Saturday, June 15

Passion, perseverance inspired me to use my voice, continue writing for The Bruin -30-

Emily Samuels stands for a portrait in front of Royce Hall wearing a graduation sash. (Courtesy of Emily Samuels)

For as long as I can remember, writing has been the thing that makes me tick.

For a writer to understand how to “put the words together” – as my high school English teacher Mr. D’Onofrio would say – is the most beautifully liberating feeling in the world. And to put the words together on behalf of someone else and share their story is even better.

Being the yerd – yearbook nerd, if you aren’t familiar with the term – that I was in high school, everyone told me I had to apply for the Daily Bruin when I attended UCLA. So that’s exactly what I did. Captivated by The Quad’s explanatory lens and blog-like style, I applied in December of my first year. By February, I was writing my first Week in Review article.

To say I learned a lot about the journalistic process in those first few months would be an understatement. The first article I ever wrote – about the freshman experience on campus during the pandemic – was cut after the final stage of edits. The angle I pitched didn’t match what my editors were expecting, and the piece was redundant to previously published stories.

I was devastated at the moment, feeling like all of that research, sourcing, interviewing and writing was for nothing. But I realized quickly that a good journalist can pivot without hesitation.

I loved that The Quad unleashed my ability to take topics that are meaningful to me – from sibling bonds to mental health to natural hair expression – and contextualize them. I had the opportunity to talk to and learn from so many brilliant people, from students and professors to community leaders and subject-matter experts.

It wasn’t long before I became eager to dip my toes into more sections of The Bruin. The summer after my first year, I cross-trained into the Opinion and Arts sections, and in the following fall quarter, I was accepted onto the Editorial Board. As a result, I was able to see how each section ran its own show yet remained committed to a cohesive paper.

The opportunity for growth I received from The Bruin extended beyond my work in Kerckhoff 118. I got my first big-girl journalism internship, thanks to the Daily Bruin Alumni Network, which sponsored a 10-week fellowship for one Daily Bruin writer to shadow the demographics and equity editor of the Orange County Register. As a rising senior at the time, I could not have been more grateful for the opportunity to experience the hustle and bustle of breaking news and gain a glimpse of what a career in the newsroom could look like after college.

Oct. 7 – the deadliest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust – turned my world upside down. I needed The Bruin to express my heartbreak and anger, and I believe that the Bruin needed me – someone who would unapologetically and wholeheartedly stand up for her community. While my coverage in The Quad consisted of stories on Jewish life at UCLA and the history of antisemitism, I felt an urge and responsibility to speak up like never before.

But using my voice was far from easy. If I had not fought for my Opinion column describing my experience as a Jewish student in the aftermath of Oct. 7 to be published the way I knew the story deserved to be told, it wouldn’t have been.

Even more devastating for me was reading multiple editorials – written by the same Editorial Board I used to sit on – demonstrating blatant bias.

For instance, one editorial criticized USC’s decision to cancel the valedictorian’s speech at the main commencement, but her social media links to pages calling for the “complete abolition” of Israel and describing Zionism as a “racist settler-colonial ideology.” Even louder than this story, which conflated the principles of freedom of expression with the acceptance of dangerous antisemitic stereotypes, was the Board’s silence immediately following Oct. 7. Where was the editorial calling for Gene Block to denounce the attack and support all affected students?

I had always felt immensely proud to be a part of an organization like The Bruin, but in those moments, I felt ashamed. The purpose of the paper is to uplift all perspectives and sides to a story. However, as certain voices – many of which perpetuated hate towards Jewish people and Israel – were embraced, mine was questioned and I was left feeling like an outsider.

As I prepare to embark for the real world, I feel grateful for all the edits, Slack messages and meetings with my editors regarding their comments on that narrative. Those difficult conversations taught me how to fight for what you know is right because nobody else will do it for you.

I also learned that it’s always worthwhile to tell your story. The truth is more important than the public’s perception of you because that’s what being a good journalist is all about. If my story could reach just one other person, providing hope or inspiring them to rethink their views, then I knew that would be something to be immensely proud of – and it did. I received so many messages from family, friends, faculty and even complete strangers thanking me for my passion and commitment.

To the Daily Bruin: It’s been one hell of a ride. We explored together, and we cried together. You taught me some really tough life lessons, and you inspired me to always continue writing.

For that, I thank you. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.

Emily Samuels was a Quad, Arts and Opinion contributor 2021-2024 and editorial board member 2021-2022.

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.


Comments are closed.