Journalism during a Pandemic: In Conversation with The Strand’s Hadiyyah Kuma
By Saif Khan and Tanisha Lahane
The Strand is Victoria University at the University of Toronto’s student-lead newspaper. Since 1953, the paper has elevated the voices of student contributors through writing, illustration, and editing.
The newspaper's most recent project, The Comfort Issue, is a mini-magazine that explores the idea of “finding comfort in discomfort.”
The current pandemic isn’t the best time for students, especially for those in university or college. Managing your classes along with the chaos of today's world can be extremely challenging, taking a toll on your mental health.
Despite all of that, the team at The Strand decided that this “doesn’t mean we should give up on finding some sort of fulfilment in this new way of living.”
This beautifully crafted issue serves as a beacon of hope for the students at UofT who feel more isolated than ever before in the midst of everything happening around us. The mini-magazine archives the students' current collective loneliness, and tries to make the best of it.
We spoke to Hadiyyah Kuma, Co-Editor in Chief of the Strand, about their newest issue, how the pandemic has affected them, and more. Check out our conversation with her below.
Where did the idea for the “Comfort” issue come from? Why did you and your team decide to make that the theme of the issue?
Comfort is something we're all looking for right now. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened political tension, the future is so uncertain. Students, especially first-years, will no doubt face added challenges in this academic year, and we wanted this issue to be a source of comfort for everyone. We wanted to remind everyone to make time for rest and connect with others outside of academia. Community is so important in times like these, but at the same time, we're living through an era where in-person gatherings are just not feasible. Connecting with others over social media, joining online groups and attending arts events online are all ways to stay connected both on and off-campus. Above all, we want everyone to be kind to themselves and do the best they can. Don't be too hard on yourself. Don't stress about your grades. You can read more about our vision in our editorial for the Comfort issue.
What does comfort mean to you? What are you doing to find comfort during the pandemic?
I take comfort in being alone in my bedroom, listening to my favourite tunes. My favourite songs right now are Untouchable by Everglow, Video Game by Sufjan Stevens, Dynamite by BTS, and Lonely by Chloe x Halle. I play those on repeat and just dance around my room after a nice shower. I've also found this new appreciation for rain and the way it fills up the senses unlike any other weather. I like to open my window and lie on my bed listening to it. I've been sleeping with a squirrel plushie for the past month. I bought a children's paint set and painted a pink llama. To me, comfort means spoiling yourself a bit with your favourite things. Feeding your inner child. We all have a tender part of us that desperately needs our love and attention. Life is so busy for me, so whenever I take time to rest I try to really indulge in whatever I enjoy.
How has the pandemic affected the operation of “the Strand”, and how has your team worked around it?
We're unable to enter our office at the university, so it basically means we can't print anything for the foreseeable future. However, we are releasing all of our issues online, and are releasing specially designed mini-mags for each themed issue. These mini-mags give readers a chance to view the paper as it would look if it were printed. All of our editorial duties now take places over online places such as Slack and Zoom.
Finally, what advice do you have for the team at The Royal Register?
Like I said about our theme, I think that what's most important right now is you. Rest. Take time to reflect. It's hard doing everything online. Life is already exhausting and now there's this added barrier of screen time and disconnected work. But you still have yourself, and that's the most important thing. That is your catalyst for holding yourself up and ensuring that you also care for others in all the ways that you can. We need you. We need each other. Stay healthy, stay safe, and engage in things that bring you joy. Everything else is an afterthought.
Pieces in The Strand consists of news, editorial pieces, features, art and science articles.
The news section has research-based articles and focuses on things around Victoria University and UofT but also posts pieces regarding events off-campus.
The Features section has informative pieces that let the author tell a story through personal essays, investigative reports and more!
The Arts section dives into the arts and cultures of the world. Issues about natural science and technology can be found under the science section.
Currently, The Strand is writing all sorts of articles regarding the pandemic. Unique humorous writings such as satire are sorted under the “Stranded” section.
The newspaper is “committed to acting as an agent of constructive social change,” and writes on topics such as but not limited to, the Black Lives Matter movement, the ongoing pandemic, and mental health.
Additionally, they have a magazine and also run a podcast called The Strandcast, both of which are available on their website.
Thank you to Hadiyyah Kuma at the Strand for doing this interview!