Column: From across the ocean to the path in journalism

In a time of divisiveness, war and uncertainty, celebrations cast light on the importance of media


Masha Smahliuk

Ukrainian version of this article is available at Читати Українською.

Under the blue of the sky and the yellow of the Kyiv golden gates, I heard "we are proud of you" from my parents, and let go of their hands for longer than I then knew -- because I was coming to Mount Pleasant for a year as a foreign-exchange student but got waylaid by the war in my homecountry.

Almost three years after, here in the United States, around 6,000 miles away from Ukraine, a newsroom became my home and journalism became my love.

Saturday night, I was standing in the Central Michigan University Bovee Rotunda, packed full of journalists celebrating the Media Hall of Fame: A place where I never thought I would have honor to be.

The Media Hall of Fame, formerly known as the Journalism Hall of Fame, is a longstanding CMU tradition that recognizes the achievements of alumni in the professional journalism, broadcast and public relations worlds. Dozens of media professionals got together to network, have dinner and celebrate the Hall of Fame inductees.

This year the Hall of Fame inductees were: Los Angeles County Director of Communications Kristina Betrus Hajjar; NBC Nightly News Director Brett Holey; former WXYZ-TV Detroit Channel 7 Anchor Dave LewAllen; Professor and Indiana Broadcast Association President Joe Misiewicz, Editor and Sports Reporter Steve Morse (posthumous) and MLive Editor Leanne Smith.

At the ceremony, Jim Wojcik, CMU journalism professor, told Editor-in-Chief Zipporah Abarca and I that in 40 years he will see us taking the Hall of Fame inductees’ podium, to which we replied, "That’s the goal."

Meanwhile, to a room full of outstanding talented journalists, CMU President Robert Davis announced that Central Michigan Life received the best periodical college newspaper in the nation for our coverage last year.

Last September, I joined the CM Life staff as a news reporter. With only passion and a flaming love to journalism and learning, I covered Michigan gubernatorial elections, international students' struggle with a university-mandated healthcare program, the organization and recognition of Jewish Heritage Week and much more. 

This year I have a great honor and pleasure to be the CM Life news editor, and to have an extraordinary team of reporters. There I was, for the induction of the Media Hall of Fame, and it is insane for me to think how far I had come. 

And this is only the beginning.

Натисніть, щоб прочитати цю історію українською

This September, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a Michigan Press Association Foundation Fellow. With an unbelievably talented and professional Public Affairs Manager for the Michigan Press Association Lisa McGraw, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to write a story about division and extremism in the American parties. 

I talked to U.S. House Reps. John Moolenaar, Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib, as well as Pulitzer nominees and journalists Tim Alberta, Heidi Beirich and Abigail Hausloher. 

In D.C., I had the best networking experience ever: I met John Elchert from Leelanau Enterprise; had coffee with my friends from the Voice of America: Ukrainian Service; and had breakfast with the National Press Association.

Now I am proud to say that the story is on CM Life’s website and is available to MPA partner publications across the state.

I came from a country that speaks a different language, has different traditions and where all my family are. I recall, I was putting off my interview with Patrick Bouman for a reporter’s position because I didn’t think I was good enough – an international girl with no experience or knowledge but desire to write. 

I couldn’t dream to become a news editor at CM Life, not mentioning interviewing House Representatives in the second year of my journalistic career. 

I couldn't dream – but I fought for it because every single story can make a change.

Mom and Dad, I thought I would see you in a year but I stayed here longer. There is nothing more I want in this life but to be with you both and to hold your hands again, but you told me that you were proud – and I want to make you proud. 

I want to give back to this world and to the kind people I met on my way. I want to bring change and power of the voice to those who don’t have it. I want to shine light and to hold our governments accountable. I want the missiles to stop flying above our house and people being killed by Russian soldiers – and that’s why I want to speak up and deliver the truth. 

For you, Mom and Dad, I will fight to make this world a better place with a power of journalism. 

І Слово ще відкриє очі світу і змінить історію. Я люблю вас і сумую за вами безмежно. Слава Україні!

Journalism needs young, passionate voices because we and Democracy need journalism. Wherever you are reading this and whatever your native language is, you can make a change with your work. 

Your path can start here at CM Life and you can go all the way to the Media Hall of Fame and beyond. 

You just have to believe in yourself and fight for your dreams.

Masha Smahliuk is CM Life news editor and the 2023 Michigan Press Association Fellow.