The inception for this piece started during the end of the last semester break — orientation week of 2017, to be exact. I was minding my meme business on Facebook until I came across one of Monga’s blog posts being shared on my timeline. I think it was the one on feelings of becoming a Monash freshie.
I was uh, shooketh, to say the least.
Big, beautiful photos sprawled across tons of vocabulary! METAPHORS! BOKEH EFFECTS! (I use watermarked stock photos)
I whispered to myself “What Wordpress theme are they on? W-what font are they using?”
And then, I hyperventilated. My pseudo-career of being the editor of this blog was going to be over before I even started! How was I going to step it up and provide equally wonderful content?
If this blog is not unlike Carly Rae Jepsen’s brilliant Emotion — just critically acclaimed*, then Monga is equivalent to an Ed Sheeran album — you know it’s on everybody’s playlist.
*by the friends I’ve coerced to read
There’s this Chinese proverb that goes like this:
Better to drink the weak tea of a friend than the sweet wine of an enemy.
So I’ve decided to venture out from the depths of our dungeon with some cheap Tesco wine in my cola bottle and tea leaves I’ve stolen from a Bah Kut Teh meal just in case. I didn’t quite know what to expect as I hobbled up the ~*pale jade*~ steps of the MUSA office.
Celebrities featured in entertainment magazines are always apologizing showing up late, but I’ve decided to turn the tables and show up late myself. I didn’t apologize because I’m a naturally rude person, and because I was envious of them having natural sunlight in their workspace.
Based on the following interview with Monga’s Samuel Goh, who’s in charge of their brilliant photography, you could probably tell the type of beverage I decided to serve.
LINGJIE: So to start things off, what is Monga?
SAMUEL: In general, MONGA is our student publication.
But to us, on a deeper level, MONGA would be student memories – in physical form. You get to immortalize what has happened each semester.
LJ: How is the current MONGA different? What was it then?
S: I guess for every single year, MONGA Monash Gazette) would be the same. Last year, they had Humans of Monash which didn’t go too well, so we decided to scrap that. We decided to brand everything under MONGA – visual content, video, student content, articles, write-ups, and the digital platform.
I think back then, no offense, the editors ourselves have already stirred up some controversy in MUSA just in these two weeks. If you look at the articles they are actually pretty unbiased. (Free parking, anyone?)
LJ: What I’ve seen so far looks more like a perspective instead of a string of events.
S: In our MUSA constitution, the editorial team is not a really part of MUSA. Editors do not have voting rights. In order to have journalistic views and such we’re supposed to be unbiased. We really wanted to push the boundaries and not be cronies for MUSA.
LJ: So what I’m getting is that MONGA is less of a propaganda for MUSA, because as a student, it’s easy to think ‘Hey, I’m here to spread MUSA’s propaganda!’
S: A better way to put it is that we work with MUSA, not under MUSA. We are still subjected to budgets and all.
LJ: That applies to all clubs anyway!
S: Yeah, and we’re not constricted to say only good things about MUSA, because we have to be real. MUSA is for the students, and if we hide things, what’s the whole point?
LJ: I think it’s a good way to clear things up. In terms of MONGA being a media platform, how are you planning to brand yourself differently from other platforms such as RMM, or News Club
S: One of our biggest plans is that we want to form a collaborative ecosystem. Ultimately, yes we do report on MUSA, but we also do a lot of other things. We cover and do write-ups on events. I think it’s only fair that we include others since we’re all from the same place. The only way we’re different is that we’re officially recognized by the student council.
LJ: In terms of the content, are you guys setting something different?
S: Second thing that we want to be different from other years is that we go around taking portraits of other students. This is something I feel very strongly about. I’ve gone up to many students,and at least 50% of the would ask what MONGA is. If MONGA is the media of the students, why is it not recognized?
LJ: That means the job here isn’t done, in a way, right?
S: *thinks* In a way..
LJ: Like, you’ve done your part, but you weren’t able to reach the end goal?
S: Yeah, and that was the big thing we wanted to change. Number 1 being the reach and awareness of MONGA, and if I quote Trump, it’s to really make MONGA great again. And that’s by making MONGA as relevant to as many students as we can.
LJ: And that’s something I wanted to touch on as well, it’s similar to Radio Monash in a way that both of us have relatively new platforms, so there’s a lot for us to play around. So the question now is how do you plan to make MONGA more relevant to the normies out there?
S: We found that MONGA itself is very exclusive. Elitist, even. It’s always the same few faces – all these famous faces, or only write ups on certain events. How is this relevant to me when I pick it up as a student, and if I don’t see my face inside at all? How am I supposed to take this magazine home look back at it 10 years later down the road? How can you call MONGA a student publication when you only cater to 5% of the entire student population?
LJ: So it’s pretty safe to say that what you mean by event coverage is not just reporting on a string of facts but more towards creating a sense of belonging, right?
S: Yeah, correct. My photographers would know. It’s not just about recording the event – our whole idea as journalists, photographers is to becomes storytellers. Whatever we post up, when you look back there’s that sense of belonging. You could do a simple report of an event but as millennials we just want to see pictures of ourselves.
LJ: Doesn’t hurt to be a little bit narcissistic!
S: You can take pictures of him, too. *he then gestures to Renee, our photographer*
LJ: I thought it was quite interesting when I looked at MONGA and realized there are 4 editors, how do you guys work together? How does that work?
S: Calvin does writing, Andrew does social media and the site, I’m in charge of photography, while Tiffany does more of the administrative stuff. That’s how we stay organised.
LJ: Oh, so there’s not much of a Beyonce situation, it’s more of a good collective of people.
Another thing that you mentioned was taking portraits – is that going to be a day where you take portraits? How does that work?
S: The plan initially was to have our team of 15/16 photographers (excluding myself and Tiffany) to get a minimum of 5 portraits of students a day, but that hasn’t been implemented so we’re just going around when we have free time. We’ve gotten close to 50 already (during Week 3), but it’s not enough.
LJ: Oh, that’s pretty good. It’s a pretty heavy task to document the whole student body, but at least there’s progress.
S: We’re definitely going to be push more for it, but students are generally very shy.
LJ: I was about to touch on that, but how does it feel to have an all access pass to pretty much take photos of every attractive person on campus?
S: I wouldn’t wanna say we’re taking pictures of attractive people but we’re taking pictures of everyone!
LJ: It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but yeah! *laughs* It’s not an everyday thing where someone comes up to you and asks you for a picture. We wanna know where it goes, what it’s used for. Could you kind of tell us the whole process?
S: People have different ways of doing it. Some people do it specifically during events, some sporadically. I would go up to someone and introduce myself, tell them what I’m doing, and pass them my name card right away. Some of them say no but the majority are pretty cool about it. The thing is people feel more comfortable because it’s within uni.
LJ: I think the reason is also because we’re familiar with what you do anyway? We see you around on campus.
S: I don’t think it’s because people know us, but I think it’s a good thing that people are just scared to say no sometimes.
LJ: In a way, yeah, in our culture it’s like ‘we really wouldn’t want to offend you’.
S: That’s why there’s always this barrier of resistance! But at the end of the shoot, and everyone just goes on.
LJ:And something for our readers, if there are any: how do we normies approach you to have our photos taken?
S: There’s no procedure! That’s a really good question, because we never expected students to come up to us, but if that’s possible that’d be great. If you see any of us – since we’re planning to give tags to our photographers, just ask! I doubt that’s gonna happen, you’ll never know.
LJ: Because on days when you have a bombass outfit and you really wanna –there are so many days when me and my friends are like, yeah today we really dressed up for this [redacted], and there’s only so much an iPhone could do, that would be nice if someone could just come help us –
S: That’s definitely something we wanna aim for, but there’s only so many of us. If anyone could come up to us, that’d be really great. And if you really, really, want, we could set up a time and take pictures of you – just reach us on Facebook or email!
LJ: There are a few more questions that are more relevant to Radio Monash — a lot of people aren’t aware of this but you were actually a part of RMM, how was your experience like? How were your days like in the dungeon?
S: I have to admit — I love speaking, but there are days when it’s a lot of work, and you hate going. But being a part of RMM was really fun, if you know your [redacted], and if you want to just go talk, and play your own music. Doing it alone, I wouldn’t suggest.
LJ: I feel you on a spiritual level.
S: You’re there alone?
LJ: Reading off Buzzfeed articles (sometimes).
S: When I did my show, it was about interviews and rock music but eventually I cancelled out the rock part. But it was really fun to see students come in – I’ve had the captain of the Frisbee club, MPAC. Not very prominent figures, but I had people who were doing something on campus, and they’re super excited to be on the show.
LJ: Since we’re on the topic of RMM, we wanna know if there’s anything you’re currently listening to?
S: Okay, I only listen to oldies, but I listen to a lot of rock specifically. I don’t really listen to modern ones, but my all time favorite is definitely Queen, I made it a must to include a Queen song on every single show I did.
LJ: Someone actually told me “you know, if I have nothing to play I’m just going to play bo rhapsody, it’s 7 minutes long, it’s going to take up a portion of my show”.
S: *laughs* That’s actually not good, but if he really wanted to play something long he should’ve chosen November Rain, 9 minutes long!
LJ: That’s kind of what we wanna do with RMM – to introduce a variety of genres, because every time you go out, it’s the same set of Chainsmokers songs (I’’m looking at you, MUSA Lounge), we’re done with that! I’ve never played any during my shows:
S: I’ve never played any modern music in my set. The thing is that music changes, back in our day we had bands like The Killers, Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Avril lavigne, all these kind of rock-ish, punk rock acts.
LJ: Yeah, and now it’s all very streamlined. And just to kind of keep up with the sillies is that something both of us have in common is having a lot of hair – what’s your secret.
S: A lot of fruit, a lot of sleep, a lot of wax.
Sharing hair secrets.
(And if anyone has a problem with my Crocs come talk to me about it irl.)
LJ: When do you have time for sleep?
S: I love this question. People come up to me and say ‘I have no time, I’m busy, I’m that’, I don’t want to brag – it’s important to have context to the way I think, I’m studying here, and I’m also in SEGI. I’ve been in MUSA, 2 years in a row, do freelance photography and video. Basically, classes at SEGI are on the weekends. You could say I work 7 days a week. As busy as I am, I still have time for my own things. The most important thing is that, at our age, if something is important to us, you don’t find time, you make time for it. That means finishing your work on time, and if you’re done by 6’o clock, stop working. When you have backlog, it adds up, you won’t have time.
LJ: I think it’s good that mentioned when you mentioned having things going on 7 days a week, that kind of keeps you going. The lethargy starts when you have the day off, there’s no reason to slow down. Last but not least, when’s your walk-in interview for interns since you’re so busy?
S: We’re no longer looking for subcomms. But that doesn’t mean students cannot contribute! How is it a student publication if only the 4 of us along with our subcomms are producing content.
We really wanna open up opportunities – every month there’s a theme going on, and you can submit anything creative related, writing, poem, artwork, anything! It may or may not enter the actual publication, but your work would definitely be published online.
Something else I’d like to add is that one of our articles was actually submitted by a year 1 sem 1 student, and that’s what we really like, that came out from their own accord, that’s what’s really cool. If people can really get into whole mindset of wanting to be a part of it, it doesn’t have to be part of a theme. Credit’s all due to you, monga just a platform to put your opinion.
LJ: Anything else you’d like to add?
S: One thing I can ask for is that if we come up to ask for a picture, or anything – just be open with it. Because we really want to make MONGA as the best as we can. We’re really working our hardest, and we’re proud to say the engagement of our website is at least 5/6 times more than the whole year of 2016. Not to brag, but I think we’re going in the right direction but ultimately we’re going to hit a roadblock if students don’t reciprocate. Another idea but this semester my plan is to have committee pictures. That is another thing that adds more value to belonging. By tapping into taking picture of committees, we are reaching into the whole realm of inclusivity.
Bonus: Sam’s Top 10 Hits!