Fascinating Phenomenon: Future Egyptian Journalists
I majored in multimedia journalism in college. I went to The American University in Cairo (AUC) which is supposedly one of the most prestigious universities in the entire MENA region. Let me stress on the word “supposedly” here.
My criticisms of AUC as an institution are so many that I should dedicate an entire post just for them. But that’s not the issue right now.
As a journalism major, I had to -unfortunately- interact with other journalism majors. Now, here’s why this is unfortunate: the field of mass communication seems to attract the dumbest students on campus and unite them in one miserable-looking building.
During the first three and a half years I managed to minimize my contact with dumb journalism students, but in my last semester I made a huge mistake and decided to join the university’s official newspaper as an editor. I thought it might give me some real-life experience and make my last semester memorable.
I was obviously insane. And delusional.
As editors, we were meant to interact with the dumbest of the dumb; the creme de la creme of the idiots on campus. One editor received an article with a works cited page.
I thought I’d seen all types of stupidity, but nothing would prepare me for the things I would see as an editor.
I still get nightmares about it sometimes. I’m not kidding.
Let me present to you the three main cases that managed to raise my blood pressure sky-high. I’ll start with the least aggravating one and work my way up, because I really don’t want to give you a heart attack.
Note: you might weep for journalism in Egypt after reading this.
Case #1: what is a “deadline”?
This was the first reporter I ever had to deal with as an editor. He was the text-book definition of a slacker. He had an article to write about car accidents that happened right outside campus, and I -very graciously, might I add- provided him with the contact information of a person he could interview as a source for the article and told him exactly where to go to get more interviews. His deadline was at midnight.
Me: “Hey, so how’s the article going?”
Him: “Oh..yeah. So I called the girl whose number you gave me and she didn’t answer. And I went to the clinic like you said but no one agreed to get interviewed.”
Me: “What?! You’re telling me this now? Why didn’t you call me sooner??”
Needless to say, I had to pay the price for his stupidity and handle the article myself. He showed up the next day at the newsroom looking ever-so-carefree, and all I wanted to do was grab his head and bang it against the nearest wall.
But, like I mentioned above, this guy was heaven compared to what I encountered next.
Case #2: You mean this isn’t my diary?
This time the reporter was a girl who could not for the life of her understand that the newspaper was in fact a newspaper.
She wanted to write an article about a student who threw parties every monday.
I have no idea who in their right mind would think a student who threw parties every monday would be newsworthy.
She decided to write the article without any approval from any of the editors, which was against the newspaper policy to begin with. But since we were being given what was equivalent to cat vomit from all our reporters, we were desperate and needed to give each and every article a chance.
I opened the document and hoped to God I would not have to flush my laptop down the toilet after reading it.
“For those of you who know me, you know I’m not a party person..”
I shit you not, this was indeed the very first line of the article. An article in a respectful, professional newspaper that was circulated among students, faculty, staff and workers. And this little dimwit thought all those people cared about whether or not she was a party person.
I took a deep breath and made a note to fix it myself. I kept on reading.
“The lighting in the party was cool it was this dim light like that cool DJ light…”
I slammed the laptop shut and grabbed a knife.
By the way, the same reporter was also the same great mind that said, “the chocolate cake was delicious and soggy from the inside“. Just saying.
Case #3: I can’t copy and paste from wikipedia?
This one wins the prize. This one was so stupid I died a little inside.
She was assigned an article about speedball. A sport where a ball is attached to a metallic pole with a rope and hit with rackets. I explained it all to her in grave detail.
As I was reading the article, however, something did not seem quite right. I decided to google the sport to make sure she was on the right track, because nothing seemed to make sense.
Turns out the girl had copied and pasted from wikipedia.
But, no, wait; it gets better.
She copied and pasted from the WRONG wikipedia page.
Please note that the article she copied and pasted from had a picture of a field and bunkers and things that are not even remotely related to the sport the article was about, and yet she copied and pasted anyway.
Me: “How could you copy and paste? And from wikipedia? And from the wrong page, too? What the hell is wrong with you?”
Her: “Haha, oh, sorry. I didn’t know we couldn’t do that.”
I can’t even describe how terrifying it was that she was not aware that copying and pasting was wrong in the first place. The girl did not understand the concept of plagiarism.
Of course I had to scream about it to someone, so our faculty advisor found out. He didn’t do anything major about it; he just talked to her calmly about why plagiarism was wrong. The funny thing is that the girl started treating me like dirt from that moment on.
I didn’t care anyway; I didn’t want to be on speaking terms with someone that stupid.
Are you weeping for the future of journalism in Egypt? I am.