The Boar

Why I Am Saying No to Mainstream Journalism

A lot of people have asked me if I am going to go into journalism when I finish university. It seems like a natural progression, considering I have been involved heavily in student media over the past three years. However, the answer is no. I am choosing to step away from the mainstream titles that tend to attract some of the best student journalists in the country.

The reason is encapsulated in a tweet written by James Bloodworth, a well-known journalist for a number of publications including the New Statesman. The explosion of the digital journalism space and the expansion of titles such as the Independent, Guardian and Huffington Post online has created a culture where content is effectively free. Akin to unpaid internships, online journalism and especially student content has been made almost a requirement to get into the industry. However, unlike other content, it is very rarely compensated. Put bluntly, a lot of young journalists are getting mugged off.

It is no secret that you need a portfolio to get a job these days. You need to show you can write (at a minimum!) as well as effectively sell yourself as a competent reporter. Fortunately, there are many outlets at many universities that provide you with the experience to hone your skills. Again, these are often unpaid, but considering student media is not-for-profit, any revenue is reinvested back into the vision and opportunities of other students. It is a self-fulfilling cycle. However, national titles have now started to dabble in “Student Brand Ambassadors” and student contributors who run student sections of their websites. It provides a very exclusive club for recruiters to cherry-pick some of the best talent. And most of them are either unpaid, or paid an absolute pittance.

There is an argument to suggest that the importance of using the title’s exposure to push through a story, or the potential of a job, far outweighs any sort of pay-per-article system. It sounds logical, but they are making money. Every piece you write generates more social traction through you inevitably sharing it, with more people at your institution engaging as a result and an expansion of their brand. The multiplier effects are countless; and taking a note from the banks, if brands manage to nab students early then you can often keep them for life. However, the originators and curators very rarely get anything at all.

That is why the paywall with The Times and The Sun has inevitably failed to entice young people. We have effectively been priced out of a market we are not even a part of yet, endorsed to produce free content in order to get a “leg up” into the industry. It actually makes me feel sick, because it undermines the fantastic work that student media and journalists do. We should not sacrifice our principles, or the value of our work for titles that will inevitably die if we stop buying into them. We are worth more than that and we can stand up to it.

I will not perpetuate a culture that continues to take advantage of the very people we cherish as part of our student newspaper. It is often difficult to get students to care about anything and it isn’t fair to take advantage of those that are often only trying to make the world a better place in their own way. Journalists (the good ones anyway) often take risks, put their necks on the line, face criticism and stand up to be counted in their writing. The reason I love student journalism is that there is no compulsive agenda, no fat cat boss to pay dividends to and no loss of integrity or quality. But more and more, I have watched friends and peers get laid off, forced to do work for free, whilst the biggest titles in the world profit from their hard work.

“Freelance” is the biggest farce in the industry. It means that you don’t get a full time contract. No stability, and incredibly damaging to the confidence of a fantastic calibre of future changemakers. So no. I will not pander to the Huffington Post, The Guardian or The Independent, unless they start to put their money where their mouth is. Start paying your online journalists – make sure that you reward them for their time and effort. The death of the paper industry just opens up every writer to exploitation and it isn’t fair.

I won’t stop writing, and there are plenty of platforms to do it. If you are a budding journalist, be a part of the citizen journalist movement. Educate your tribe first and build a value to your work. Don’t be afraid to charge and don’t let people take advantage. You have worth. Recognise it. And don’t sell yourself short. I believe in you…and if you need any more inspiration, then have a look at this from Rick Edwards.

You Won’t Vote

There are better things to do. You have essay deadlines and exams to revise for. This is your future we are talking about. What is the point of listening to tired, predictable suits who are obviously telling the same old lies? The same people that promised you that tuition fees wouldn’t change and then tripled them. Who told you that they would make rents cheaper, and now you are paying astronomical accommodation costs and dealing with untouchable landlords.

You won’t vote because you don’t think it makes a difference. When you did a survey online, the policies that matched your views related to that small party, but they won’t win so what is the point in voting for them? It is always going to be the same way, and Russell Brand would have us not vote at all, but that doesn’t stop everyone from talking about this Election. People keep telling you how lucky you are to even have the power to vote, when other human beings fight for this right across the world.

Yet you feel powerless. It’s nothing to do with you. Cooped up in the library, reflecting on the stress of the next few months, it is easy to lose the wood for the trees. It is easy to start thinking about how difficult these exams are going to be, or what the hell you are going to do once you get out of this place, but it is more difficult to make a decision. A choice about where you want this country to go.

You can’t really see it yet. How it is going to affect you in the long run. We are conditioned to think 10 weeks at a time, to take less of an interest in what is going on outside of our bubble and to forget that the decisions made in that antiquated chamber with the green seats has an impact on you. That is what politicians want you to think, because silencing your ballot is easier than being accountable.

They don’t want you to vote. So you won’t. No one in government advertised for registrations, because they are happy ignoring you completely. They’d rather make empty promises like cutting tuition fees, than actually listen to what you have to say. They will even come to your campus, but won’t invite you to attend, because it’s better to keep you out, than to let you in. They are scared.

And they should be afraid. We are the most successful and aspirational generation for decades, with the opportunity to shake the foundations of Westminster and swing an Election. You only get this chance once every five years, so don’t waste it. Prove them wrong. Vote.

Race, Religion and Rationality

As seen in The Boar, University of Warwick’s student newspaper:

‘I am the prisoner of hope’ were the words spoken by Rev Reeves, founder of the Soul of Europe initiative, as he discussed how difficult it is to break down deep rooted barriers of faith and race in Eastern Europe. Listening to his missionary work in Bosnia and Serbia gave me deep reservations about the ability of human beings to respond to peace, when peace itself is considered a dirty word.

The discussion, run by the inimitable One World Week Forum team, was one of the most intellectually stimulating two hours of my time at Warwick. There was no room for rhetoric or dogma in the packed out Woods-Scawen Room of the Arts Centre, as each speaker eloquently gave a unique and intellectual take on the topic. One of my personal highlights was the presentation by Hull PhD student, Zhaleh Boyd, who discussed the ever present danger of slavery or trafficking in our society.

She commented: ‘The existence of slavery is dependent on the process of constructing otherness – the use of these differences allow certain minorities to have power over others.’ Her conclusion reflected the fact that race and religion were tools to differentiate individuals from their common values, and to focus on obscure, physical details in order to manipulate them. It was a frightening thought. The fact that someone’s name, skin colour, strength, place of birth, sex could be used to dehumanise them, and it is even more frightening that in some societies it is more commonplace than we think.

The most interesting aspect of the debate for me was the idea that religion and rationality could be used in the same sentence. It has been clear to me, especially living in a secular society, that those who have religious or spiritual beliefs are deemed to be irrational. It was refreshing to sit in a room with academics that could see the merit or religion in a world that seems to be constantly fighting it.

There is rationality in race and religion even if we choose to ignore it. Our very own chaplain, Rev Dr Alistair Kirk said: ‘The world is a religious place’ and we cannot continue to undermine this fact. We have to learn to embrace the fact that religion and race continue to do good in parts of the world that we have no contact with, with work that is funded on pittance and beans. Where only faith endures.

Even from the prosperity of One World Week itself, we can see that diversity is celebrated and promoted at a multicultural university. It is now time that our attitudes shifted towards maintaining these attitudes throughout the year. This is the legacy the co-ordinators hope to create.

I hate selfies.

As seen in The Boar (The University of Warwick’s student newspaper):

It has turned into a freakin’ epidemic. What was once the pastime of the vain, fanciful fringes of society has become so mainstream that even the most powerful man in the world, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, couldn’t help himself…at a memorial.

It seems that this generation is obsessed with cataloguing every single moment of their lives, even the ones that no one cares about. The enormous popularity of the mobile app Snapchat just shows how ready we all are to whip out our phone, pull a ridiculous face and not bat an eyelid. If you attempted to try and take a picture of yourself in public 5 years ago, people would think you were weird. My opinion on it hasn’t drastically changed since. Although it’s always been the bane of the amateur photographer – not being able to get in their own pictures. Looking through photos of previous experiences and trying to find that one snap where you were brave enough to offer someone your phone to take it, who then duly kept their thumb over the lens or forgot to put the flash on. It’s happened to us all.

However, new psychological research shows that the more we take pictures of things, not just ourselves but everything, the less likely we are to remember the event at all. Linda Henkel, of Fairfield University in Connecticut, claims that we rely on technology “to remember the event for us” and therefore we choose not to look at it in detail “which has a negative impact on how well we remember these experiences.”

It sounds far-fetched but if you think about it, it makes scary sense. The amount of times you have been on holiday, taken 1000 pictures and not remembered the name of a single place you have been. And when did you last go through all of those pictures you took? It seems that we are so obsessed with trying to visually remember and cherish everything, that in fact we ironically do the opposite.

We just don’t give our brains enough time to process the information. Over the next week, take some time out to really experience everything, and look at things with just a bit more of a keen eye. When you are on a night out, try and keep your phone in your pocket, leave your pout at home and see how much of the night you remember without needing to snap.

Obviously, don’t stop taking photos. Even if you use them for selfies. But learn to appreciate your eyes and what you are seeing. Because it is the best camera you have.


Illuminate Ourselves

As seen in The Boar (University of Warwick Student Newspaper):

After spending a particularly calorific weekend in Leicester, I want to wish a Happy Diwali and New Year to all Hindus and Sikhs at Warwick. The one thing that I love about festivals with a firm emphasis on celebration is the way that they can bring a collective air of happiness to all those who are celebrating.

Having had a particularly tough year myself, it was important for me to spend some time with family, eat mithai (Indian sweets) and watch the fireworks over Cossington Park. However, I want to use this time to show you that there is more to Diwali than just the physical pleasures.

I am sure that many of you know the story of Ram (not Rama) and his journey back to his rightful throne in Ayodhya being lit by thousands of handmade lamps, which forms the narrative behind Diwali. Nevertheless, do we actually know the significance behind the use of the lamp itself?

We are here to illuminate ourselves. But, how often do we actually take time out to reflect on the things that we have done and what we are striving towards?

Hinduism uses symbols such as lamps in order to convey the real message behind Diwali. The purpose of light is to remove darkness from everywhere it is found. In the same way, these lights remind us to illuminate ourselves from the darkness that we find in our own lives – whether that is ignorance, hate or indifference. Whether you are a spiritual person or not, you can appreciate that having a little more light in your life is always a good thing.

As students, we are here in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. We are here to illuminate ourselves. But, how often do we actually take time out to reflect on the things that we have done and what we are striving towards?

How often do we get swept up in our work, our friends or our families without taking time out for ourselves? Having been here for six weeks now, I can say that I have settled in well into life here at Warwick. Stepping off campus this week has given me the opportunity to evaluate my short time here and make the most of the next year. I am definitely ready for whatever is coming next.

This Diwali I ask all of you, whether you are celebrating or not, to take five minutes out of your day and re-evaluate the direction that you are going in. It has been proven that those who take a step back and set themselves achievable goals become more successful in the longer term. It is so easy, whether you are a fresher or a finalist, to immerse yourself in the university environment and forget why you came here in the first place. Don’t let the darkness cloud your vision.

Confessions of a Curious Vegetarian

As seen in The Boar (The University of Warwick’s student newspaper):

There has only been one ongoing debate in my kitchen. How can you be vegetarian? It seems that from the people I have spoken to, it is puzzling how I can walk past a pan of fried bacon without being tempted to promptly shovel it into my mouth with a huge smile on my face. Incredibly, it isn’t that difficult.

Considering I am of Indian descent, I can understand why people think that I am vegetarian because of religious reasons. And it is true that my whole family are vegetarian and we are influenced by Hinduism. The belief is that no animal should be harmed as one living thing has no right to harm another for pleasure. However, this is only a side issue for me…the real reasons are far more practical which I will discuss in a moment.

Before that, I’ll break down some myths about vegetarianism. First of all, we are not grass eaters. For those of you quizzically looking at your paper right now, I was asked this seriously by someone in my first week at Warwick… very awkward.

Secondly, we don’t only eat vegetables…we also gorge down on bread, milk and cheese (excessively in my case).

Thirdly, we don’t eat fish like some people commonly believe, those are actually pescetarians.

Fourthly, despite not eating meat, we get ready sources of protein from lentils, nuts and pulses which are actually better sources as they aid digestion.

Lastly, despite what my friends think, vegetarians don’t have less fun that omnivores. I just thought I’d point that out.

Now, joking aside, let’s get onto the real issue here. Recently, I watched a fly on the wall documentary called‘The Fried Chicken Shop’ (still available on 4oD) about a fast food outlet based in Clapham, London. There were some facts about the consumption of chicken that shocked me: “Chicken used to be a luxury. We used to eat the equivalent of just one a year. Now we slaughter 2.5 million a day.

We eat it more than any other meat and it has changed our high streets. It’s the front line and bread line of Britain” The average price of a piece of chicken was no more than £2, which accounting for profit margins, franchise and distribution costs means that the unit cost could be as little as 50p. This is the cheapest that meat has ever been, how is it possible to get it down to this price?

Well, it isn’t pretty. A prior warning before I reveal this, the link I am going to give you is not for the squeamish. If you watch “Possibly the Most Eye Opening 6 Minutes Ever on Film” (the video above) you will be able to see the impact of the cheap meat market.

I first watched it I was disturbed by the fact that you could see chickens literally being sucked up by a machine before being slaughtered. It would anyone feel sick.

The frightening truth is that it just isn’t sustainable for us to be consuming meat in this way. If we are happy to buy this cheap meat, now knowing where it has come from, can we really say that we are enjoying it? Does it not taste a little bitter? Some would now argue that eating organic and free range produce would combat this problem, but the truth is that our collective appetite seems to be insatiable.

All around the world, arable land for crops is being given up to raise livestock, which is actually reducing the absolute amount of food in weight that can be taken from the same surface area of land. It means that by continuing to pursue meaty motives, we are actually worsening the problem and reducing the efficiency of the production of other food.

Let me be clear, I am not expecting you to drop your turkey sandwiches and devote your life to munching cucumbers. But I do want you to think about the implications of what you might be putting in your mouth and the story of how it got onto your plate. Just by refusing to eat cheap meat, or by having a veggie day of the week, you can start to make a serious dent in this issue.