College junior Sonam Vashi is a Journalism and Political Science co-major. She enjoys breakfast foods, “that dumb shibe meme” and sitting. As the Wheel’s Copy Chief, she is in charge of fact-checking and editing for grammar and style. She sat down to talk to the Wheel about the closing of the department, its effect on the paper and her experiences as a major.
First, just tell me a bit about the Journalism co-major.
Basically, if you want to be a co-major, you major in both Journalism and another field of study because it’s a great way to ensure well-rounded students with specialities in other subjects. The Journalism program includes training in print, broadcast and digital journalism and does a great job of preparing students for the changing world of reporting while still teaching the traditional foundations of ethical writing.
If the Journalism program was cut, how are you still a Journalism co-major?
Thankfully, everyone who declared their co-major in fall 2012, when University announced the program cuts, will be allowed to complete their degrees, but everyone must finish all required classes by the end of next semester. The faculty and staff of the Journalism program has been working incredibly hard to make sure everyone completes their degrees, so they definitely deserve props.
What would happen if a new incoming freshman wanted to be an Journalism major?
What was your reaction when you found out they were cutting the program?
Dismay, definitely. I understand the University’s rationale, but journalism and news literacy is even more important today than it was 50 years ago, and it’s unfortunate that the University doesn’t seem to value that. There are incredible amounts of information on the Internet, so how will people learn what’s unbiased or accurate if they don’t have the tools to determine that?
How has Emory’s removal of the program interfered with your completion of the major?
I’ve definitely had to take my journalism courses earlier in my college career, which sometimes made scheduling other classes difficult.
So, you’re an editor for the Wheel. Have the cuts to Journalism affected the Wheel in any immediate ways that you’ve seen? Do you think cutting the program will have any long-term effects on the paper?
The Wheel has always been a healthy mix of journalism majors and other majors, which is really cool, but that’ll definitely change. I think the Wheel will become an even more important outlet for journalism at the University, and we’ll have to work harder to train our writers and editors about good practices. We’ve been holding general body meetings with speakers who are professional journalists, which I think is a great educational outlet. It’s a lot of pressure on us, but I think we’re up for it (note: bias).
Why are you pursuing a Journalism co-major?
Journalism is this great mixture of storytelling and critical analysis, and it’s also dedicated to truth. You get to be creative and informative at the same time, and sometimes, the pieces that journalists write, edit or display can strongly affect the lives of many people.
What’s been your favorite thing about the Journalism major so far?
I’m taking a class called Civil Rights Cold Cases, which is cross-listed with a couple other departments. Basically, it’s part of an organization that examines often-unsolved murders or deaths of those that were civil rights activists or advocating racial equality in the 1950s and 60s. This class investigates some of those murders and tries to provide context and justice for those that were wronged through journalism. It’s one of the most incredible classes I’ve taken, and it’s partially taught by Hank Klibanoff, Pulitzer Prize-winner and director of the Journalism program, who is one of the most amazing people at this University.
Other than the cuts, what’s the hardest thing about being a Journalism major?
The cuts. And having to complete 400 hours of an outside journalism internship. It sucks because many journalism internships are unpaid, but they’ve also been some of the more important learning experiences of my life. And I appreciate that the program forces its majors to get off campus and interact with the rest of the world.
Photo by Jenna Kingsley