Behind the Scenes at The Sputnik

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY SARA SHEIKH / SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY

The Sputnik team has always enjoyed challenging and engaging with the Laurier community in publishing student-oriented and student-run content. Many of our volunteers typically take the position of an interviewer rather than an interviewee; however, this time, some of our team members are taking the spotlight to share how The Sputnik allows them to connect academic knowledge with their practical experiences at newspaper, the necessity of a school newspaper in fostering community, and what The Sputnik is all about.

Fourth-year digital media and journalism student Molly Simpson is part of the photography team at the Sputnik. It was not until her first-year photography class that she became interested in photography. 

“I like that my role went against my expectations. I liked that I got the chance to be more creative than I thought,” said Simpson. 

Fourth-year criminology student and sports editor Micheal Okunola believes that the opportunity to share a story through others’ experiences is powerful: “I like to bring a voice to the Sputnik. I’ve learned how telling a story can do a lot for people. Often, people feel isolated and that their opinions don’t matter, but as reporters, it’s our duty to find and share their stories, so people know what is going on.”   

Hana Kidwai, a third-year user experience design student and Editor-in-Chief, oversees the paper, managing different sections. She helps with onboarding new volunteers and occasionally writes but focuses on her leadership role. 

“There’s a beautiful diversity of voices and perspectives within the team, from our staff and volunteers. I am very thankful for all the work our staff and volunteers have put in. The initiative and passion everyone puts into their work makes that possible,” said Kidwai.     

Sara Sheikh, a fourth-year double major in law and society and human rights and diversity, is the Sputnik’s photo editor. Her role entails leading the team’s direction, ensuring that they can represent the article through their photography. 

“I enjoy photography as my creative outlet, and the Sputnik allows me to express myself in ways that I don’t typically get to do every day, especially in university. The newspaper is a chance to allow other creatives to have an outlet and provide insight into journalism,” said Sheikh. 

Umaymah Suhail, a second-year digital journalism student and volunteer news writer, shared her passion for the flexibility her role provides.

 “What I like about writing for the Sputnik is that we are not told what to write about, which I thought was expected. If there is an event that I think deserves media attention, I get to choose what is important and what students should hear. It’s important to have a student-run paper. No administration or faculty is overlooking it and dictating what students write about,” said Suhail.   

Bailey Zimmer, a fourth-year English major, was not interested in journalism until she took a role at The Sputnik. This year, she is the news editor, and her role includes writing her own stories while helping out volunteer news writers. 

Zimmer appreciates the sense of community at the Sputnik: “We have such a great team at the Sputnik. I’m pretty much friends with everyone. I love finding new stories and getting all the tea delivered to my readers. It’s important to have a campus newspaper so students can hear about news directly affecting them.”  

While each member thoroughly enjoys their role at the Sputnik, these roles have come with challenges. 

“There’s so much that we can do as a paper. There’s so much potential in The Sputnik but so little time to really exercise that potential. It is difficult to know what we can push forward given the school-year timeline and resources,” shared Kidwai.   

Suhail highlighted her challenge in collecting sources. 

“One of the biggest challenges is getting interviews. I try to shine a light on marginalized communities. I want students to know about their events, but I don’t have a story to write if I don’t have sources,” said Suhail.  

Similarly, Zimmer identified the challenge of student participation: “We do not have many student volunteers to write for us, and we are struggling to get students to share their perspectives on stories. This can be discouraging, but my writers and I have persevered and found stories to write about and people to talk to.” 

“Some of the challenges include keeping things fresh,” said Okunola. “In the sports section, stories can sometimes overlap since it’s a smaller campus, so you have to search to find something new. It’s a good challenge for sure, and it helps develop the skills you’ll need to be successful.” 

Community is a word commonly used to describe Laurier Brantford. The Sputnik aims to contribute to the tight-knit community through student-run media. 

“My friends and I will sometimes talk about something we see in the paper,” said Simpson. “It gives people a conversation starter, and because it is a small community, you get to hear more news about something you may have already heard about.” 

“The newspaper gives a sense of authenticity to Laurier. It helps spread awareness, perspectives, and transparency that represents the school and Brantford. Allowing students to tell the city’s stories opens you to the side that people sometimes aren’t aware of. As the city grows, the newspaper will grow with it, and I’m excited to see how it will look in a few years,” shared Okunola. 

“We want to encourage people to go out and write for The Sputnik or any other publication,” said Zimmer.  “It is important to be involved, and it will look fantastic on your resume. The Sputnik is one of the best things that has happened to me. I was not shy coming into Laurier, not by a long shot, but working for The Sputnik has gotten me out of my shell. It’s a phenomenal thing to be a part of, and I would recommend it to any student.”

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