Here on the VICE UK editorial desk, we're all great fans of each other's work. Sometimes we'll champion a colleague by retweeting a link they've posted with absolutely no additional comment; very occasionally, we'll DM them "enjoyed this" about a feature they've spent weeks working on.
In that spirit, I (Jamie, Editor-in-Chief) thought it would be fun to get everyone to really dive in and review each other's output from 2018. If anything, it'll help me save some time when it comes to the next round of appraisals.
JOEL GOLBY REVIEWS SIMON CHILDS
Simon is the unluckiest person in the UK office, because his beat is "whatever the far-right is mad about this time", "whatever stupid shit Tommy Robinson has said" and then the looming, shadowy abyss of "Brexit", with the occasional light relief of "Theresa May walking across a podium like the skeleton of a woman who died carrying some shopping was cursed by a wizard to dance". Sometimes I see him late at the office – the eerie blue-white glow of the laptop on his stricken face because someone said "Hansard" wrong in Parliament and now we have to have a general election about it – and I think: you poor, poor, poor poor fucker.
That said, we live in complex and calamitous times, and what Simon did all last year was explain that in plain English so dumb-dumbs like me can i. half understand what in the red fuck this country is up to politically at the moment, and ii. I can regurgitate what he says about politics at the pub and sound like I know what I’m talking about, even though I don’t.
He wrote about how Tommy Robinson’s spell in prison could’ve been the best thing for his weird brand of hateful celebrity; the creeping rise of far-right rhetoric in mainstream discourse; he commissioned this recent piece that explained what the FUCK was going on with Theresa May being/not being ousted from the Tory leadership. He’s broken real, actual scoops, which makes me feel very underwhelming as a journalist who sits at his desk all day and writes about worms: like this Tory councillor who was suspended after a VICE investigation unearthed his support for an Islamophobic far-right group; Hate Island, a week-long investigation into the far-right’s rise in the UK; and the anti-immigrant Daily Mail giving its migrant cleaners pay rises (but denying it was down to the strength of trade unions). He also keeps going to really dumb far-right rallies and covering them immaculately.
The main thing I like about Simon, though, is he's only capable of doing one joke voice – you know a joke voice, a voice you do as a joke? You’ve got a few of them, don’t you, but Simon only has one, so he does the same voice when he’s trying to do a bit as a Tory councillor or, like, a cat – and I think that’s quite sweet. As a journalist: near limitless range. As a lad doing a bit down the pub: one-voiced loser.
SIMON CHILDS REVIEWS JOEL GOLBY
When Joel Golby was placed on the NCTJ list of most respected journalists 2018 – a list that really should have been called "a list of journalists journalism students have heard of" – he changed his name to "respected journalist" on Twitter and "respect_boi" in the VICE editorial Slack.
It was in that same Slack chat room where, shortly before I started writing this, Joel Golby was telling me that Christmas lunch should involve no turkey, no bread sauce, but Yorkshire puddings and several types of potato (??). He was telling me this in all seriousness and with undue fervour, and with absolutely no shame. It's surely this sociopathic, wrong-headed self-belief that characterises the Joelby oeuvre.
What is there to say about the work of such a man?
A man who has made "writing-an-unnecessarily-large-number-of-words-about-any-given-topic-seemingly-to-subvert-the-very-idea-of-concision-as-a-joke-basically-to-himself-(as-if-writing-succinct-syntax-is-somehow-fusty-and-old-fashioned-and-needlessly-long-sentences-are-the-future-of-publishing-Look-Joel-we-can-all-do-it-we-can-all-write-like-this-and-turn-the-page-into-an-illegiable-mess-it's-not-even-difficult)" his stock trade.
A man who once wrote a 2,300 word article about how Sean Dyche probably didn't really eat a worm, then pitched the same article two more times, only in contexts where there was never any suggestion of anyone eating a worm, and our editor said "yes sounds good".
A man who pivots from baying for blood with the (no joke) finest and most cathartic anti-landlord invective on the internet, to writing articles based around the premise that he cannot stand to be around other people, like a semi-closeted Thatcherite City-boy.
The thing is, everyone has bought it, and if traffic figures are anything to go by, the ad revenue from his articles is probably subsidising my pension, a thought that will probably still be annoying me even as I embark on my retirement cruise.
Do we honestly have to suck up this shit any more? Unfortunately, yes. Because much as I hate to say this, Joel Golby is a good writer. From one content legend to another: respect.
EMMA GARLAND REVIEWS HANNAH EWENS
Hannah Ewens, VICE UK's resident mental health and reckoning-with-the-latter-half-of-your-twenties expert, spent most of last year valiantly setting the world to rights, primarily via rinsing men (but sometimes women too! #equality).
As a friend, housemate and the one who has to sit next to her and her SAD lamp in the office, my personal highlight was watching her gallop in slow motion through a field of horses in an attempt to find out if equine therapy could provide "inner peace".
Beyond my own inclinations, though, Hannah is often best placed thoughtfully reporting on the sides of issues that tend not to be leaned into, like the millennial gender pay gap, the often fucked up relationships between YouTubers and their fans and the poor mental health response for Grenfell survivors. In addition to spending a frankly worrying length of time immersing herself in the world of Gemma Collins and doing whatever the journalism equivalent is to subtweeting your own CEOs, Hannah headed up an entire themed week about the UK’s Xanax epidemic, which included a film, the biggest nationwide survey about Xanax to date and a series of articles investigating the socio-economic culture around the drug in an attempt to understand its ubiquity – particularly among teens.
HANNAH EWENS REVIEWS EMMA GARLAND
Emma Garland used 2018 to step into her role as horny/grotty writer and editor very well indeed. It's ideal for every millennial to find a way to monetise their lifestyle – so good for you, Emma.
Her guide to responding to nudes for straight men was on the nose, hilarious and necessary – and I, and I'm sure other women out there, are already reaping the rewards of this piece via no longer receiving non-sensical emojis to stunning self-shot nude photography. Journalism affecting change. Her FOSTA/SESTA piece was important: the majority of Brits would probably guess it's the name of a new rap collective or celeb fragrance, since almost no one else is really covering this in the UK. Emma is smart enough to identify that – and for that, I suppose I must "congratulate" her.
Everyone (AKA those who watched Love Island this year, myself not included) will have followed VICE's Love Island content, much of which Emma wrote, the iced gem of which was her piece defending fellow shagger, Megan Barton Hanson. Big laughs, big truths, even bigger numbers. Someone in the world of content had to sit there every night doing fuck all but eating nuggets and watching people chirpsing "for work". Emma was brave enough to do just that.
All this is fine, but isn't Emma Garland also a very well known music writer? Yes, she is, and is still writing about shouty emo bands you don't care to remember, most beautifully shown in her anniversary piece on La Dispute's classic album. As an editor, she did plenty, including "Welsh stuff" and getting that "Neo" lad who does everything in capital letters (I dunno either) to do a column called "Pub Notes", which is quite funny and good. One final note: Emma actually knows what she's chatting about nearly all the time on any subject, shown early last year in her piece: Mr Big Is Actually the Best Character on 'Sex and the City'.
Stay horny, Emma Garland.
LAUREN O'NEILL REVIEWS NANA BAAH
I love Nana. As the youngest and, aha, coolest people on the vice.com team, we sit next to each other, and we complain about the current office space to each other, and sometimes she brings in biscuits (always bourbon creams) after lunch. She is everything you would want in a deskmate. She is also a very good writer, with a very, very specific brand: she fucking hates everything.
This is a mood you can see on full display throughout her VICE articles from 2018. Exhibit A: her colleagues. Remember the time she dressed like a knob at London Fashion Week and still somehow made insulting a large percentage of the people she works with (as she put it, "men in their mid-thirties wearing 2015 Palace tees") into the main event of the piece? Exhibit B: dating. Like when she explained that her last Tinder date ("at a zoo") was with "a guy who kept shushing children because, like all children, they were talking too loudly and he feared this would 'disturb the animals'".
Essentially everything Nana writes is injected with a fair amount of contempt, which is a mood I – a low human Pomeranian dog who gets a warm face whenever I see that a product I regularly buy has changed its packaging – admire and could do with more of in my own life. Although I do just want to say I hate her a bit because not being funny, but who wears a fur rug and a bucket hat and still manages to literally make it fashion???? I’m not having it, sorry.
NANA BAAH REVIEWS LAUREN O'NEILL
Before I had ever spoken to Lauren, I knew that she survived solely on vegan nuggets, which is why I'm surprised it took her until the end of 2018 to write what I would consider to be her magnum opus: "An Ode to Quorn Nuggets".
That distressing lack of leveraging-your-own-life-for-content aside, it was a good year for our resident TV person, in that Lauren got to watch a lot of TV and turn it into a great new column, TV Party, where she reviews a mixture of the new releases everyone's talking about and the shows your mum definitely has on Series Link. Most importantly, she lived and breathed Love Island. She watched every episode and recapped it weekly, so that no one else had to, which is highly sacrificial of her, and we should all be grateful. She also analysed contestants' Instagram accounts and went to see them in the flesh at Love Island: Live.
Besides TV, a couple of my favourite O'Neill moments were when she went deep into "Fiat 500" Twitter and when she managed to write over 800 words about Mr Blobby's chaotic energy. For this, and this alone, Lauren Is a Fucking Legend.