Seeking the Truth

October 29, 2012 by  


By Sony Kassam

sonyakassem“Because there is too much injustice in the world, and I want to seek the truth.” That’s what I had said 5 months ago to my College of Media academic advisor when he had asked me why I chose journalism. 

I often get asked similar questions from countless peers, parents, and other adults in my life in terms of my interest and aspiration to be a journalist. I could have followed the path of becoming a doctor, an engineer, or a businesswoman like many of my fellow classmates and friends, but I realized in my teen years that I have a strong passion and commitment to bettering the world through media and communications. Though, like many things in life, realizing my talent in writing and my passion in journalism wasn’t directly clear to me. Nonetheless, as I reminisce through my achievements and interests in the past decade, I am confident that becoming a journalist is my true life-calling. 

I remember watching an episode of “That’s So Raven” one night when I was nine years old. After watching that night’s episode revolving around newspapers and journalism, I felt a sudden desire to create my own monthly classroom newspaper for my fourth grade gifted class. After creating applications for and choosing an understudy, “Kids’ News” was on its way. The birth of the classroom newspaper, with its comics, horoscopes, top ten lists, and my Editor-In-Chief ramblings, also signaled the birth of something fresh and exciting for the students. In fifth grade, with the generous help of my teacher, Mrs. Gottlieb, we included a classroom fashion show, an art competition, and many other classroom-newspaper events involving prizes. However, by seventh grade, Kids’ News had unfortunately discontinued as I had to focus on performing well for high school, and that was that, until I joined my high school paper during my freshmen year.

Skipping to my first day at Northside College Prep High School (NCPHS) in September 2007, I discovered that my homeroom advisor, Mr. Chester Tylinski, was also the school’s newspaper advisor at the time. That morning, he encouraged us to sign up for the after-school journalism class to write for The Hoof Beat. I was eager to improve my writing and communication skills, so I grabbed the opportunity to enroll in the class. Little did I know that I would also go on to become the Sports Editor during my junior year and the co-Managing Editor during my senior year, as well as a senior columnist for the Editorials page. During my time at NCPHS, I had the honor of receiving two journalism awards through the Scholastic Press Association of Chicago. I received the McCormick Foundation High School Media Award for Excellent Achievement in a Features News Story in 2010, and an Excellent Achievement in Sports News Story in 2009. Additionally, I wrote for the Chicago Tribune’s high school newspaper, The Mash, during my senior year as well. I found myself enjoying late night layout sessions with The Hoof Beat staff, meeting other teens interested in writing through The Mash, and learning how the media works. I gained a plethora of knowledge through my journalism experiences from knowing how to interview people to being aware of media bias. Although there is still much to learn, these experiences convinced me that I am ready to commit to the journalism world.

I recently finished reading Anderson Cooper’s memoir, Dispatches from the Edge. In his memoir, he described that “working in news is like playing in a giant game of telephone. Someone reports something, and everyone else follows suit. The truth gets lost along the way.” Although I have not yet had first-hand experience, I have understood the consequences of such casualties.

The world runs on media and politics. There are several problems that plague the media and the public, with the biggest issues being bias and ignorance, from the incorrect portrayal of Islam after the 9/11 attacks to politically-sided newscasts. However, the blame does not only go to the poorly researched stories, but to the public ignorance as well. If people do not steer clear of ignorance, the media will influence them. As a result, people will misunderstand the truth of wars, political events, and other wide-spread social and international issues involving different cultures, faiths, and races.

Ignorance leads to misconceptions, which can lead to hatred and intolerance. A way to combat ignorance is to educate the public and the media outlets themselves. Nelson Mandela, a well-known South African politician, once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Therefore, ignorance can be countered through much needed education. This is where the media’s role comes into play. Journalists, along with the rest of the media world, have powerful roles that shape society.

Thus, I want to travel the world and the nation in search of truth and listen to people’s stories about their struggles. I want to experience the emotions the people of the world feel, and I want to understand what they go through, from those living in the slums of India to those in war-torn countries like Iraq and places of political turmoil.  Unlike the many biases that arise today in the media coverage, as a journalist I will bet my life on making sure that I look at both sides of every story. I’m passionate and curious about topics in politics, international issues, education reform, and human rights, including racial and gender equality. I also seek to eliminate social injustice, and public ignorance and intolerance of people from various backgrounds. Consequently, in addition to delivering hard-hitting news stories and investigative reports, I aspire to write profound thought-provoking pieces about the world around us and its people. I will shed light on issues that the public is unaware of, and I will strive to have minority voices heard.

Currently, I’m a journalism major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I write for the Illinois branch of the online collegiate magazine Her Campus, while balancing work in the Dining Hall. I also serve as a night poster for the University’s paper, The Daily Illini, where I post articles online, create the daily newsletter, and update the paper’s Twitter account. In the fall, I hope to declare a dual-degree in Political Science and Broadcast Journalism. It is my life goal to open the eyes, minds and hearts of people and to hopefully one day be a role model for other young Muslim Americans.

It’s greatly common for the white man to rise in power, but highly uncommon for a Muslim, let alone a Muslim female, to be a part of media and politics in America. Although, the life of a Muslim female journalist may be challenging, Insha’Allah, with passion, hard work, honesty, courage, and strength, I will be able to climb my way to the top and become one of the best and first Muslim broadcasters the nation has ever seen.

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