While pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, Sophie Austin takes her passion for journalism outside of the classroom by serving as the Editor-In-Chief of The Eagle, AU's award-winning student-run newspaper. As the first Black woman to lead the publication, Austin is proud of the changes she’s accomplished. “My main motivation for becoming editor-in-chief of The Eagle was that I wanted it to become an organization that was more diverse and inclusive, and able to represent the AU community, fully,” Austin said. She has been able to diversify staff and ensure that the organization’s coverage becomes more reflective of people of color and the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
In addition to increasing diverse coverage and staff, Austin hopes to continue to ensure that the university’s newspaper does in-depth reporting that allows the team to hold the administration accountable. She has also created workshops with professors, journalists, and students to help staff develop their writing skills.
While leading The Eagle, Austin is looking forward to working as hard as she can to open doors for other Black women and students of color interested in journalism. She believes representation is an essential element of journalism as it allows an opportunity for different perspectives to be highlighted. “Having representation in staff allows news organizations to have different perspectives and more accurately report on those communities,” she stated. “People's identities impact how they choose to report on a story, including who they reach out to, what stories they pitch, and what information they deem most important.” She recalls a recent workshop with SOC professor Sherri Williams, where she explained that having staff that welcome journalists of color is important, so they feel empowered to share their voice and their input. It reminded the journalism student that, “having a culture where students of color don’t feel empowered within news organizations does nothing but hurt the organization itself,” she expressed as it pertains to her role.
Austin’s background and experience with representation have influenced her outlook on its overall value, especially in journalism and her work. She recalls attending predominantly white schools since kindergarten, and rarely seeing peers that looked like her. But in high school, she always took the initiative to be involved in clubs that promoted inclusion. “It’s something that’s so important and ingrained in who I am that I see the importance of diversity,” she said. Her hope for a more equitable future encompasses a world where people feel fully reflected in the stories that journalists tell, and a point where people are allowed to be completely themselves and share inputs without being judged or spoken over.
For Austin, she values the opportunities she has been given to learn from professors and her peers when structuring stories and writing well. “My studies have allowed me to see the power of journalism,” she expressed. The EIC encourages students to interact with students from different backgrounds and experiences than themselves. “If you surround yourself with a diverse community and friends, it becomes natural for you to look for diverse sources in order to bolster a story,” she said. The budding newsroom leader wants to leave her mark on The Eagle, and empower her team to collaborate with other journalism organizations on campus to learn and grow.
For her final year at SOC, Sophie Austin has been the Editor-in-Chief of The Eagle. In the 94 years of operation, Sophie is the first Black woman to hold that title; but she is determined to not be the last. She has made it a priority to create a more equitable newsroom and to encourage reporting that more fairly serves the publications diverse community.