In the Wheel’s 101-year history, more than 100 editor-in-chiefs have led the paper. After tenures marked by inordinate hours of editing and debating journalism ethics, these editors have chosen a variety of post-graduation paths, from television producers to business executives. Former Editor-in-Chief Zachary Hudak (17C) extended his student journalism work into a professional career, covering the presidential election at CBS since 2016.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
The Emory Wheel: Can you go over your journalism history — when you were at the Wheel and what you’ve been doing since?
ZH: When I got to Emory, I planned to play baseball, but started working for the Wheel. It got to a point where I couldn’t do both and had to make a decision. I picked the Wheel and ended up becoming sports editor, and just got more and more into it. I ran the paper from 2016 to 2017, which was a particularly chaotic year.
Overnight, a few people wrote in chalk across campus various pro-Trump slogans. There was a protest the next day, and the paper covered it. There were people who wanted to give a narrative about how college students are “snowflakes.” It became an easy story to manipulate. I cranked out a letter from the editor, essentially saying, “Here’s the situation.” That letter blew up, and I was 21, talking on CNN and Al Jazeera.
I think I barely slept that year-long period, but no matter how late I had driven home from the Wheel offices before, every morning I would wake up excited to work on the paper. Some point through all this, I realized there’s nothing else I could imagine myself doing.
Starting in 2018, I started covering Elizabeth Warren’s campaign . So in that job you kind of follow the candidate literally everywhere. I essentially didn’t have a home for that nine-month period. The job was the best I could hope for for my own development and education. It was tremendous fun.
This year I was assigned to cover Pennsylvania, which has been great. This is the first time that anyone in the state can vote by mail without an official excuse, so we’ve got this mass influx of mail voting. That’s created legal nightmares and also a logistical nightmare. I’ve been covering the challenges of that.
TEW: Who is the most memorable person you’ve interviewed and why?
ZH: It would have to have been a guy in Detroit around the Detroit debates. His wife, the year prior, had been deported. He was a citizen. She was here illegally. I was sitting at the steps of this church, talking to this guy. He had his three daughters from ages three to 10, weeping to me, telling me about this. It, so vividly, put a face to policy.
TEW: What are your short-term and your long-term goals for your career?
ZH: This job at CBS I wanted since I was working at the Wheel. I wish I had something like that to say is next — like I want this job in however many years. Not really the case. I think part of that is because the job covering the campaign has been such an experience that itself has changed me a lot and has made me wonder about what I want to do.
I think that eventually I’d like to return to more of the management side. I really enjoyed that at the Wheel — running a newsroom. Right now, I just want to become a better reporter and do something where I’m similarly fully immersed on a single topic.
TEW: What advice would you give current undergraduates interested in a journalism career?
ZH: I think you should work for the Wheel. You got to talk to people. You can’t do this job without talking to people. I think the sooner you get into the habit of just very, not aggressively, but persistently talking to people, the better off you’re going to be.
Don’t start writing until you know what you’re going to say. The process of physically putting the word on the page, of constructing the sentences, I don’t find that hard. But the process of organizing ideas and figuring out what I’m trying to say, I do find really hard. And I think the problem a lot of young folk have is that they try to write a story before they know what the story is.
Intern wherever you can. When you’re there as an intern, you should be excited to do anything, within reason. You have to show that you can do it, that you want to do it. I think going to work on the weekends is really important. That’s when places are understaffed, and they’ll let you do stuff that otherwise you would never be given the responsibility to do.
News is around you — cover it.