Q&A with Ariyon Dailey, the editor-in-chief of Florida A&M University’s The Famuan
Interview by Alexis Mason, Outreach and Operations Manager at the Student Press Law Center
In honor of Black History Month, SPLC is celebrating the rich history of student journalism at historically Black colleges and universities by conducting a series of Q&A interviews with editor-in-chiefs from three HBCUs: Morgan State University, Florida A&M University, and North Carolina A&T State University.
I spoke with the editors about the importance of reporting Black news, they shared their journey as journalists, and we talked about some of the top stories covered by their newspapers this year. They all spoke about how being a part of historically Black newspapers gave them an opportunity to tell the stories of their communities—stories that are not always covered by mainstream media.
My second interview is with Ariyon Dailey, the editor-in-chief of Florida A&M University’s The Famuan. First established in 1919, The Famuan is a vault of historical events, documenting the sit-in protest led by sisters, Patricia and Priscilla Stephens, the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Alexis Mason: Tell me about yourself.
Ariyon Dailey: My name is Ariyon Dailey and I’m a broadcast journalism student at FAMU. I am also the editor-in-chief of The Famuan.
AM: On your Linkedin profile you describe yourself as someone who is “telling the stories of the people.” What does that mean, exactly?
AD: Telling the stories of my people is a form of advocacy. When I’m telling stories, whether on television or written form, I focus on the characters of the story, and make sure that their voices are amplified. It is a blessing that people trust me to tell their stories.
AM: That’s really awesome. When I think back to why I went into journalism, it was for the same reason—I wanted to tell great stories. I think that newspapers like yours are doing a great job telling the stories of not only FAMU, but the Tallahassee community. What stories have you told this year?
AD: Last year, right before the pandemic, we did a special edition on guns. For this project, I was able to interview Bernard [Thomas III] and take a deep dive into his life. He talked about the things that he is going through back home, and the things that he has seen. He talked about the weight and the heaviness of dealing with those stressors, while going to school. Even though stories like that are sad, I think people need to understand where we come from, as Black students. He told me that where he’s from, everyone has a gun, including homeless people.
I really love that story. I spent hours talking to him, and something that was really important to him was that I not exploit his story. He didn’t like that other news stations and newspapers portrayed him as a struggling Black kid. He told me to have integrity when telling his story. I believe that I was able to tell his story in a graceful way.
AM: I’m curious, what’s your process when it comes to selecting stories like that one to go in the newspaper?
AD: The pandemic has made it harder to get students to focus on on the ground reporting. I really make it a point to encourage my staff to reach out to people in the community for news stories. I love character driven stories. Like, you can find amazing stories just by talking to people. Any publication can report on Beyonce, but I want to tell more stories like Bernard’s. I encourage them to find the stories that no one else is going to cover. It is our responsibility to tell the stories of our neighborhoods. No one is going to tell them but us. It is really important that at The Famuan, we are allowed to voice our stories. We are students at FAMU. We live on campus and in the community. We are living these stories, so it is our responsibility to tell them.
AM: You mentioned that the pandemic has made it difficult to cover certain stories. Have you faced any other challenges?
AD: Before the pandemic, we met every Sunday. Those meetings gave us an opportunity to laugh and have fellowship with each other. But, because of the pandemic, we can’t meet anymore. Also, I miss being able to physically touch the newspaper—physically touch my work. There is nothing like it. But the pandemic forced us online, exclusively. It forced us to be creative. For instance, we had to come up with fun graphics for our ad page (page 10), because we don’t have ads this year.
AM: I feel like the challenges that newspapers have experienced, due to the pandemic, have forced us to think about the future of journalism. For you, what is the future of journalism?
AD: When I think about the future of journalism, I see more Black people and people of color occupying more spaces. I have an Afro, and sometimes, when I step into these newsrooms—people are scared of my hair. So for me, I see journalism accepting people with hair like mine. I think we’re starting to move past traditions where you have to wear a suit and tie to be respected.
AM: Student Press Freedom Day is a national day of action to recognize the crucial work of student journalists and highlight the need to support their independence without censorship or threats to their advisers. This year’s theme is Journalism Against the Odds. I’m really curious to know, as a student journalist, what does that slogan mean to you?
AD: For me, journalism against the odds means bringing back real journalism and being truthful. I think that journalism took a big hit during the Trump administration, and people were untruthful. It is time to get back to real news.
AM: Last question. When you thought about becoming a journalist, when you were younger, what, if anything, has been better than you imagined It would be?
AD: I use to be really scared. I thought that people would only view me as a student, and not a professional journalist. But that’s not the case. I realized that I am just as capable as any other journalist. The confidence that I can do this, and do it well, is a great feeling. That feeling is better than anything I could have ever imagined. The possibilities are limitless, and that’s the greatest thing that I’ve learned throughout my journalism career. There is nothing I can’t do.
Check out the other two parts of this series: Oyin Adedoyin, editor-in-chief of the Morgan State University Spokesman and Jarod Hamilton, editor-in-chief of North Carolina A&T State University’s The A&T Register.
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