Journalism is where my voice, imagination collide


Lilly Gorman

The Sidekick staff writer Neha Desaraju edits a story on Thursday in the newsroom. Desaraju enjoys writing for The Sidekick as well as contributing ideas to help the program’s content grow.

Neha Desaraju, Staff Writer

I suppose I have my best friend and my over-imaginative brain to thank for my love of journalism.


As many little fourth graders, my friends and I would make up stories at recess about magical schools, beautiful fairies and plants that came alive.


It wasn’t long before I wanted to write it all down.


I wanted to explore firsthand this fantastical world of evil goblins—I wanted to make these characters real, permanent, on the pages of a Google Doc in the prettiest serif font I could find.


One friend in particular had been my partner-in-crime. Veda and I collaborated on the same document for hours every day. With these shared memories of characters who seemed like extensions of ourselves, she became one of my closest friends. We had built an entire world, a beautiful thing I had created out of just 26 letters and a few punctuation marks.


I continued to write fiction through middle school, and I remember a particular conversation I had had with that same friend when we were both older, late at night. She told me she desperately wanted to be an author, but, of course, being an author doesn’t pay very much. I echoed her sentiments—many times, authors do not even make a stable salary. She planned to be a doctor. I planned to be a biologist.


“A journalist,” she said. “You would make a good journalist.”


“A journalist?”


There was a certain allure to the job, of course, but I haven’t thought about  it since.


At least, I didn’t think of it again until the opportunity fell in my lap.


The Sidekick was an otherworldly concept at the time. For one, I never imagined working at a newspaper; how were newspapers even relevant anymore? I certainly didn’t read any. Second, my heart seemed to be set on biology as a major.


However, in an unlikely turn of events, Instagram was the catalyst for the birth of a powerful voice—I had already seen the effect words had on me. I was very much drawn to words as a powerful entity, capable of building an entire universe from dust. Through my Instagram journey, I became more aware of issues that I had always seen: feminism, for example, or Black Lives Matter. I saw the effect these movements had through the lens of an Explore page.


And then I realized I had a voice, too.


I cared about these movements, and I cared about the people affected by them. I started to write persuasively and more passionately than before. My awe at the power of words and my awareness combined to transform my perception of journalism. Because of this, my journalism meant I spoke for the people; for myself and for my young peers who will grow up and already have grown up to rule the world.


It is always said that we, as journalists, have a duty to the people of America. I believe we, as young students, also have a duty to the people of America.


In that case, I, as a young student journalist, have a duty to serve my fellow peers as we grow up in a world where the truth is needed the most.


I am thankful for The Sidekick for offering me a safe place to explore this passion of mine, born out of a seemingly over-imaginative mind at age 11, and thankful for my parents who  fully support me on this delightful, sometimes stressful journey. But most of all, I am grateful I live in a world where the truth is vaunted and where even a small voice can be heard over millions.


I am inspired by the hundreds of voices in media and outside of it, the ones that fought for equal rights, awareness and to preserve the freedom of the press.


The center of gravity, where gravity appears to be pulling on something the hardest, can always be found by spinning an object—in that case, we are being tested as a viable force to do the same. When our world seems to be revolving at numbing speeds around us, as student journalists, we have a gift as new, untested and unspoiled spirits.


We cannot allow our spirits to be tainted.


Follow Neha on Twitter @nehades_