March 22, 2019

Article by Ola Salem, an MS in Professional Writing student, listed in Foreign Policy’s Top Ten Stories of 2018

Published in December, Ola’s article Saudi Arabia Declares War on America’s Muslim Congresswomen was ranked as one of the most read FP articles for the year, based on reader clicks.


Saudi Arabia Declares War on America's Muslim Congresswomen


Below is a short interview with Ola about this experience and her professional writing goals:


Q: How did it feel to make Foreign Policy’s Top Stories of 2018 list? What was your first reaction?

I was pleasantly surprised that my story was one of the most read in 2018 on the Foreign Policy magazine website. I was not expecting the piece to be so widely circulated. Within 24 hours of its publication a number of foreign and local media had picked it up and reposted it or wrote their own versions of the piece while referencing mine in their work. A number of US Congress members also shared the story on their social media accounts. Commentators on TV were discussing it with political analysts. One of the things we focus on while studying at MSPW is that our words are meant to be read. There is no greater form of flattery/pride for writers than to know our words have spread and are having an impact.


Q: This semester, you are completing your internship course in the MSPW. Can you describe this experience?

For the past three months I have interned at a multimedia organization in the heart of the US capital, Washington, DC. The hours have been long, but the experience has been vast. As I approach the end of my short internship, I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to use some of the theory work from class in a real life setting.


Q: How do you see this internship work helping to shape your future professional writing trajectory?

This internship has helped me discover what I want from a job and what I would like to do once I graduate. As much as I enjoy news writing, I would like to do more investigative pieces and work on stories that I care about rather than cover every day events. I know that I would not have reached this conclusion if I didn’t work on breaking news with deadline pressure as I did in this internship and in my work prior to enrolling in the MSPW.


Q: What other articles have you published since the FP top story?

Since the December FP piece, I have co-written two more stories for the magazine. In the first article, The Secret Lives of Arab Princesses, I conducted more than a handful of interviews and drew on my own experiences living in the Gulf.  In the second article, Arab Regimes Are the World’s Most Powerful Islamophobes, we look at Middle East governments and how they have forged alliances with right-wing groups in the West dedicated to anti-Muslim bigotry.


Q: Any MSPW shout-outs?

All faculty in the MSPW have been supportive. But two in particular have gone beyond their academic duties to support my work in class and outside of class, directing me whenever I was at a crossroads: Dr. Kristine Kerr has been my academic advisor since I began studying at MSPW in 2017. She has helped guide me in my classes and encouraged me to assert myself at my internship and continue writing; and Sonja Ryst shared her incredible wealth of knowledge and experience to our classes last year. Sonja was also supportive of my work outside of class and gave me the courage to write and pitch my stories.

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