Student Career Spotlight: Being a Journalist at The Daily Trojan
With a circulation of over 10,000 on the campus of the University of Southern California, The Daily Trojan was founded in 1912, and is notable for its famous alumni in and out of journalism. Satirist Art Buchwald, columnist Rob Asghar, Freaks and Geeks creator and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, and Kate Mather, reporter for the Los Angeles Times, all began their careers at The Daily Trojan.
Southern California University
Bio:I’m a senior majoring in English literature at the University of Southern California. I’m also the incoming Editor-in-Chief of both the summer edition of our publication, Summer Trojan, as well as the Fall 2014 edition of the Daily Trojan. Prior to my tenure as EIC, I was also a sports columnist, a sports beatwriter, a Lifestyle section editor and a managing editor at the Daily Trojan. I plan to attend law school after graduation, but I’m also not ruling out working as a food critic or working in food writing. In either case, I hope to become an attorney representing or working with 501(c)(3) organizations.
1. Tell me about yourself outside of journalism.
I’m currently an English major at USC, so journalism actually wasn’t my first calling. I’m a huge fan of Romantic era poetry, especially Blake, Coleridge, Keats and Shelley. I spend a lot of time reading, eating at new restaurants or listening to music. For classical music I really enjoy, again, the works of romantic era composers like Chopin, Faure, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff. For hip hop music I enjoy a little 2 Chainz and Waka Flocka Flame.
2.Why do you work in journalism?
Journalism is an amazing field: for the individual, it tests your ability to process and present information as quickly and as accurately as possible. There are varying degrees of creativity available to writers, ranging from the more strategic concerns of the news brief, profile or feature, to the more tactical concerns available to arts writers (who are afforded a bit more poetic license), to a possible synthesis of arts and news writing in sports writing. It’s the truest test of a writer’s ability to remain professional: can you write well, and can you do it in a way that creates a meaningful product?
3. What kind of stories do you look for from your writers?
Usually we want a healthy variety of stories to create a nice balance, but from our strongest and most experienced writers we’ll definitely be looking for more long form features and profiles. One of the major ways I want to tackle the notion of “print is a dying medium” is to use those investigative methods we learn in print publication to parse out stories on campus or in the community that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. We have a website for our online presence and breaking news, but the print product should reflect a lot more long form and features– our readership tends towards more highly educated people who expect a lot out of us. So in this case it’s definitely about pushing our limits as journalists and writers and serving our readership.
4. What do you think The Daily Trojan does differently from the rest of College newspapers?
I can’t really speak for other college newspapers since I haven’t been in their newsrooms, but I think what we have at the Daily Trojan that is probably hard to find anywhere else, is an incredibly loyal readership and, consequently, a consistently high circulation. The Trojan family isn’t just a glitzy sounding colloquialism around here– it’s very real, and it’s reflected in our numbers. Our alumni, administrators and students remain uniquely committed to keeping us accountable, reading our paper and sending us letters and feedback about our stories. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve this specifically educated readership. Also, we are located at the heart of the entertainment industry and boast perhaps the finest film school in the nation, as well as consistently strong athletic programs. USC has a reputation of not just being in one of the largest media markets in the world, but it’s a university where everything always seems to be “happening.” To be the ones charged with covering all the news fit to print in a place like USC is an opportunity and responsibility of tremendous value to myself and my staff.
Bio: Isabella Sayyah is a rising junior majoring in international relations and print and digital journalism. She works as a managing editor at the Daily Trojan and has previously held internships at VICE Media and RYOT. This summer she will be interning at the Los Angeles Times. Upon graduation, Isabella hopes to pursue a JD and work in media law.
1. Tell me about yourself outside of journalism.
I’m a rising junior at USC where I’m studying print journalism and international relations. Though I’ve lived in a few places in California, I spent middle school and high school in Oak Park, a small suburb about an hour outside of LA, but rarely made it into the city except to visit relatives. When I’m not busy with school (which is rarely), I love exploring LA, whether it be by eating at a cool restaurant or going on a hike.
2. What typically inspires you to write a story?
Stories tend to fall into two categories for me: (1) this just happened and it’s news or (2) there’s an interesting person, group, issue, activity, etc. that I’d love to explore more. The first type come less from an inspiration and more from an in-your-face presence. As for the second, I often find that if there’s someone I’m impressed by or something I think is fascinating, readers will as well. Journalism is just another form of storytelling, albeit everything is true, and I believe humans are by nature attracted to certain things in a story like good characters and some conflict. So I usually just trust my gut. When there’s a story I’m really passionate about telling, oftentimes it’s one others want to hear.
3. How do you maintain an objective viewpoint when you are passionate about a subject?
There is absolutely no such thing as an unbiased journalist — or an unbiased anything for that matter — but when you sit down to write you need to divorce yourself from your opinions. I think of writing news articles as acting as a pair of eyeglasses for the reader rather than a pair of sunglasses: you need to clarify a story, not put a tint on it. In the end, though, your opinion should be based off the facts, and if you clearly communicate those facts to your reader, they should be able to form an intelligent opinion as well.
4. Which story has gained the biggest response?
That’s a tricky question because response can mean a lot of things. I recently attended the USC Shoah Foundation’s annual gala where President Obama was honored and that gained attention for two reasons: many big name figures were there and anything the president does will always be controversial. When I was a freshman and lived in the dorms, USC instituted a new fingerprinting system for on-campus housing. That one got a lot of response from my friends and the people I lived around, because they had to deal with it everyday. In the end, though, response that means the most often comes from my colleagues at the Daily Trojan. We read a lot of stories everyday, so if my story stood out, it’s usually because it was a good one.