When I joined Spectator in September 2008, I was merely interested in writing stories. The idea of being an editor in chief, managing editor, deputy, or even a beat chief seemed so scary and intimidating. I was hesitant to become a deputy because I knew that the job was a huge responsibility. At my first official beat chief meeting, I was so nervous. I was so used to just being a listener. As the weeks went by, I started to feel very differently about leadership. It felt great to know that I could be a source of guidance for my beat chiefs. I enjoyed watching them grow as reporters, seeing them face the struggles that I faced when I first started reporting. I began to see leadership as something positive. I also knew that I had reservations about being a leader because I’ve always had a very reserved personality. I always felt that the best leaders were always outspoken, outwardly confident, and assertive. But being a deputy gave me an opportunity to shine and to see that I was a leader in my own way.
Over the years, I’ve become genuinely interested in learning about people, issues, and organizations across Columbia. I see every story as an opportunity to learn something new. Spec has enabled me to cross paths with extraordinary people–students, professors, faculty, administrators, and incredible journalists. It was an easy way to see and be a part of everything at this school. Now that I’m graduating, I feel that I’ve got the perspective of a student but also the perspective of a reporter, which has enabled me to see so much. I know and understand so many different things, like why Barnard and Columbia are separate institutions today, what it means to be a student at the School of General Studies and how it fits into the University, how student council works—I even know a large number of veterans on this campus, and I’m not even a veteran.
I’ve always appreciated my role as a reporter. One of my proudest moments in my college years was when one of my sources said, “I trust you, Madina.” I felt like I had a responsibility to this source. I loved the emails I got from sources about how they appreciated a story I wrote because it was about an issue that really affected them. As a news reporter, it was sometimes hard for me to report objectively and keep my personal views aside. After spending an entire year covering the School of General Studies, it was hard to not feel some sort of attachment. I started to feel like more than just a beat chief but an activist, a spokesperson for the school if you will. Whenever I heard or read something negative being said about GS, I couldn’t help it, I got offended. It felt so bizarre because I’m a Barnard student, so you’d think I’d just focus on my own school (which I do, of course), but it seemed like injustice to me. My impression was that GS students were like all other students at this school—smart, talented, hardworking, etc. My curiosity always got the best of me. I always felt personally affected by everything that I wrote about, even if I wasn’t directly implicated.
I spent a huge chunk of my time reporting and writing during my four years at Barnard. Time and again, I think about how much time I spent doing Spec and wondering what this year would have looked like if I hadn’t done it. But when I try to imagine it, nothing comes to mind. It’s never been a matter of choosing whether or not to be here, I just always felt that being here was the right thing for me to do because I know that I’m always going to have an impact. After all, that’s exactly what I want do with my life.
The author is a Barnard College senior majoring in political science and French and Francophone languages. She was a news beat chief for the 133rd volume and a deputy news editor for the 134th volume.