Shannon Farhoud is one of two co-founding presidents for SPJ’s student chapter at Northwestern University in Qatar. In her words, Farhoud is considered a “cultural sushi” because of her mixed background. Her father is Syrian while her mother is Portuguese and Indian. Farhoud is originally from Ontario, Canada.
When she decided to transfer out of the undergraduate business program at York University in Toronto two years ago, she applied at Northwestern’s Qatar campus, where she will be part of the university’s first graduating class in 2012. Her degree is in journalism with a minor in political science. She is an aspiring photojournalist and documentary filmmaker, but Farhoud’s career is already taking off at 21.
She is one of three co-producers/directors for the break-out documentary “Broken Records,” which tells the story of six artists who are part of the hip-hop phenomenon that is starting to boom in the Middle East. The film showcases a deep contrast from the average U.S. commercial style of hip-hop that focuses on money and women, and instead serves as a form of revolutionary activism in the combination of Arab poetic traditions and Western hip-hop conventions.
“When we first started off we had no idea where this was going to go,” Farhoud said. “It means a lot to me, as an Arab and as a youth from this region, to be teaching this culture to others and the fact that people have shown a great interest in this film.”
She hopes the documentary can educate those outside the Middle East about this Arab experience and cultural change that has been going on for almost 10 years. The film is on tour throughout the U.S. and has been covered by media outlets including National Geographic, USA Today College and the Doha Film Institute.
Farhoud recently finished a journalism residency semester in Washington, D.C., where she worked for the National Geographic Society’s Mission Media department. There, she worked on radio projects and prepared public lectures while working to group explorers and photographers.
“It was incredible being out and talking with these people and interviewing them and getting to know people in this culture,” she said. “The most interesting part of the program was networking with people in the Society, from explorers to photographers and documentarians. They really opened their doors of knowledge for us.”
Her favorite moment was getting “Broken Records” on the National Geographic website when her supervisor passed it to the music department and “they loved it.”
Farhoud went to New Orleans last summer for her first reporting assignment outside Qatar. The trip included 11 classmates and two professors for a field-reporting project on the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
“New Orleans was an amazing trip,” she said. “I was able to converse with all types of people, from Arabs who were affected by Hurricane Katrina, to fishermen who were losing their jobs due to the oil spill. It was an incredible first-hand experience.”
As a key member of the SPJ student chapter, Farhoud worked to organize documentary showings, including “Broken Records,” and brought journalists to campus to speak about different issues facing the profession.
“It is wonderful being the first international chapter in SPJ’s history. In Qatar, where we don’t really have a strong media law, SPJ is really helping us to promote and structure media law for journalism in the Middle East.”
In school, Farhoud is involved with other campus activities including the student government, women’s basketball team, photography club and other community-building service organizations.
After Northwestern, Farhoud hopes to one day work in producing and filming documentaries for Al Jazeera.