It took me three tries to become an Honi editor. After a series of trials, resulting in errors, it turned out that all it would take was a one line text:
Hey Veronica! Would you be interested in joining an Honi ticket I’m on!?
As I lay on the floor of the Langford Office, I am in disbelief that more than a year has passed since I received this message. I remember the exact moment I saw the notification. I was pacing my office at work trying to figure out how to respond in a way that would show my genuine interest whilst balancing it with showing the right amount of due diligence.
I settled for asking who else was on the ticket so far — I only know most of their names from seeing them in the paper each week. Now I look around the office that we’ve shared all year and try to memorise every corner of it, trying to create a version of it in my mind. The posters we’ve added to the walls, the trinkets we’ve collected, even the whiteboards that stored our pagination. I am pulled from my observations by hearing the laughter of the other editors walking down the hallway. Just as quickly as they start, they are replaced by screams, as another editor jumps out at them — don’t worry, everyone is okay. They have been the soundtrack of my year.
I’ve spent a great deal of the last year in the SRC, particularly late at night. When I became an Honi editor, I did not expect to spend so many hours in the basement of the Wentworth building. I knew very little about what it would actually be like to be an Honi editor.
I owe a great deal of gratitude to the editors that have come before me and their advice. I have found Robbie Mason’s Towards reforming student media and Vivienne Guo’s What’s in an Honi editor? to be very useful to me, so I hope this article will join this little niche of what it is like to be an Honi editor. I’ll caveat everything that follows with the warning that I understand this is somewhat indulgent and that I have more than likely forgotten crucial aspects, but I hope this might be of use to future editors (or curious people who might just be a little nosy).
Editing Honi is weird. It is the weirdest group assignment you’ll probably ever do — complete with its own recurring deadline.
You’ll have the privilege to peek into the lives of students, staff, and the people around you. Your team members will say that they will do something, then not do it, and you’ll get upset until you realise that soon enough you’ve done the same too. You’ll have some of the most interesting conversations and be in situations that you could not have imagined being lucky enough to be in. You’ll sit in an office at 11pm on a Sunday and think why didn’t we do this earlier in the week as you wrack your brains for anything funny enough to be worth printing in the comedy section. You’ll watch your friends collapse in laughter and frantically scroll through the Google doc to find what could possibly be so funny. You’ll befriend student politicians and learn how to have fun in SRC meetings. You’ll accidentally delete spreads and be ever so grateful that Mickie has saved a backup. You’ll learn how to share an inbox with nine other people (and to keep emails unread unless actioned). You’ll send emails that terrify you and receive lovely responses in return (along with some that are also honestly terrifying in their own right).
You’ll share the ups and downs of your year with nine other people whose lives become entangled with yours.
If you’ve written for Honi before becoming an editor (which should be the minimum expectation of future editors), becoming an editor can become a bit of an exercise in amalgamation. I’ve been lucky enough to have had four Honi editors. The best Honi editors, at least in my opinion, love the paper and the community that surrounds it, and this care for the paper and its community tangibly guides their year.
I tried to take bits that I liked from each year: consistent communication from one former editor, a genuine interest in their ideas and drive to help to get to the next acceptance from another. I truly believe that there is something magical about Honi. The way that every week no matter what happens, a new edition will hit stands. Whilst this does require a lot of work each week, this would not be possible without the contributions of reporters and artists. Thank you to every writer, every artist, every reader. Thank you for believing in our little dream.
As the broader media landscape changes, so do the expectations of Honi. In an intensely digital media landscape, news is being broken all the time. When you can access any information you want with only a few keystrokes, what should your local student newspaper be covering? This question guides the work of an Honi editorial team. It also keeps them up at night.
From breaking university news that may have otherwise been missed by mainstream media to engaging with issues that impact students like the Federal Budget, Honi has an important role to fulfil in the university community. Honi has the ability to ask the “university” questions directly — or at least, through emailing the media office, which is arguably the closest route presently available. If you have a question about how something at USyd works or why it is the way it is, you should write about it. You never know what the result may be. Student journalism matters.
There’s a confusing relationship between social media (and accompanying engagement statistics) and student newspapers. With no need to generate profit, the only motivation for publishing is what is in the interests of students. But the interests of students vary a lot, especially when you have ten different ideas about what it involves. Inevitably, you end up stressed about how many reacts an article might get or the amount of comments on a post or the WordPress views. But even then, some articles would seem to have appeared somewhere on the internet gaining thousands of views out of nowhere.
Where do people go to read news anymore? With Facebook engagement forever dwindling and Twitter/X in a downwards spiral, the energy seems to be on Instagram — but it really is not made for longform text. In this digital mess, the print edition is somewhat comforting. I still love the spark of joy I get seeing someone pick up a copy or spotting someone reading a new edition.
There is always more work to do. Articles to be edited. Instagram posts to be made. Meetings to attend. Feature images to make. Emails to check. Events to organise. More administrative tasks to manage. Messages (and pitches) to respond to. The phone notifications never stop, and if you dare to look away from your phone long enough to miss anything, you need to check Slack, Messenger, Asana, and Gmail to be across it all again. You learn what will bounce when you drop it, and what will shatter. Apologies to every marker that read my assessments this year, more often than not, they were started far too close to when they were due.
The workload is ever-increasing. Being able to complete this workload relies on a great deal of privilege. Most, if not all, editors will do less than a full-time load during their editorial term. Many reduce their external work commitments. This can make editing Honi not possible, or at least significantly more difficult, for marginalised students, student carers, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, students who live further away from campus, and a vast proportion of the student community. This means that it is often a particular kind of student that gets to edit Honi. Many former editors have focussed on trying to expand access to Honi, but this remains an important pursuit for future editorial teams.
The nature of the Honi election process encourages tickets to create a platform of new offerings for the paper, seeking to distinguish themselves from past tickets. The unfortunate reality is that very few of these promises are effectively possible, at least without sacrificing other aspects of the paper. You can’t know it when you write your policy statement, but with an ever-growing workload, the time to actually develop new additions to the paper has to come from somewhere. Even so, Honi editors will still try to meet these promises. Shake held twice weekly reporter catch ups — nicknamed Honi Hangouts — throughout the year. We updated the website search, created a higher education portal and a variety of other little things. But there are many things that we weren’t able to do. And yet, promising to keep doing what has already been done isn’t very compelling in an election, is it?
I remember our first visit to the Langford office — named for Sam Langford, a former editor whose ticket Scoop was a great inspiration to Shake this year. A little room tucked in the middle of a basement of Wentworth — likely much to the frustration of the tireless caseworkers and SRC staff whose offices surrounded our office. There’s something magical about gaining access to your own little corner of campus.
The Langford office is tucked in between the offices of the SRC’s caseworkers and the Office Bearer’s room. This physical positioning is somewhat symbolic of the broader positioning of Honi. The SRC is the publisher of Honi Soit, it is also often the subject of Honi Soit.
Every month, three lucky (or unlucky depending on the length of the meeting) editors would accompany the Council to report on their meeting. Even after a year of SRC meetings, I cannot quite explain what they are actually like. A USyd SRC meeting is truly unlike anything else you can experience.
Talking about student politicians, or stupol, tends to get a strong reaction among students. After having now spent hours of my life listening to these students scream at each other for hours on end, this is somewhat understandable. But after our own complicated participation in a motion (iykyk), I think I learnt to understand them a bit more. By the end of the year, I was in awe of the President’s ability to keep the circus under control. Thank goodness for the regulations and no new business after midnight!
Despite the claims of many who might find it too hack-y, Honi’s coverage of SRC meetings matters. Many current and former federal and state political figures have their origins in USyd’s SRC. I will not be surprised to see the faces I saw this year in politics in the future. Honi then serves as an archive of your future political leaders’ past lives — the good, the bad and the hilarious.
When I became an Honi editor, I was panicked about being the kind of editor that always talked about Honi, as if that was the only topic they could discuss. What I hadn’t realised yet, is that when something takes up so much of your life, this is almost unavoidable. Your brain feels rewired. You think everything could be an article. You want to interview the people you meet. You will learn how to manage this. You’ll learn to laugh when a friend jokes that she is with the press when around you and to handle being laughed at when a former USyd student asks you who you are reporting for (in the middle of budget lockup in Parliament House).
When you become an Honi editor, they warn you that you’ll lose your Sundays. What they often fail to mention is that you’ve actually gained your Sundays. It’s understandable why this is often not the way that this is pitched to you, there is a lot of work that has to happen on Sundays, but it turns out that there is also so much fun that happens in between the tasks.
Almost a month ago, I finished being an Honi editor. December 1st marked the end of the most unexpected, jam-packed, absurd yet fulfilling year. It marked the end of Shake for Honi.
I feel endlessly lucky to have edited this paper with Shake. I know that my fellow editors have had different opinions about calling us Shake. For some, as soon as we became editors, they abandoned the label. For others, like me, we relished in the label. It is a name that took much deliberation to land on and yet we had few other options. Shake is now a little chapter in the history book of Honi Soit. I hope you’ve enjoyed this chapter. I look forward to reading the next.
To you, the reader, thank you for everything. To Shake, I’ll love you all forever. To Honi Soit, may you continue forevermore.