EU Referendum Live – Horsham

Today the UK have gone to the polls to decide whether we should leave or remain part of the European Union, the first referendum of its kind since 1975, when the same question was posed over the EEC. Overnight, ballot papers will be sorted and counted, with results being announced from 399 counting places .    the close of polls at 10pm and 7am, when the last areas are expected to declare. The overall result will be announced from Manchester tomorrow morning.

Already billed as a historical event for the country, many national and local groups will be up all night, reflecting on the event and speculating on a result where, for once, every vote counts – the local figures are combined to create a national figure for leave and remain, rather than simply counting the result from area to area as in the General Election. I am excited to be involved in reporting the action for the Brighton Argus and I will be based at the Horsham count, helping them bring results to readers from across Sussex. I will be tweeting all night and a report of the result will be printed in Saturday’s paper.

You can follow the action on the Argus website, by following #EUrefSussex on Twitter or via my personal Twitter @escarr15.

And please, if you haven’t voted yet, go out and make your voice heard. Don’t let your indecision cause the wrong decision.

Head of Training, Insanity Radio 103.2FM

Almost three months ago, Insanity Radio held its annual elections, at which the new board for 2016/17 was decided. After much deliberation I ran for the position of Head of Training and was duly elected.

My main responsibilities are training and organising pre-recorded and holiday content, which includes the summer schedule that begins tomorrow! My handover period has therefore been pretty hectic, with multiple spreadsheets and emails designed to organise the lives of the many presenters and a few concerned conversations about stress levels. However, being busy is what I like and I am so excited to see what is in store for the next year with a fantastic board.

It’s weird to think that a conversation with the lovely Charlotte Mason, now Station Manager, who I barely knew at the time, and Ceri-Ann (my predecessor) in a toilet at the union bar when we were celebrating the 4th anniversary of Insanity going FM has now become a reality but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Being on the board also means I am obliged to, nay want to, get involved in various other roles like helping with the stall at the Magna Carta Festival yesterday on Egham High Street (pictured) and going to socials (the first of which featured my first ride in an Uber). Most importantly, I get to share the wonders of Insanity with others and help make the station the best it can be!

March 2015: Orbital board elections

In March 2015 I was privileged to be elected as Deputy Comment Editor for the Orbital, the official magazine of Royal Holloway’s Students’ Union. It was a decision I had been considering but, according to my blog from the time, was something I had talked myself out of by the time the election came around. However, the position was called for and nobody stood so I wrote a quick speech and when they called again I ran unopposed and was duly elected to the position for the 2015/16 academic year.

This is where the board politics come in. A couple of months later the Editor resigned, which was not unusual with her being the third editor in that academic year alone, and so the Deputy Editor stepped up to the position of Editor temporarily until a bi-election was held in September to confirm her position. Holly Pyne, who had been elected Comment Editor, was co-opted as Deputy Editor, which left me as Acting Comment Editor for the summer, during which we produced five mini issues for Welcome Week to give the new students a taste of the Orbital and what to expect in university life. I dealt with running the section on my own and I was praised for getting a large amount of articles in from my section members.

However, my position was not secure as I had effectively also been co-opted and was required to be officially elected to the role of Comment Editor in an election in October 2015. In doing this, I also forfeited my role as Deputy Comment Editor, which didn’t worry me at the time because of my proven ability in the position. I hadn’t counted on the fact that the newest members of the Orbital had the ambition and ability to match my year’s experience and I was outvoted for both the role of section editor and deputy, the latter position going to the member awarded Best Journalist the previous year.

The period after the election was not a good time for me, but I refused to walk away from the Orbital and set about writing as many articles as possible and show as much commitment as would have been required from a board member. From attending socials to submitting 4 articles a month, I was certainly not slacking in my involvement! Over six months later I can now say that losing the board position is one of the best things that could have happened to me: I won Best Journalist at Societies Ball and had I continued as section editor I would have been far more likely to run for Deputy Editor, meaning that I would not be able to have as much involvement with Insanity Radio.

The moral of the experience is don’t take anything for granted and don’t dwell on failed dreams – make new ones and have fun along the way! But don’t be afraid of the repercussions that come from things not going as you hope: it is completely fine to be angry and sad and never feel like you have to suppress your emotions to be strong or look good for other people. All I can promise you is that things will be okay in the end, and you should always remember that.

Elections and campaigning

Today is the day of Police and Crime Commissioner elections, local council elections, and elections for the London mayor. Next month will see the EU Referendum, where the UK will decide whether to remain part of the European Union or become independent from it. A year ago, on the day of the General Election, I wrote a post on my blog entitled ‘Facebook and political campaigning’, which was a very in the moment response to the amount of friends who were posting about their political affiliations on social media. However, in the last few months I have been heavily involved in campaigns for student elections, where much of the campaigning is online. How far have I contradicted my own words from last year?

“Political campaigning has no place on social media, unless it is for the purpose of encouraging the act of voting” – I was vaguely part of two campaign teams during the Students’ Union officer and media head elections, strongly sharing my support for the candidates I believed to be the best on Facebook. I did this via text posts, in which I also explained the reasons why I had chosen to back that candidate, and added profile pictures and cover photos which showed who I supported. I also aimed to encourage people to do their own research and vote in elections which they may otherwise have not have known about (in the case of the media head elections particularly). There’s no doubt that my words last year have become hypocritical, but the SU elections are a particularly grey area. There was no physical campaigning for the media head candidates, leading the campaigns to be solely based online and via word of mouth. My investment in the media outlets on campus meant that I was very keen to get my favoured candidates elected and so I was active on social media, but had this been a national election I would not have been as vocal on social media.

“I am becoming increasingly irate at the multiple posts from people blatantly promoting their political affiliations” – This is very true. I don’t want to see a news feed full of Vote Labour/Vote Conservative/Vote Green etc. posts! They get aggressive and that is not encouraging for anyone else to read who holds different political views. In local and general elections the opportunity arises for physical campaigning and I feel that this is the better way to gain support from the electorate. In fact, even during the SU elections I found it more helpful to see manifestos in paper form than online. Actual political party affiliations are best kept outside of social media.

“By all means use your right to vote, in fact I implore you to do so” – If this is the only thing you take in from this post, please take the opportunity today to vote in whatever elections are going on around you! People died so that a wide spectrum of the population can have a say in who represents them in government. Whether it’s a Police and Crime Commissioner, a Borough Councillor or the London Mayor, please take the opportunity to vote.

Although I may have not listened to my own words, please take care on your usage of social media around the election season. Be open to those with other political views and make sure that the idea of voting is at the forefront of any campaigning you do.

World Press Freedom Day

On my noticeboard I have a calendar that highlights certain national and international days of interest, and this morning I noticed it was World Press Freedom Day. I did not know a thing about this at the time, but I do understand the importance of the freedom of the press, so in addition to briefly explaining this important international day, I think it would be worth sharing a few thoughts on press freedom.

Set up by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, World Press Freedom Day is designed to celebrate press freedom and its fundamental principles as well as examine how free the world’s press is, defend those in media whose independence is being attacked and remember those journalists who have died in service. The specific date has been chosen to mark the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration of 1991, a statement of principles for press freedom collated by newspaper journalists from Africa, where there were many problems facing print media. The day also involves an international conference, held in a different country each year (and sometimes on a different day depending on when May 3rd falls in the week), where media professionals, organisations and agencies from the UN assess how free the world’s press is, normally associated with the theme of the conference, this year entitled ‘Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms’. Since 1997, it is also the day on which the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is awarded to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to defending or promoting press freedom in the face of dangerous or difficult circumstances. This year’s winner is investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who is currently imprisoned in Azerbaijan for her work as an investigative journalist. You can find out more about Khadija, the day and events surrounding it on the UNESCO website.

Student journalism has been known to be quite restricted and subject to censorship by SUs, particularly surrounding election coverage. Of course, this is by no means comparable to the intense threat to press freedom elsewhere in the world and we certainly do not end up in prison for anything that we produce. However, there are definitely steps that can be taken to make the student press more free. This year’s NUS Conference saw the passing of Motion 314, a motion described by the Student Publication Association as safeguarding “fair, accurate and vital coverage to student union elections” (You can read more on the SPA website). This looks to ensure that student media can provide content that make the incoming officers more accountable and provide fair coverage of SU elections to their readers, who are of course the sole electorate. The Huffington Post wrote a good article on this, entitled ‘We Need to Encourage Free Speech at UK Universities, Not Silence’ and I would strongly encourage reading this via the link. It must be remembered though that SUs do act in the interests of the organisation and of students: many censorship measures were in place to ensure that the media does not favour one candidate over another and the importance of a free but fair press should not be overlooked. This goes for all forms of media, not only print but broadcast media, and avoiding libel and malpractice can be as easy as educating yourself on the law and what can and can’t be said by the media, particularly during elections. I therefore want to end this post with a video produced by Jon May, the Media and Development Co-ordinator at Royal Holloway, outlining Student Media Law for the May elections and EU referendum this year.

Let’s celebrate the free press that we enjoy in the UK and strive to maintain its freedom across the world, not only on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day but at all times.