A lounge area with brightly painted walls and comfy modern furniture welcomes visitors to the Smith College Sophian’s new office in the basement of King House, while in the adjoining newsroom, five iMacs await student editors. An image of Drake from his “Hotline Bling” music video is taped to the wall next to a Smith-specific riff on the song’s pink-and-white album art: “1-800-THESOPHIAN.”
If the new office—which last year replaced the student newspaper’s longtime digs in Capen Annex—has a good vibe, props go to Michelle Soyeon Lee ’16. Lee joined the Sophian during the spring semester of her first year and climbed the masthead to become editor in chief her senior year, all the while working to boost student engagement and improve the paper’s digital presence. Here, the government major and economics minor reflects on her legacy at Smith’s independent weekly broadsheet.
The Sophian is a platform of news, events and discussion within the Smith community. We cover big events on campus, such as the construction of Neilson Library or unveiling that actress Viola Davis would be the Student Event Committee speaker. Some stories warm
our hearts (and our stomachs), like our feature on a student-run food delivery service dubbed the Grilled Cheese Girls. Others are grittier and dig into issues including racial diversity and inclusion, Islamophobia, political events and, of course, feminism.
During the last four years the Sophian has gotten bigger and better. We built a sleeker and more modern website and expanded our social media presence immensely. Editors physically distribute copies of the paper and engage with readers during Thursday lunch hours, host workshops in layout design, copy editing and photography, and stay in touch with the student body with much more engaged Facebook and Instagram profiles.
There is something to be said about the timeless authority of a printed newspaper, but an online presence has undeniably become a requirement for print journalism. In such a hyperconnected digital age, this intersectional role coalesces naturally in the social media sphere. The college newspaper isn’t just a passive media aggregator online anymore—it is an active engager, an accessible contact and almost a personality of its own.
As a Korean American I’ve become more conscious of how discrimination plays a role in the relationship of people of color with the press, and how nuanced biases in media can work against minorities and build a wall of distrust. It saddens me to know this dynamic exists. The Sophian has the potential to realign that relationship to something constructive for students of color and other minorities at Smith through better representation in published content and on staff.
After graduation I will be working as a paralegal specialist at the Justice Department in D.C. Even though I will not be pursuing journalism, it will always play a role in my life. Working on the Sophian has improved my problem-solving skills and changed my perspective on current events and and the potential of journalism for the better.
SAQ, Summer 2016