As co-founder and editor of the jfaHuman Rights Journal, Angana Narula’s role is wide-reaching. From commissioning and editing up-and-coming journalists to admin tasks and checking emails, she also manages to fit her work around a full-time job in marketing.
We caught up with her over an informal Zoom chat and discussed her day-to-day life, motives for starting the jfa, and what she hopes for the future of the publication.
When does your day usually start?
So, we work very flexible hours. It could be that we log in during the evenings to do a little check-in and get our tasks done for the day. We usually also have Sunday meetings […] where we all get together on Zoom and within a span of like, two, three hours, just talk about what we are doing during the week and what we [want] to achieve.
My day could range from a normal nine-to-five workday, but some days, it could be an evening situation where I’m working from 6pm to around 9:30pm.
When you were growing up, what did you think you might be when you were older?
When I was younger, I had so many dreams. I think when you’re a kid, you have all these crazy dreams of owning an ice cream store or being a vet — but you don’t consider the reality. I grew up in Thailand, where the political climate was so unstable and constantly in flux.
The changes that were happening around me made me want to contribute the skills that I had to making the world a little better. So for me, that’s always been photography and writing. When I was growing up, I was looking inward and [asking], “What can I do with what I have to make things a little bit better?”
What surprises you most about your job?
Every time I get an email from a contributor who lets us know the progress that they’ve made […] since publishing their work with us, I feel amazing. We are one of the few publications that take our time with our contributors. No matter how long it takes, we’re going to get you to publication.
So, the fact that people come back to us and say, “Look how far I’ve come.” That’s incredible. We want you to soar.
What does your typical day involve?
My typical work day involves a lot of checking emails, a lot of organisation, a lot of admin. A lot of editorial stuff, as well as checking in on the online shop. Sometimes it’s starting the day by checking on sales, sometimes it’s starting the day by checking the status of contributors.
Sometimes it’s doing website analytics, sometimes it’s doing the budget — which we all hate, but we have to do it. Recently, however, we’ve been putting so much work into our Kickstarter campaign as we’re trying to raise funds for our second print issue.
How was the jfa started?
We started the jfa at the London School of Economics. At the Amnesty International Society at LSE, they were pitching the idea to the students, so it started at the LSE as a university-driven project.
But then, after publication, we all sat down […] and went, “There’s a lot of potential here.” We got a really good response from our first print issue, [for] which the university kindly gave us funds and grants. In August of 2018, we decided that we would formally move out of the university and found our own media company.
“We are one of the few publications that take our time with our contributors... No matter how long it takes, we’re gonna get you to publication. So, the fact that people come back to us and say, ‘Look how far I've come.’ That’s incredible. We want you to soar.”
What are you most proud of?
How far we’ve come as a magazine, in general. Every Sunday, seeing how organised we are, seeing how well our team functions, and how well we all communicate with each other. I think it’s such a wonderful thing to see.
But also to see the tangible impact we are making for our contributors and our storytellers is so rewarding. I’m proud of our progress over the past couple of years. I don’t think we’re The Guardian by any means — but we are getting there. And I’m proud of the community that we’ve built.
If you were to go back in time, would you change anything?
I don’t have any regrets. I believe that things will work out in their own way.
I think that things just fall into place in their own time. It may not be right now, but it might be soon.
What would you tell budding journalists to be wary of?
This might be a controversial opinion. But from all that I’ve learned over the past five or six years, [both] pitching myself and also being the one to advise other contributors on pitching: always tailor your pitch to the publication you’re pitching.
Don’t have one pitch ready and copy and paste it to every single publication. You should take that time to consider why you’re pitching to this publication and to consider if this is something that they’ll take forward. Quality over quantity.
What would you say to those hoping to follow in your footsteps?
I would say be patient. I would also say that organisation is everything, having a very clear idea of what you want to say and the problem you want to solve. In terms of organisation, if you don’t have a solid foundation of work, if you don’t have a solid routine, that could potentially really hold you back.
What is something that you would like to change about the industry?
I think there needs to be more avenues that allow people to get their foot in the door — especially paid avenues. The thing we’re prioritising the most in the Kickstarter campaign is raising funds so that we’re able to pay our contributors.
It’s extremely important to us that we’re not just having these empty statements — that we’re platforming you, we’re amplifying your voice. That means nothing if you can’t back it up with the economic, tangible funds to help people build their careers.
What is on the agenda to do after your working day?
I try very hard to keep everything separate. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but I try to keep everything very separate and organised because it’s the only way I can stay sane.
I love winding down with bad reality TV like Indian Matchmaking and with a fun little Netflix show like Schitt’s Creek. I like stuff like that, that can take my mind off things.
Adaeze Onwuelo is a writer and poet. Her work has been published in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Risen Zine, SAND Journal, Heroica, and Plant Press Zine. She was highly commended in the Creative Manchester Poetry Competition in 2021.
She has upcoming publications in Bookish Magazine and Ergi Press. Adaeze’s writing revolves around cultural analysis and creative writing with a specific focus on poetry.