates’ names.
Despite Cass’ ample news-writing experience and ability, it is unclear that the rest of the ticket share his experience. On paper, Shake has written many news articles, but most of those articles cover protests, which is relatively simple and involves limited active pursuit of stories. When asked how workload would be split between editors, Butler and Mesterovic explained that Cass would be primarily responsible for managing news, a massive and time-consuming responsibility that is usually shared between the editors as a group.
At the time of the interview, Shake had not yet substantively discussed how they would handle potentially sensitive articles or legally problematic news, beyond that they would employ a supermajority voting system.
Further, a number of the claims made by the ticket shifted or were unclear.
In Shake’s policy statement they promise to revive Indigenous Honi, an initiative proposed by Ethan Floyd, who is Indigenous. However, Indigenous Honi is an autonomous publication which must be edited by the SRC Indigenous Collective. Shake’s interview struggled to identify concrete ways in which they would improve this process.
A promise to provide ‘critical’ review coverage fell apart under scrutiny, with Butler and Mesterovic conceding that they would prefer to encourage students in the performing arts than be critical, if the two were at odds. Indeed, asked about ticketmate Ethan Floyd’s recent review of Arts Revue, which had a particularly harsh first draft, the pair argued the edit should have gone even further in neutralising Floyd’s acerbic tone. So much for criticality.
The ticket also changed their tune on whether Honi should publish footage of police brutality at protests, having initially suggested we should censor videos in case of problematic legal consequences for victims of police violence. Ultimately, they said that — given a video of brutality against an individual they could not identify or receive posting permissions from — they would post it.
An undoubted benefit of a contested Honi election is that it compels tickets to have the difficult internal discussions that clarify their policy approach early. This has not occurred in 2022, which in some ways makes Shake a weaker ticket. Despite this, their evident passion for the paper and a clear respect for Honi’s contributors provides a strong foundation for further conversations to take place.
Disclaimer: Zara Zadro was, until recently, a member of Switch. She was not involved in any of our election coverage.