Aggie editors reflect on the value of student journalism and our personal experiences
The California Aggie, as we are quick to tell family, friends and strangers around campus (who may or may not have asked), is a student-run and independent publication that is the best hands-on experience for students interested in reporting and aspects of newspaper design and production.
In that elevator pitch, it can be easy to understate just how crucial student journalists are on college campuses. As full-time students pursuing degrees—and often multiple degrees or minors as well—student journalists carve time out of already busy schedules to produce quality content to inform the community. Though not all plan to pursue careers in journalism after graduating, student journalists demonstrate a commitment to journalistic ethics and relentlessly tackle relevant issues skillfully and with an understanding of their role. We hold organizations, including university administration, accountable through thorough reporting and nuanced writing.
The Editorial Board consists of The Aggie’s nine editors. We produce two weekly editorials, in which we reflect on issues we think are important for the Davis community to engage with. We are honored to lead our newsroom, albeit remotely, and look forward to continuing to serve as a reliable news source during a time in which accessing trustworthy information is critical.
Anjini Venugopal, Editor-in-Chief
I have always found myself attached to spaces, especially those that cultivate a strong sense of community. When I joined the staff of my high school’s newsmagazine, I would be in room A111 nearly every lunch to transcribe a lengthy interview, to finish editing a late story or just to nap. After joining The Aggie in my first quarter at UC Davis, I found myself spending Friday afternoons in Lower Freeborn after having finished my work, conversing with peers and mentors over CoHo bagels and one too many cups of cold brew. Last week, I donned a mask and grabbed hand sanitizer as I entered The Aggie’s new office for the first time since becoming the editor-in-chief. I was even given a key to my own office, the prospect of which had thrilled me initially. But more than any excitement, the silent conference room and cobwebs in the corner by the front door reminded me that this office would remain unoccupied for the foreseeable future.
Since September, we have fallen into a rhythm—it is somewhat choppy, as is my internet as I log onto Zoom call after Zoom call, but it is a rhythm nonetheless. I miss working in Lower Freeborn, but even though we are not all in the office, I know how committed we are to The Aggie and I look forward to working with our entire team in the new office whenever that may be.
Margo Rosenbaum, Managing Editor
Ever since I joined The Aggie, I have become more aware of the significance of student journalism—not only in educating the next generation of reporters, but also in amplifying voices and recognizing experiences in our community. We are storytellers, record keepers and, maybe most importantly, advocates for the truth. After hearing multiple personal stories of inequality while working on an article covering the experiences of students with disabilities in the animal science department, I came to understand the unique role we have in holding our university accountable. In my previous capacity as The Aggie’s assistant science editor, I gained an appreciation for reporting on research. Translating scientific works into language that all audiences can comprehend is incredibly important—especially as speculation of science circulates our political climate. In my new role as managing editor, editing all The Aggie’s content has escalated my respect for the meticulous reporting of students; we are experts of our student body and best equipped to report upon its news.
Sabrina Habchi, Campus News Editor
I am quick to tell prospective students and visitors to campus about The California Aggie when I give tours. I point out the red brick building The Aggie used to call home, some of the several newspaper stands around campus of which I have woken up at 5 a.m. to distribute newspapers to and what the organization means to me. The Aggie means I can go from having virtually no reporting experience to interviewing UC Davis Chancellor Gary May and other administrators. The Aggie means I can listen to voices that often go unheard at picket lines, union contract negotiations and survivors. It means a group of supportive people—many of whom I am lucky enough to call friends—working to inform UC Davis students and the surrounding community about stories, ideas and ongoings through well-researched articles.
Eden Winniford, City News Editor
During my first quarter at The Aggie, I interviewed a homeless woman living in a tiny house community in Seattle over the phone. She read me a poem she wrote about the hope her home brought her, and we both started crying halfway through. Since then, I’ve listened as complete strangers shared their proudest accomplishments and most difficult struggles. They trusted me with their stories and believed in my ability as a journalist to use these stories to educate and help others. To me, journalism is about relating the experiences of individual people to big issues like homelessness and immigration. As a student journalist, my role is to present other young people with the facts that will help them decide how to cast their first votes. I believe student journalism is important because it reminds students that the news isn’t just some abstract concept—it’s the highs and lows that real people confront in their everyday lives.
Calvin Coffee, Opinion Editor
I had no idea The Aggie even existed before I started seeing newspaper stands around campus three years ago. But I now know The Aggie as a place where voices are informed and honest, and where curiosity is celebrated. Working at The Aggie I’ve learned that student journalism provides an ambitiously curious perspective on the world around us. It is where I find myself surrounded by people who actually care about what happens in the hectic world and community we live in. On the Opinion Desk, I’ve discovered how important it is to challenge what you and those around you believe. By doing so, we can better understand the nuance in the stories we hear and can decide for ourselves where reality lies. In a time when truth is obscured more than ever, The Aggie provides a platform and perspective that is shining.
Sophie Dewees, Features Editor
For my staff writer interview at The Aggie, I tentatively walked into the office in Lower Freeborn and took in the room. The stacks of newspapers, the weather-beaten couches, the signatures on the walls from previous staffers and, of course, the smiling face of our former managing editor, Hannah, made me feel completely at home. Since then, I’ve met so many incredible journalists at The Aggie and have been able to interact more meaningfully with the Davis community. As a staff writer and assistant editor last year, I covered everything from innovative art to polarized politics and was able to learn and report on issues that students care about. For me, student journalism is fundamentally about engagement like this: meeting others whom I might never have even spoken with before, sharing their stories and highlighting the uniquely diverse community that I’m lucky enough to call home.
Allie Bailey, Arts & Culture Editor
Some college newspaper staffers have always known they’d write for a university publication. For me, it took a somewhat random decision to apply to The Aggie to realize the undeniable value in student journalism. Writing for the Arts Desk became the best part of my week, long desk meetings and late nights both contributing to my love for The Aggie, and soon, all forms of journalism. The urgency of topics may differ on this desk, but we care just as much as the next writer about fulfilling our goal: delivering credible, relevant information to our community. That is, to me, what journalism is, and the group of talented and hardworking students that are committed to this ideal at our student publication is one of the few things keeping me optimistic about the future of rigorous journalism and this country as whole.
Omar Navarro, Sports Editor
Starting at The Aggie with zero journalism experience also came with a lot of questions. The majority of it was how my work was going to be perceived, as I was just starting out and in the field of sports, I was by far the youngest. There is a certain disadvantage that many think student journalists carry due to their inexperience, but as I learned quickly, we have a unique opportunity of doing our jobs as well as learning something new as we go. There is no better way to practice producing quality content for the community than by doing it. The point of view and writing from a student journalist is one that can only be experienced, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Maddie Payne, Science Editor
Last March, in the basement of Mrak Hall, surrounded by camera crews, local news reporters and UC Davis officials answering calls from CNN and the LA Times, I attended a press conference for the very first time. Sweaty from the ARC and surrounded by journalism professionals, I felt intimidated and a bit out of place, not sure if I had something valuable to contribute while national news organizations were covering UC Davis’ very first cases of coronavirus. But as I began taking notes and listening to the questions being asked, I realized that these journalists, though skilled and well-intentioned, didn’t know what it was like to be a student at Davis, especially during a time of fear and uncertainty when many of us were worried about the health and safety of our community. Learning from this experience, I recognized that one of the most valuable aspects of local, student-run journalism is that it provides student perspectives on issues impacting us the most. I am so grateful for The California Aggie for giving me these experiences that I can learn and grow from and teaching me how to best serve our community as a student journalist.
Written by: The Editorial Board