The White Helmets

The White Helmets

‘I’d much rather save a life than take a life…’

This is a quote from one of the volunteers from Syria Civil Defence, a volunteer organisation which operates in rebel-controlled Turkey and Syria. Unofficially, they call themselves ‘The White Helmets’, and a short documentary film of the same name was produced about them last year.

The White Helmets film poster: Website

‘I’d much rather save a life than take a life…’

Imagine, even just for a minute, that one day you feel safe – inside your home with your nearest and dearest – and the next, that feeling of warmth and security has been snatched so barbarically from you. What do you do? How do you feel? How is anyone meant to cope in such unwelcome, UNEXPECTED, situations? This is where The White Helmets enter.

In aid of Refugee Week 2017 Books for Amnesty in Hammersmith joined forces with Hammersmith and Fulham Refugees Welcome  to organise the film screening of ‘The White Helmets’, which creates a visual representation of the true reality facing civilians within Syria and Turkey.

Books for Amnesty, Hammersmith – the film screening venue

A White Helmet is no superhuman, although one could easily argue otherwise. They have backgrounds in various avenues of life: some previously working as pharmacists, bakers, tailors, some even students (like myself). All 3,200 of these like-minded individuals unite under one shared motto: ‘to save one life, is to save all of humanity’. Despite the many risks they may face in the aftermaths of bombed areas and airstrikes, these volunteers seek to save lives, having already saved close to 100,000 en-counting.

‘to save one life, is to save all of humanity’.

With reference to the screening, and as their website states:

“When the bombs rain down, the Syrian Civil Defence rushes in. In a place where public services no longer function these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need – regardless of their religion or politics. Known as the White Helmets these volunteer rescue workers operate in the most dangerous place on earth.”

As is probably evident, my thoughts are still processing themselves. Sitting in the centre of a bookshop, which fundraises and advocates for the rights and freedoms of every single human being, it’s almost difficult to believe that these brutal conditions are what many people are still facing as a result of a civil war.

Inside the bookshop

It’s touching. It’s human. And it’s happening right now.

The film, which runs for approximately 40 minutes, can be found on Netflix. While I was aware of this, I still wanted to attend the screening to be in the presence of those who also feel strongly about advocating for the rights of vulnerable people who have to leave their home countries to seek refuge. And any Amnesty International location has such an inspiring atmosphere. Attending the Refugee Week Conference earlier this year made me even more determined to fight for what I believe in and pursue my interests. And the bookshop also seeps a similar feeling.

I would highly recommend watching ‘The White Helmets’ to get a visual understanding of those who are in danger, and those who risk their lives to save others.

It’s touching. It’s human. And it’s happening right now.

Fundraising, FUND-raising, FUN-draising: The Story Shop

Fundraising, FUND-raising, FUN-draising: The Story Shop

In the middle of a busy shopping centre in White City, West London, it was once possible to step into a cosy pop up stall, enclosed by elegant furniture and chests of drawers and sit and chat with a lady for a few minutes or so about…well…children. Sounds slightly odd, and for a number of reasons too, but let me clear this up. WorldVision came up with a creative, innovative and, dare I say, immersive idea with the aim of taking away passing members of the public from their intense shopping endeavours and talk to them, albeit for a few minutes, about how they can donate to WorldVision and make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children around the world, all within a domesticated setting. This creative, innovative and immersive idea became known as The Story Shop.

The Story Shop’s pop up stall in Westfield, White City

According to their website, WorldVision is the world’s largest international children’s charity, which aims to bring hope to this vulnerable demographic in disaster-stricken areas for immediate relief, or long-term, ongoing issues. You can donate, which contributes towards providing commodities, including food, water, and access to medical care, or even sponsor a child. And The Story Shop is a so-called campaign of WorldVision to help with these aims. Their byline is: CONNECTING TWO WORLDS – indeed, implying that of the first and the third, I presume? Watch this video for a more visual representation of what The Story Shop is:

Indeed, when traipsing around Westfield with my mum, we took a few moments to stop and appreciate the work that had gone into creating such as immersive, technological form of fundraising.


The pop up included frames of children’s stories, a chest of drawers which opens up to find out more information about them and the immersive mirror-like screen, which seemed quite a hit for passers-by. A child stands at the foreground of the screen, with their hand outstretched to touch yours. How can this be ignored? When my mum approached, the child’s story read: ‘We have no healthcare and my brothers and sisters are sick from diseases that can be easily treated.’

“We have no healthcare and my brothers and sisters are sick from diseases that can be easily treated.”

Mirror-like screen attached to chest of drawers for the public to interact with

Despite the fact that this was approximately two months ago, and the stall is no longer there, it is a concept that had embedded itself in my mind up until now,  due to its unique quality, hence why I felt compelled to talk about it here.

I believe that the way forward in fundraising is through immersive and interactive forms of communication and technology, which can help generate interest in the general public,  and to truly ‘connect two worlds’. It starts with sharing compelling, real-life and factual stories, and taking a step back from previous techniques of enforcing guilt upon publics, which has often resulted in compassion/media fatigue, which Chouliaraki (2012) and other academic thinkers have noticed within the area of fundraising and media and development. Instead, a FUN and guilt-free approach should be advocated.

Framed children’s stories and the East Africa Crisis Appeal

As I have probably mentioned a fair amount of times within my blog, Communication for Development (C4D) is what I want to do (as a career, as a life goal). I believe that this particular branch of fundraising is interesting, and should be talked about more widely as a form of communications and fundraising technique, which have the potential of raising awareness of the issues facing children in some of the most vulnerable and deprived areas of the world.

We can all make a change, and it starts by not looking on and walking away, but stepping up the challenge, listening to the stories of some people perhaps less fortunate than ourselves, and remembering that we are all human, and no amount of borders should separate that fact.


On a side note, if any of you have ever done any street fundraising with charities, please do share with me your experiences as I am interested in doing this over the Summer.

Click on the link below also to check out some of the interesting blog posts I have been reading over on the BBC Media Action page: 



Without doubt I can imagine that many bloggers in a similar situation will be writing almost identical posts as you read this. For the past month (and more, admittedly), I have felt a little snowed over by coursework deadlines and exams (I say exams, I’ve only had one!). And my exam yesterday marked the end of my first year – officially! And I know I am “just a fresher” and the marks I get won’t really contribute towards my final degree, but I still came to university with the mindset of working as hard as I can – let’s just hope it pays off! Anyway, it is now fair to say that I am out of the woods, and have come out the other end, knowing that a) I have adapted to so-called university life b) I LOVE my university and c) I LOVE my degree.

If you haven’t seen the Zigs, have you even seen UEA?

There are many things I have enjoyed about my first year at university. From exploring the sweet cobbled streets of Norwich, to meeting amazing new people through my course, societies I have joined, my flatmates, and generally putting myself out there.

A handful of us athletics gals (when I used to go before I got lazy)

One aspect of my first year, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, is being a member of the Media Collective – something which I knew would appeal to me. I got quite involved in UEA:TV, taking part in filming projects with like-minded, creative individuals. Next year, I’m also on the committee, and words cannot express how excited I am about that! But if I were to give any advice to anyone going to university after the summer, or have plans to do so in the future, it would simply be to say YES to as many things as you can. I’m definitely not the first student to ever give advice of this nature, and naturally will not be the last, because university can absolutely make you grow as a person, widen your perspective on life – and that’s my impression after just one year. And boy has this year gone by far too quickly!

Say YES to as many things as you can

The new and, dare I say, SEXY UEA:TV Committee

As for my course, I won’t lie. There are have certainly been times – and I’m referring mainly to coursework and exam season – when I have idly questioned whether the life of academia is the right path for me.  It’s not so unknown that British universities tend to focus more on a theoretical system of thought in their approach to teaching and directing courses. Of course this does depend on what you study. But for me, studying Media and International Development, I did question whether I would want to be doing tedious readings for the next two years. But it’s a challenge. It’s not meant to be easy, but it’s designed to make you think outside of the box, to get out of your comfort zone. I think back to how interesting I find my course, and the multiple, MULTIPLE things I am interested in, and I realise that yes – this is the path I would like to take. I love learning. And did I mention I LOVE my course?

The infamous DEV’s finest – DEV Christmas ball

If anyone is particularly interested in finding out more about some of the modules I have taken this year, some of which include: Humanitarian Communication, Social Anthropology, An Introduction to Development Studies, Political Communication, and other media-related modules, I would be more than happy to speak more widely on these. For now, however, my focus for this blog post  is to give a brief overview of my thoughts of my first year, how it continues to invigorate my passions and interests to do development journalism, particularly reporting on gender and development, as well as global health, and cover stories and VOICES which are either misrepresented or underrepresented within our media, and to say, quite simply, that I apologise for the short hiatus. I imagined that this would tend to happen at certain periods whilst having to prioritise university work, hence why I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself to set deadlines for blog posts to be out consistently. I much prefer to read and write well-thought through, well-written pieces, than a rushed one which hasn’t had much thought put into it. It is in this way, nevertheless, that I just want to say that I’M BACK, and hope to be sharing more thoughts and ideas with you.

And my partner in crime as per – WE WON AN AWARD FOR OUR FRIENDSHIP (and talent, obvs)

There are so many dev-related (and non dev-related) books and articles which I am super excited to be reading and sharing over the Summer, many of which are related to gender, politics and anthropology in development – as well as Steinbeck, and perhaps some dystopian fiction? Any recommendations are warmly welcomed! And while I’m acclimatising to not actually having any academic reading to do for essays, or revising, I will at the very least link below some articles I have come across recently, which may be of some interest to you, in the hope to speak more widely on such issues.

Sending warm early Summer wishes to anyone who reads this!


20 Million Muslims March Against ISIS And The Mainstream Media Completely Ignores It

The Third World Girl


The female journalists defying taboos and braving death threats in Afghanistan

Tampons that care: helping girls across the world to end ‘shame of periods’

Girls challenge the stigma surrounding periods in Nepal – video

‘We decided to take a stand’: why some Indian families are returning dowries

International Reporting Workshop

International Reporting Workshop

Firstly, Happy Easter to you all! I hope you have all enjoyed a deserving extended weekend, and have eaten chocolate to your hearts’ content. But remember: all in moderation!

And hand in hand with Easter comes Spring. I know that officially it became Spring a good couple of weeks ago, but it just didn’t feel like it should. However, more and more, having seen more brightly coloured tulips and daffodils in communal gardens, and floral prints on tops (and jeans, and skirts, and bags…), the ambience of Spring is now present among us all. That, and high hopes and aspirations. So, in tune with my lifted mood, which is naturally in season, I want to share with you my experience at a workshop I recently attended, which has invigorated my future career plans and aspirations.

Can Mezzine Building Reception| Photo: Chloe Howcroft

A few weeks ago (before Spring officially sprung into our lives), I attended a workshop on International Reporting, held by One World Media. Funnily enough, I heard about OWM, their workshops and their Production Fund through Twitter, and by following them up, found them to be an interesting resource. OWM funds international documentaries, films and even gives young budding development journalists the opportunity to create a piece of media of their own, covering a particular story in a developing country, by applying for their ‘Production Fund’. However, in order to apply, one must have attended a workshop, such as the one I attended, which makes you eligible for the fund.


The International Reporting Workshop, delivered by Jenny Kleeman, British journalist, who presents for ‘Unreported World’ by Channel 4, as well as working with Vice, and writing and producing documentaries for The Guardian, covered an array of skills and considerations required to report international news. This ranged from safety, to interview skills, to how to pitch and produce a piece of media which audiences will want to watch.

List of companies sharing the Can Mezzine space | Photo: Chloe Howcroft

Before I bore you with too many details of the day, I have instead included a link to the ‘Reflective Statement’ I had to write for my university’s career’s service who, generously, funded my place on the workshop through their ‘Employability Development Fund’. Click on the link below to read the statement:

International Reporting Workshop Reflective Statement pdf

Find out more about the workshops and Production Fund which OWM offer by clicking here.

And if there is anything that you should take away from this, if you do make the courageous – and what some may say, crazy – decision to report on international news is: please do remember to wear a seat-belt. Your safety, and the safety of others, might just depend on it!

Me and my partner in crime

All good things must come to an end… An Intro to Buddhism and Film-making for Development/ ‘I MADE A FILM IN 4 DAYS’

All good things must come to an end… An Intro to Buddhism and Film-making for Development/ ‘I MADE A FILM IN 4 DAYS’

This week marks the end of two courses I have recently taken part in: the first being ‘An Introduction into Buddhism’, the other ‘Film-making for Development’.

An Introduction to Buddhism

The Buddhism course lasted for a period of six weeks, every Monday evening, at the Norwich Buddhist Centre. I went in with the general aim of finding out how to be more mindful – as I often find my mind being busy with fleeting thoughts about things I need to do, be that uni work or personal projects – and came out with the feeling of wanting to know more, having had a lovely, gradual ease into the teachings and values of Buddhism.

Buddhism has, for many years, fascinated me. It is a religion which I find to be the least judgemental (I say this very loosely, and not at all with any such intent of offending any other religion or following), and overall, more in tune between your body and mind, and the world around you. This is the type of lifestyle which I am interested in practising, but given that this needs a lot of commitment and nurturing, naturally, for now, I am content with learning more about it as and when I can.

The Monday last gone (April 3rd) happened to be our last session, and perhaps the most engrossing. As a small, intimate group of about 7-8, we were given the open opportunity to ask our most burning questions. I asked about the different types of Buddhist schools and teachings from around the world, which is an area of interest that I have been reading around, which comes up briefly in Sangharakshita’s ‘The Taste of Freedom’, particularly since it has absolutely blown up within the Western World, having derived from the East, and the South. As a student of International Development, I have been very much interested in learning more about the Far East and South, including China, as well as Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, as I hope to one day go out and work in these areas of the world. Hence why having an understanding of their religious practices, by which Buddhism is still predominantly practised in most of these nations, would be highly beneficial when working with these societies, and finding out how they function.

I would love to speak more about the course, and my journey within the teachings of Buddhism, but I have decided to save this for another post. For now, we shall move onto another course I took part in.

Film-making for Development

Monday also marked the beginning of another course I participated in, ‘Film-making for Development’, delivered by Postcode Films and in association with UEA’s International Development department. The Postcode Films company consists of filmmakers who all have a background in Anthropology and Ethnographic Film, which is an increasing interest of mine – the ability to tell stories of people and places.

I did mention this course in a previous post, and between then and now, my views of it have increased enormously. It ended up being even more worthwhile than I thought it would be, for a number of reasons. For example, despite my initial doubts in that the course didn’t actually have a directly ‘development’-based focus, it still proved to be extremely valuable through the way in which you can construct a meaningful, powerful, and above all, appropriate story for both the audience and especially the contributor.

I worked in the smallest team, consisting of only two other girls, with one having connections to the contributor of our film. I don’t want to give too much away about the actual film, but it is about defying the label of homelessness, and the perceptions and connotations of the certain stereotype of ‘homeless’ people. Needless to say, this is a very sensitive topic, yet our contributor delivered beyond any standard, making our film hard-hitting and with a human face.

The best thing about our film, in my opinion, is that our contributor tells her story through her own words, and she carries the film throughout, which I believe to be the important thing I took from this course, that is, making films which enable the subject to have a voice, which many existing development, NGO films lack, and therefore is detrimental to their films. For example, at the start of the week, we looked at some examples of development films and documentary films, one of which included a Comic Relief video, starring Lenny Henry, who tells the story of a mother and her son reuniting. However, it is abundantly obvious who is telling the story, as the subjects of the film barely have a ‘voice’, and if they do, they are tastelessly dubbed over by a translator. The music also helps to manipulate the story further, which Comic Relief is traditionally known to do. This is the style of film I wanted to deconstruct and improve within my own film.

Working within such an efficient, like-minded group made the entire process far less stressful than I thought it would be, too. We all played to our strengths, be that camera work, editing or directing, also having the opportunity to rotate throughout, meaning that we could gain experience and learn from each other. And, believe it or not:



Film-making for Development certificate

The only two niggling things were that

a) It would have been great to have had slightly better equipment, or a larger budget in which to work – shooting a film on an 8GB SD Card is just not cool. That being said, it was an interesting challenge to work with only one camera, and within a budget.

b) An extra day would have been even better, again if they had a larger budget. 4 days to plan, shoot and edit a film was certainly testing, and an extra day of decision making would have been ideal.

The film is still yet to be colour corrected and the audio edited, but once all of the films have been polished, they will be run by the UEA Ethics team for further checks, and should they approve, our films can be published, which I am more than excited to share!

So do keep on the lookout for this film, and well, keep watching and reading.

Film-making for development and ethnographic films

Film-making for development and ethnographic films

Starting on Monday 3rd April, I will be partaking in a short course in film-making for development. This is just a little update which I wanted to share with you, as I am more than excited to be taking part.

The course is held by Postcode Films, which consists of a small team of experienced film-makers, editors, directors and producers. Although taking place at UEA, from which they have worked with a number of students for a number of years, the brief is to produce and edit a short film located somewhere within Norwich, about a particular person doing a particular action.

From my understanding, the course will equip participants with skills in film-making, from using audio and visual equipment, producing a treatment and location recce, an overview of the ethics and moral codes behind film-making, and editing, all of which can be applied within a development context later – if you wish, and of course, I do.

As I may have mentioned earlier in this blog, my interests lie with journalism and documentary films within a development context, hence why I am super excited to be taking part. I do, however, still need to refine an idea – I know, I know, I have left it a little late, however, what I am aiming to concentrate most on with this project, is the ability to tell a compelling story through the eyes of the protagonist, through a ‘bottom-up’ style, so to speak. Therefore, creating the right narrative is highly important.

Alongside generating and researching ideas, you can prepare for the course in another key way, which I have probably found to be the most helpful part of the process so far: watching other short documentary films produced by the directors from Postcode Films, and other students who have previously taken part in the course in previous years.

Having watched The Way of the BellsCrabs Gather Here and Seeds of Happiness, it has occurred to me just how important it is to have a strong protagonist who can tell their story confidently and well. It is clear that the students also paid particular attention to the audio used in their short documentary films, so as to enhance their film and accentuate their visuals. The editing, too, appears professional and well-thought through, which does demonstrate the standards that Postcode Films are looking for. So no pressure, hey?

Source: Aeon

I also came across another short docu/ethnographic film called ‘Unravel’ which illustrates the journey undertaken by the clothes which we, in the West, recycle.

The film has factual representations of workers sorting through and ‘slacking’ the clothes, and placing them back into vessels to re-weave them, all of which takes place in several towns in India. Most importantly, the film includes personality. The female workers who are given a voice (albeit we are not provided with any names) bring their work to life by commenting on the lifestyles of those in the West – an exotic place which the majority of them wish to explore, yet have never left the borders of India. They are entertained by the sizes of the jeans they find and the fact that most of the pieces they handle appear to be new and hardly even worn, much to their intrigue.

Unravel 3.png
Female garment workers expressing their curiosities of Western behaviours. Source: YouTube

I did find this particular image of the West to be equally as interesting, particularly given the fact that they are talking through word of mouth and rather ‘eticly’ – commenting on the behaviours of a social group from without, i.e. the perspective of the outsider (Skinner, 1938, in Morris et al., 1999). They claim that ‘rich’ Westeners are running out of water, yet water is just as expensive as the clothes they buy, wear and recycle, and so come to the conclusion that their money never seems to run out. This is far from the truth for many. Yet, from an anthropological stance, it is rather fascinating to witness this insight from a so-called ‘outsider’; the conclusions that one comes to about people within other culture groups, which they haven’t met in person, appears to be somewhat part of human logic and reasoning, and a process of understanding cultural differences.

You can watch the whole film here, which can take you directly to YouTube.

For more of the films made by UEA students in partnership with Postcode Films, check out the film library.

Lastly, I am also due to be taking part on two other film-making masterclasses in the next coming months, one for documentary film-making and the other for journalism for film. They are hosted by Roundhouse Studios, within their Young Creatives programme. I have never attended a class up until present, but have always tried to keep updated with the projects they are offering, some of which include apprenticeships for young people who do not have a desire to attend university, but would rather pursue their creative endeavours through an alternative route. This is why I perceive the Roundhouse to be a valuable resource for ‘Young Creatives’. Check out the masterclasses and other sessions provided within the programme here.

So I will try to provide updates as soon as I can on what we have been getting up to in the film-making course, but for now, do enjoy watching these documentary films I have mentioned above, and if there are other titles that have interested you, do let me know!



Ames, D., Leung, K., Lickel, B. and Morris, M.W, (1999). VIEWS FROM INSIDE AND OUTSIDE: INTEGRATING EMIC AND ETIC INSIGHTS ABOUT CULTURE AND JUSTICE JUDGEMENT in Academy old Management Review 1999, Vol. 24. No. 1781-796. Accessed 29 March 2017.


Student Media: A ‘race’ to the bottom

Student Media: A ‘race’ to the bottom

We are almost two decades into the 21st century and still we find that minority groups continue to be marginalised within mainstream media, often being misrepresented or unrepresented altogether. Which is worse?  Surely what is covered within the media is worth discussing (usually), but what about the stories of the voices which are left unexposed? Should they not bear an equal weight of importance, too? Why chose not to cover the struggles faced by black women and girls within Sub-Saharan Africa, but have expansive airtime of an anti-immigration, anti-global aid assistance and misogynistic (for good measure) president? These are complex questions which require much thought and discussion into the ways in which this normative ignorance within media reportage can possibly be improved.

Hazel Healey from New Internationalist talks about community share

On Saturday 4 March, the ‘War of Words: Progressive Media Conference’ took place at my very own university, the University of East Anglia. The aim of the conference was to bring together like-minded groups and individuals who share the same passion for highlighting the more progressive side of journalism, exploring the benefits that alternative media, such as The Norwich Radical, who largely organised the day-long event, can bring to our societies.

Panel discussions, interactive workshops and talks were given on this very topic, from exploring the representations of such groups and identities within mainstream media, including: Roma and Traveller groups, women, and race, to the powers of a ‘music as a force for change’, which I sadly could not attend – although I have been told that this was an excellent discussion and enjoyed by those who could attend. I attended many of the panel discussions on representations within the media – one of which I will talk more at length about – as well as print media in a digital age and New Internationalist’s community share talk by their very own editor, Hazel Healey. I found the day to be extremely enlightening for 3 very key reasons:

  1. There still is, and there always will be, room for print media in the digital age

    Print Media in a Digital Age panel discussion shared by (left-right) Jenny Nelson, Red Pepper; Hazel Healey, New Internationalist; Ben Chacko, The Morning Star

I was particularly eager to attend the panel discussion on ‘print media in a digital age’ purely because I have always been interested in print journalism, wanting to have stories covered in print. In my opinion, there is nothing more worthwhile to hold –  to physically hold – a printed publication; you just don’t get the same sensation when reading news content online. It is less intimate, less permanent, and indeed, discourages you from reading a piece in depth, but rather to scan over a screen of two to three-line-long paragraphs. So when Jenny Nelson from Red Pepper, another alternative media publication, shared with us her views on the advantages of print media, even within a digitally-dominant world, I felt more invigorated and altogether aligned with her views.

Jenny Nelson’s (Red Pepper) presentation on the advantage of print media

Within her presentation she discussed five main reasons for print:

  1. Accessibility: – digital media can often exclude you if you are not in a particular location, income or age range whereas you can access print regardless of demographic, and often regions will have a local paper, which enables you to be consistently informed about your local area.
  2. Quality control: – although digital media has the advantage of being able to edit a piece more instantly than print, print goes through a much longer production process, meaning that editors and proof-readers will check and check again to ensure that each and every piece printed in their newspaper or publication is of high quality journalistic standards and in agreement with codes and conventions. The internet may allow you to voice your opinions freely, but often too much freedom is detrimental to a society and individual alone.
  3. Critical reflection: – as mentioned earlier, news content online is often much shorter, allowing the average reader to quickly scan an article – sometimes even just the headline – to get the gist of the main argument. Numerous neuro-scientific studies have shown that readers will often scan the screen, spending less than a minute on reading the news online in their day. This is usually not the case with print. Readers who still buy or consume print journalism will often take a much longer time immersing themselves into the core meanings and perspectives within an article, allowing for deeper reading and understanding of the subject, allowing you to have an in-depth understanding of the world around you.
  4. Beauty: – the majority of publications take pride in the aesthetics of their print projects, making pieces come to life with creative graphics and images, making the consumer proud to be in possession of their publication.
  5. Community: – the production of a print publication also creates somewhat of a journey with its audience and the society in which they find themselves a political actor in. Through building a certain report with their readers, print journalists often share and represent the opinions of their readers.

These 5 key points were definitely something to bear in mind when addressing print journalism in a digital age. I spoke with Jenny afterwards where we agreed on our shared preference in print journalism to digital content overall, and I confided with her of my banishment of an Amazon Kindle, as I too prefer to read from physical, beautiful-smelling books, rather than off of a screen.

2. Alternative Media

Another thing brought to light from the conference was the variety of alternative forms of media that are out there. As aforementioned, New Internationalist were present, Red Pepper, whom I hadn’t heard of until the conference, The Norwich Radical, The Morning Star, and many more publications are out there for you to widen your scope and understandings of issues occurring within the world, rather than relying on mainstream media giants, such as BBC News or The Guardians – which I do admit to falling victim of.

3. Lack of Representation in Student Media

Race in the media with Aadum Muuse, NUS; Dolly Ogunrinde, UEA Alumni; Yinbo Yu, UCL

The third, most enlightening idea shared that day was by Yinbo Yu, a student from UCL, who has also been active in student campaigns including UEA’s Student Union. Within the ‘race in the media’ panel discussion,  Yinbo was co-chaired by Aadum Muuse from NUS and Dolly Ogunrinde, who is a UEA alumni.

Yinbo boldly suggested that the UEA media office lacked BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) representations. He brought attention to the fact that, having participated in student media himself, it is largely all white, lacking in diversity of other ethnic origins. This was something I had not considered in the slightest, since getting more involved in student media, but upon reflection, Yinbo’s suggestion holds a lot of truth in it.

Yinbo Yu Twitter.png
Soundbites from Yinbo’s speech on Twitter

Below is the designated area within the Media Office especially for Concrete, UEA’s student newspaper. The paper is printed fortnightly, although they frequently publish articles on their website in between publications. As Yinbo explores: “If you walk into the media offices of student newspapers, it’s all white. If you look at the writers, it’s all white.” If you dare, click here to scroll through the list of editors and main contributors who put the student newspaper together, and Yinbo might just be on to something…

“If you walk into the media offices of student newspapers, it’s all white. If you look at the writers, it’s all white.”

17311484_10210733643672417_776544226_o (1)
Concrete’s desk in the UEA media office, where the editors, who are proportionately white, work

Indeed, having reflected upon this concept, I questioned Yinbo to find out why he thinks this is. He highlighted the existence of institutional racism within spaces, not only within student media, but the student movement as a whole, such as the National Union of Students (NUS), which is still failing black and brown students. He went on to explore that what we, as students, as consumers of student media and societal values, need to be reflecting upon is the internal structures within such environments.

This sense of targeted media, of ‘white’ content produced by ‘white’ contributors is failing to represent other ethnic, minority cultures, due to the lack of BME participants in student media who have the potential to represent the voices of such ethnic groups more appropriately. It is therefore the responsibility of the media collective to encourage students of all nationalities and races to get more involved, in order to deconstruct the embedded, normative and structural factors, which are preventing the representations of such minorities from being given a voice within student media and society as a whole.

Related to this issue is an interview published in the New York Times between George Yancy and Judith Butler, both authors and university professors specialising on the subject of race, who discuss in depth the structural issues embedded within our social systems, which continue to harness the repression experienced by many BME groups.

Representations within the media are very much constructions, and can never fully capture an event or individual’s story from its exact nature, due to certain political agendas, bias and opinion. Yet, what should be agreed on is that every single group should have a moral right to have some sort of representation, and this racial, gendered (the list goes on) hierarchy within our media, which spans over decades within print, and with the explosion of media within the digital age, must be challenged.

Clearly the discussions brought forth during the day were of a fruitful, thought-provoking nature, which certainly had me reflecting upon my own experiences with mainstream, alternative and student media. I aim to be reading more alternative forms of media so as to inhibit distortion from certain constructions of our world. Please do let me know of any publications you would suggest reading, as I am eager to find out about more.