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 a contributing editor at MediaShift.
My work focuses on culture, power and powerlessness, identity and media, with an emphasis on revealing injustices and challenging assumptions. 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. Since I was an intern, my reporting has also been cited in books, papers and research articles that discuss digital media in an international context, politics and economic growth, gendered violence and sexualized minorities. Most recently, my reporting on skilled immigrants and their dependents is influencing advocacy around American immigration reform and proposed bills to Congress.
Meanwhile, some of my favorite pieces and ones most meaningful to me are on language politics, accents and voice recognition technology, a woman’s gun, SantaCon, LGBTQ subcultures, sports betting, vote polarization, politicking with Uganda’s top female politician, a day in the life of a lookalike of India’s prime minister, and my friend Kim Wall.
You can listen to my stories on the BBC World Service, PRI, NPR, Here & Now and 60dB. You can read them on the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Harper’s, VICE News, Caravan Magazine, Roads & Kingdoms, Slate and WIRED, among others. My production clients include Marketplace, Gimlet Media, New York Times Audio and WNYC. Additionally, I host a mini podcast called “Loitering,” where every episode discusses the influence of space — whether it is physical, virtual or emotional. (The minipod’s name is inspired by the ‘Why Loiter’ movement fighting for women’s right to safe space, which I first encountered while reporting a story on PDA in India. Past episodes have covered homelessness in the library and coping with documenting hate on Twitter).
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. 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.
From 2013 to 2015, I was based in Lucknow, India, 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 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 an inaugural “Rising Star” and senior fellow with the Fund for Investigative Journalism and Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, to return to India and pursue a longterm reporting project.
Before that, I edited Link TV’s news website and curated international broadcasts and raw videos for its pioneering semantic news website and app, which aimed at using video to reinvent world news and social action for the digital age. While teaching 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 then transitioned into freelancing.
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 my work; you can click on the hashtags to see stories by that topic. Please feel free to reach out with ideas, constructive criticism or a hello. I am also available for freelance commissions and consulting.
- 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 2009 cycling trip through Japan’s Shimanami Kaido, a long expressway that connects Japan’s big island of Honshu to its smaller island of Shikoku through several small islands and bridges. The Kurushima-Kaikyō Bridge is the world’s longest suspension bridge and connects Shikoku with a tiny island called Ōshima. I was so upset I had forgotten my digital camera during the trip, but I love the photos I ended up snapping with a Kodak disposable film camera. 🙂