To us, Jan Fran embodies what it means to be a wild woman. She’s intelligent, loud, funny, driven, and has some serious sass. Jan, in our opinion, is one of Australia’s best young journalists and TV presenters. Not sure who we’re talking about? Go watch The Frant over at The Guardian or her Brief History of the Dildo video. Now that you two have been acquainted, pour yourself a glass of Shiraz and keep reading.
Jan, who confesses to have always been “quite opinionated — just ask my parents”, made her name through working at The Feed on SBS Viceland. You’ll now find her on Network Ten’s The Project, hosting ABC’s The Pineapple Project podcast, and chiming in on Tom Tilley’s new podcast, The Briefing. She’s even won one of Australian journalism’s highest accolades: a Walkley Award. We love Jan for her satire, smarts and humour, but has she always been this way?
“I’ve always been loud, but you can’t just have a voice — you need to work out a way to get that voice to people,” she explains. For Jan, her voice and opinions were first nurtured at SBS in 2013. After a six-year stint she left SBS, yet her voice has continued to inform and inspire millennials everywhere — thanks to social media.
The online world
Unfortunately, having a public profile often invites trolls, but Jan’s audience is respectful. “I’m lucky not to be in the firing line of trolls, which I imagine would suck a lot,” Jan says. But that doesn’t mean her followers don’t speak up and share their points of view.
Jan is very pragmatic when it comes to people sharing their opinions, especially when they differ to hers. “When you’re like me and so public about things, people have a right to comment on them or have an opinion on what you’re putting out there. I don’t mind if their opinion differs from mine; they might have a new source or study that I may have missed. I want them to throw their hat into the ring, throw their voice into the comment section,” she shares. “Social media has been great in a lot of ways because it has amplified the voices of people we wouldn’t usually hear from.”
Since having a public profile, however, Jan has found that being constantly connected online can very quickly zap your time, energy and brain power. “Social media never switches off. It’s infinite. I’ve had to draw some boundaries between myself and being constantly online.”
One of the things that has helped Jan create healthy boundaries on social media is her “block hard, block fast” rule. “I am a big fan of blocking anyone, anywhere, for whatever reason,” she says. “If someone doesn’t like the look of your face then they can block you — that is their prerogative. And maybe you don’t agree with that or maybe that’s objectively incorrect, but they have every right to do that. You just don’t know what is going on with that person or what kind of day they’ve had,” she says. “If we are going to continue having conversations through mediums like social media that privilege antagonism, to some extent, then we’ve got to make boundaries around our mental health.
“I think people think my page is a democracy and it’s not. It’s a dictatorship and I am the dictator. It is my page and I run it how I want to run it. And it’s totally okay if you don’t agree with that; you are free to unfollow my page.”
Influence during times of crisis
When it comes to using her influence and platform during times of crisis, like the global pandemic, Jan says that “sometimes the best thing you can do is shut the f**k up. In times of crisis, people need to hear from those in the know and if your voice is going to cloud that, then you should think long and hard about how you should use your voice. It’s not always what you say — it’s what you don’t say that can have a much more profound impact.”
She shares that she reluctantly created two videos during the COVID-19 crisis, both of which amplified expert voices and shared links to reputable sources. Jan says that in those videos, “I shared expert immunologists who were talking about the spread of the virus and how we can curtail it. It’s important to hear from people who know what they are talking about and not just the voices in mainstream media.”
Writing her memoir
During COVID, Jan has been in the midst of writing her memoir, Of Middle Eastern Appearance, which will be published in 2021. “Writing the book has been an adjustment because I’m so used to having daily deadlines. A book has a really long deadline and I’ve had to set myself many more immediate deadlines to get through it.” Wishing she could write her pages from the pub or a café, Jan notes that the global lockdown hasn’t been easy for writing. “Lockdown isn’t really conducive to getting the creative juices flowing; there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of my work processes have changed, so I’ve had to prioritise that.”
Recording podcasts and videos from home during lockdown has been a learning curve, with lots of technical issues, but Jan’s more concerned about the future of journalism. “Local and regional newsrooms across Australia are shutting down or going digital. We’re in a transitional phase and it could be good or bad for the industry,” she suggests. Despite the changing landscape, Jan will continue to tell people’s stories. “Being a journalist gives me open access to people. I can ask someone about their life and because I’m in this position where I’m reporting on their story, they trust me. And suddenly, we’ve had a conversation for half an hour. It’s like a key to people’s lives.”
For more, visit Jan at @jan__fran on Instagram.