By Aysha Jamali
The East West Link, a weekly community English and Urdu newspaper with roots from 1997, runs an internship program led by Bureau Chief Masood Farooqi.
Farooqi, a long-time Canton resident and former Ford engineer, said he started the paper to continue the legacy of his grandfather, who was a major journalist all his life.
“So after my separation from Ford, I seriously worked on it for the last few years, built a lab before and started the program,” he said.
In 2009 the “formal” internship began with the publishing of the first article in June, according to Farooqi.
He said about 22 students have gone through the program, and there are about 13 students currently interning from cities such as Canton, Novi, Troy and Brownstown.
Farooqi runs the program from his home in Canton where he has set up work stations for the interns to use weekly.
“We meet every Saturday morning and there we just brainstorm,” said Sabira Khan, a history and political science major at the University of Michigan. “We figure out what is happening in town, like the local events at CAIR and the Muslim organizations like ISPU. We attend their banquets and their events and cover those events.”
Khan, editor and program coordinator for the East West Link since January, said she leads the meetings where the interns also research global issues, come up with pieces of interest and assign stories.
“It’s definitely improving my writing skills, and I don’t always have to write about what they tell me,” said Areeba Raza, an East West Link intern since November and senior at Canton High School.
She said she can present her own story ideas to the editors at the weekly meetings and pursue them if they’re approved.
Taking field trips and learning from guest speakers is also a part of the internship. Khan said interns met local politicians at the Michigan Democratic Party Caucus, such as Gary Peters and Rick Snider, and also regularly meet representatives from local organizations, such as the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding Executive Director Shireen Zaman.
“I’ve always been involved with smaller magazines and high school newspapers,” Khan said. “But at the college level, getting involved in a major newspaper … I was way too reserved to handle that.”
Khan said the internship has helped her gain confidence and pursue her interests in journalism.
Ammaar Husain, also an East West Link intern and senior at Salem High school, said he has been interning since the beginning of the year and has written about eight or nine articles.
“I’m just participating for the fun of it,” he said.
Farooqi hands over a lot of the newspaper’s responsibility to the interns, according to Khan.
“He usually just hovers around and comes and goes,” she said. “We’re usually left to our own devices.”
The seven to 10 interns who regularly attend meetings are responsible for getting stories and submitting them to Khan by Sunday. She then edits, formats and sends them to Farooqi to be printed.
Although not many of the interns are interested in pursuing journalism as a career, Khan said, it does provide an avenue for their different interests.
“Most [interns] usually have science backgrounds but are also interested in public policy,” she said.
Nadeem Siddiqi, a Canton resident and Muslim American Society-Youth Detroit worker who was invited to speak to the interns, said he thinks the internship would be beneficial regardless of what profession the interns pursued.
“The main theme [of the talk] was the importance of communication and the fact that it is something that we use in all aspects of our lives and every single thing that we do,” Siddiqi said.
He said he emphasized to the interns the need for them to maintain a purpose and relevance to their writing.
“I think that it’s a good place for them to learn, and I would hope more and more people would go through this process and learn from it,” he said.
Farooqi said the biggest challenge for the internship is securing financial support.
“At this point, I am fully financing this,” he said. “It’s quite a bit of an investment I have done.”
Farooqi said the East West Link used the Urdu Times as a vehicle, but separated the internship from it to stay non-profit. He said he’s presenting the internship program to various organizations in an effort to gain their support.
“I would say because of the cause we are working for, the Muslim cause, our media community should work together,” he said.
Interns rotate in and out of the program and three new students have recently joined, according to Raza. She and Husain both said they would recommend the program to others.
“You get to meet new people and you get to improve your writing skills, too,” Raza said. “And make new friends.”