With sights set on an innovative and barrier-breaking semester, senior Asher Ali is ready for his role as fall editor-in-chief of The Gonzaga Bulletin.
Ali’s initial passion for journalism and The Gonzaga Bulletin was sparked by his dual admiration for writing and sports. Now, as editor-in-chief, he aims to highlight student diversity within GU’s student body, while still encouraging the university to transform in ways it lacks this integral aspect of campus community.
The Gonzaga Bulletin (GB): How did you get into journalism?
Asher Ali (AA): I got into journalism because, like most kids in high school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. There were all sorts of things I thought I wanted to do—I thought I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, a physicist, a bunch of stuff in STEM—but I took an English class and even though I didn’t like English at first, I realized I loved it. The teacher made the class challenging and interesting and we read all sorts of different novels and works. We read the "Autobiography of Malcolm X," which is one of my favorite books of all time.
I recognized I loved writing, and at first it came from a love for sports. Every day as a kid I remember I would watch SportsCenter and I would see people like Stephen A. Smith, Scott Van Pelt and Stuart Scott. They were some of the biggest voices in my life because they were on all the time and I used to watch them consistently. So, that’s how I got into journalism. Things eventually flipped and I recognized I also had a very big passion for the international relations community and how countries communicate. But overall, journalism came from a love of sports and writing and the conflation between the two.
GB: What kind of leader are you?
AA: I've always been a big believer in leading by example; say less do more. I do have a tendency to talk a lot, but that's because I just want to get my point across and just be very intentional.
So that way there's no ifs, ands or buts about what's being said, because I'm also a very direct person, I don't try to hide that. At this point I have a really solid understanding of what's supposed to be done and how it is supposed to be executed, so I'll explain it well, but at the same time, I won't over-explain it.
Working in a newsroom, it can be contentious sometimes, it can be a little bit nerve-wracking or scary and if I could just kind of collapse those barriers and I'm not going to lie, being direct doesn't always help alleviate those kinds of situations, but if I can kind of relate to my staff in a way where they see me working just as hard as them, if not harder, that'll hopefully bring their effort up.
GB: What are your goals for this semester?
AA: So, this semester I want to show people how diverse Gonzaga is. I'm not saying that it is as diverse as I want to be, it's not, but at the same time, people get this idea in their head of what the typical Gonzaga student is, and I want to show that there's so much more to this university. I want to show that this university has a lot more to offer, but at the same time, I also want to show the disparity and that things need to change, differences need to happen. So in a sense, I want to champion diversity and then also challenge the lack of it at the same time using this paper.
I also want to talk about things that are going on in the Spokane community, things that pertain to the GU student body, things that if they weren't aware of, hopefully they become aware of and want to get invested in.
I want the readers to read the Bulletin and feel like they're aware of what's going on around them because I think the biggest detriment to society are people who are not conscious of what's going on, uninformed people are the folly of this nation, to be honest.
GB: Who is someone who inspires you?
AA: I would probably have to say Fred Hampton is probably my biggest inspiration. He was the leader of the Black Panther party in Chicago when he was 21, which is the same exact age I am.
He started leading when he was 20 and it was the second-biggest chapter of the Black Panther party at the time — San Francisco was first, Chicago was second. I can't say I agree with 100% of his ideals, but what I love about him is that he wasn’t afraid to challenge the norm or the status quo. I want whatever's normalized to be considered and thought about because, just because it's there and it's accepted, doesn't mean it's necessarily right.
GB: What are your hobbies and interests outside of the Bulletin?
AA: I love reading. I'm an avid reader of journalistic articles, nonfiction and fiction. I'm also a huge Toni Morrison fan as well as science fiction, like Marvel, but not just the movies, also comic books. Music is also a huge hobby of mine. I play a little bit of the guitar and harmonica.
Other than that, I play on the rugby team. Weirdly enough, I also really like horseback riding. I also love cooking. I wouldn't say it's like my love language per se, but I do really like cooking for other people and seeing the joy on their face when I make a good meal for them.
GB: What role does music play in your life? Who are some of your favorite artists?
My mom and my dad come from very different backgrounds, so my brother and I got a wide range of different music as we were growing up. With my mom, there was a lot of alt rock like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Killers, Strokes. And then my dad was a big r&b, soul, Motown and jazz person.
I’m a huge jazz fan, so I like John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis. I love those guys. And then I'm also like a huge hip-hop head. My top five of all time, it's pretty basic to be honest, but Kanye, MF Doom, Tyler [the Creator], Young Thug and Freddie Gibbs.
It’s the most beautiful medium of art, because it's one that everybody can relate to some extent. Not all people like all forms of art, but music is that one thing everybody can get behind to some degree because it just resonates differently with the human psyche.
I want to be able to relate to people in that way to some extent with my writing. I want people to see my writing and think the flow is natural.
GB: What is a memory from working at the Bulletin that stands out from you?
AA: I remember at the first budget meeting I ever went to, I was really nervous, and I thought, “OK, maybe I'll just stay in the back.” But I walked in and the editor-in-chief at the time was Joey Thompson and he was saying how it's OK to fail. Just listening to him talk about the willingness to fail and willingness to challenge yourself, that's what makes a great journalist.
He said, “as long as you go out and your intent is to get the job done, and you went out there and pursued it with all the passion you have for that story, then that’s all I care about; that you're passionate about the stories you take.”
That’s what I want my Bulletin writers to be like; to not be afraid to fail, to be different, be artistic and challenge themselves.
GB: What’s your favorite story you’ve written for the Bulletin?
AA: I wrote a story about this student who was upset because he couldn't find ice cream anywhere on campus, so he started a campaign to create an ice cream shop on campus. He called it Bunjilicious, which I think was just hilarious. It was lighthearted, but it was something that he cared so deeply about. He had such a deep conviction for what he was doing and he made it seem like it was the world.
GB: What is the most important lesson you've learned since working at the Bulletin?
AA: I think one thing I've learned here at the Bulletin is that everything can be constructive and everything can teach you.
You have an article and have an idea of who you want to go to, but if you think a little bit harder about who else you could speak to about it, you'll learn something new that you can then add to your piece.
Journalism and an article should never be repetitive as far as ideas and information is concerned. Every single sentence should add a new tidbit of knowledge that the reader can take with them. Every perspective adds something new to an article, so why not pursue all of them?
GB: Do you have a message to the readers?
AA: At the end of the day, the Bulletin is an ambassador for you, the reader. We are here to inform you; our job is to translate the opinions of the people to themselves. So, we want you to see the Bulletin as a place that you can go to, not just every Thursday or Friday, but whenever you want and you will learn something that you can take away.
Reading the paper should build relations between people. That's what I want. At the end of the day, we report on your voice. If you don't feel like we're doing that, please come talk to me, I'm always up here.