Hello, and thanks for visiting my site.
I’m an independent journalist, radio producer and editor. I’m a senior fellow with the Fund for Investigative Journalism and Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and contributing editor at MediaShift.
My work focuses on culture, power and powerlessness, identity and media, with an emphasis on revealing injustices and challenging assumptions. My clips include stories on corrupt politics and governance, vote polarization, sports betting, America’s evolving demographics, caste and race, a women’s gun, LGBTQ subcultures and strategic sexuality, media censorship, technology bias, board games, politicking with Uganda’s top female politician, the life of a Strongman, and a day with a lookalike of India’s prime minister. Professors tell me my stories — particularly on the immolation of a “Facebook journalist,” India’s networked “sand mafia,” and a fight over the truth of history in California textbooks — are used as educational materials in their journalism, criminal justice and religious studies courses.
From 2013 to 2015, I was based in Lucknow, India, as a freelance journalist and reported throughout Uttar Pradesh, a state that could be the world’s fifth biggest nation. In 2016, I was named an African Great Lakes Reporting fellow to Uganda with the International Women’s Media Foundation, to offer more nuanced and original reporting from the region. In 2016, I also received a reporting grant from the South Asian Journalists Association to explore the nature of Hindu nationalism, a topic I’ve covered in depth in India and its reverberations in the diaspora, more closely in the United States. In 2017, I was named a “Rising Star” with the Fund for Investigative Journalism and Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, as part of their inaugural competitive journalism initiative aimed at increasing diverse and inclusive voices and topics in investigative journalism.
You can listen to my stories on the BBC World Service, PRI, NPR and 60dB. You can read them on the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, VICE News, Caravan Magazine, Roads & Kingdoms, Slate and Backchannel, among others. My production clients include Marketplace, Gimlet Media, New York Times Audio and WNYC. Additionally, I host a mini podcast called “Loitering,” a sample-size philosophical exploration of modern podcasting that discusses everything from homelessness in the library, to selfies, identity, and why we need to hack audio. The minipod’s name is inspired by the ‘Why Loiter’ movement fighting for women’s right to public space (which I first encountered while reporting a story on PDA in India).
As a contributing editor at MediaShift, I write about business and editorial trends in media and advertising, cover related conferences, and track emerging media and press freedom around the world. Some of my favorite pieces are on Instagram’s role during social upheavals, the Vatican’s social media strategy, and the financial viability of podcasts. My research and reporting has been cited by Nieman Lab, Mediagazer, Pew Research Center and the American Press Institute, among others, and regularly appears on Digital Content Next, a trade publication that represents large publishers like the New York Times, National Geographic and NPR.
Previously, I interned at Mashable, KQED and India-West. I was also a news editor and curated international news broadcasts and raw videos for Link TV’s pioneering semantic news website and app, which aimed at using video to reinvent world news and social action for the digital age. While teaching English on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme from 2009 to 2011, I founded and produced “Shizuoka Speaks,” a grant-funded podcast series on racism, immigration and education in Japan.
I graduated with honors from Columbia Journalism School, where I studied as an Anne O’Hare McCormick Scholar, in 2013, and from UCLA with honors in 2008. After journalism school, I moved to India to study Urdu in an intensive language program, and transitioned into freelancing. More information on why I wanted to do that is here.
I’ve received training in hostile environment and emergency first aid, on the ethics of reporting in emergencies, and on best practices for reporting on mental health.
I’m currently (mostly) based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This website showcases most of my work; you can click on the hashtags to organize stories by that topic. Please feel free to reach out with comments, ideas, constructive criticism or a hello.
- sonipaul at gmail dot com,
- @sonipaul on most social media,
- Signal/PGP: Ask,
- or fill out the form below.
P.S. The current cover photo of my website is from a reporting trip in Uttar Pradesh, India, in the summer of 2015. I was working on a story about India’s sand mafia, and upon returning from field reporting, my driver suddenly stopped the car. A peacock was crossing the road. 🙂