Students start CoC-focused newspaper

A few weeks ago, several professors in the College of Computing (CoC) showed a video in their classes featuring a series of exciting, seemingly disconnected scenes that ended with the words, “The FIREWall. Feedback. Information. Representation. Entertainment. Coming soon to a College of Computing near you,” flashing onscreen. Students, however, were forced to puzzle out what this meant on their own, as no explanations were offered.

On October 17, however, students’ questions were answered, as The FIREWall was revealed to be the CoC’s new student-run newspaper.

“[Originally] we were going to start off with a newsletter that gave students updates regarding technology and the academics and facilities of the College, [but] we started getting really good feedback from students, organization leaders and contributors to the newsletter…and it just grew from a two-page paper to a 16-page newspaper,” said Mansi Sharma, a third year CM major and founding co-editor.

As it originated as a humble newsletter, the FIREWall isn’t yet a fully fledged, independent organization.

“The FIREWall was originally planned by the Undergraduate Council, or UCouncil. Right now we’re making FIREWall into an organization, but currently it is still a spinoff organization of UCouncil,” said Ajai Karthikeyan, a second-year CS major and a FIREWall co-editor.

Karthikeyan explained that the paper’s spinoff should be complete over the course of this semester, setting the paper up for stability in the future.

In order to ensure this stability the paper is now also starting to look for additional staff. “What we’re doing right now is recruiting people under the umbrella of the FIREWall,” Karthikeyan said.

“What we’re trying to do for the next issue is have [Mansi and myself] on top, and everyone else as an equal…then judge them on talent and their dedication to the FIREWall. Once we know them, we’ll give them a position based on that.”

“We’re trying to build the organization before we get chartered, and our current deadline for getting chartered is by the end of next semester,” he said.

According to Karthikeyan, over the course of the paper’s evolution, it narrowly dodged a few rather more unfortunate names. “While we were discussing the name, we had stuff like The Blue Screen of Doom, and one of the candidates that almost made it was Byte Me,” he said.

Karthikeyan described a large variety of plans for future content that could be useful to the students, faculty and staff of the CoC. “There were three main things for the original newsletter…the academics follow-up from Town Hall, which I wrote, Chris [Stuckey]’s TSO technology article…and the events calendar with all the CoC events that were going to take place.”

Many of these features will be carried over to future issues. “For the TSO and academic activities articles, there will be a follow-up or something similar every time there’s some change,” Karthikeyan said.

One of the FIREWall’s goals in its inaugural issue was to profile interesting people in the CoC community. “Along with the academics there was the student life section as well. For student life, we tried to put in two articles: ‘To freshmen from seniors,’ which is like a word of advice section, and the Undergraduate and Graduate Student Spotlights, where we just wanted to focus on students who had done something noteworthy and get the word out to inspire other students,” Sharma said.

The newspaper also features a “Who’s Who” of the CoC. This section highlights members of the faculty and staff, who were asked about the things they would like to achieve in their current academic positions and other questions.

In addition to these articles, the first issue featured a section where each of the eight main College of Computing organizations (Women @ CC, Minorities @ CC, the Student Activities Board @ CC, the Association for Computing Machinery, Anime O-Tekku, the Entertainment Software Producers, U Council and Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the computing honor fraternity) were given one page each to describe their organization and any recent or upcoming events tied to it.

According to Sharma and Karthikeyan, this section will most likely be a permanent feature of the FIREWall.

That is not, however, to say that the format or content is set in stone. The current issue of the FIREWall has a survey on the back page where students can voice their opinions on what they do or do not like and what they would like to see more of. There is also a suggestion box in the CoC Commons area, and the editors distributed an online survey to everyone in the College last week.

It appears that the suggestions are being taken seriously as well. “Something we’re planning on doing in the future is an opinions section, which was actually a suggestion we received in an email when we sent out an online edition to the students,” Karthikeyan said.

Sharma and Karthikeyan also say that many of the ideas for articles and formatting changes for the next issue have also come from students’ suggestions.

“We’re hoping to have the format mostly finalized by the end of the semester,” Karthikeyan said.

Sharma and Karthikeyan say that the plan right now is to release one issue per month, with the next one coming out on November 21.