Remarkable success for student-run blog

  • Date

    Thu 25 Jun 20

A specialist blog has enjoyed remarkable success, after moving to a student-run model.

The Human Rights Centre blog has enjoyed unprecedented success, surpassing 10,000 reads in less than six months, with readers in 131 countries.

The blog previously attracted around 10,000 reads a year.

Pauline Canham, a current MA student with previous experience at the BBC and Al Jazeera, took up the new role of Student Editor in February 2020, supported by a team of Student Editorial Assistants - Amita Dhiman, Julia Kedziorek, Alana Meier, Lauren Ng and Bethany Webb-Strong.

The new Editor attributes the success of the blog, which publishes features from academics and students alongside human rights news, to “putting the ‘human’ front and centre”, with a focus on stories showing people “forging their own individual paths to make change”.

Pauline Canham said: “Having a team of students from different backgrounds has brought greater breadth of experience and knowledge to the editorial process. It also means a wider network of contacts to draw on for submissions on various topics. Our Spotlight on Sami Al Haj was just such a case, as was a recent post on the 50 year anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.”

UK-based readers make up the largest single audience for the blog, with India a close second, then the United States, Japan, Italy and Sri Lanka.

Pauline Canham said: “We are receiving a growing number of submissions from students from the Indian subcontinent, on a range of human rights topics, which is really exciting.

“In terms of impact, though, I believe some of the posts we have published recently, particularly by young local activists such as Sophie Kabangu, who organised the Colchester Black Lives Matter event, and Myriam Naoual who works for the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality, can truly inspire students to make a difference closer to home.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has provided some of the most popular content, a diverse range of contributions have attracted readers, with a post related to language rights violations in Tibet, written by Aryan Garg, a student from Hyderabad, the most-viewed contribution.

The blog is overseen by Dr Andrew Fagan, Director of the Human Rights Centre, and Senior Research Officer Dr Katya Al Khateeb.

Dr Andrew Fagan said: “This is an amazing achievement by a fabulous editorial team of whom we are very proud.

“The Human Rights Centre is committed to strengthening our relationship with our existing community, but also to extending our presence amongst communities who are committed to human rights and social justice, but who may never have heard of Essex Human Rights Centre. Our blog makes a vital contribution to realising both of these objectives“

Over the past year, the Human Rights Centre has further developed its outreach programme, Human Rights Local, and published a range of new digital content, including a regular podcast, RightsCast.

Human rights experts have published videos publicising their research in areas including facial recognition technology and Iran’s detention of dual and foreign nationals.

The Centre, and the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology project based there, are also supporters of RightOn, an online discussion forum.