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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Meet the Editorial Board

The California Aggie editors share our backgrounds and express excitement for the start of a new year


As the official student-run newspaper at UC Davis, The California Aggie is the best way for students to gain experience in the field of journalism, especially because the university does not offer a journalism major. We publish a weekly print newspaper on Thursdays and post articles on our website five days a week including breaking news and guest opinions.

Early in the morning, between classes and late into the night, journalists, designers and many others at The Aggie keep the Davis community informed and entertained. And like magic, the paper appears on stands around campus every Thursday. But it’s the unrelenting teamwork and dedication of our student staff (close to magic, but not quite) that keeps the cogs turning, through the first chaotic weeks of class to the stress and triumph of finals.

As the nine editors that make up the Editorial Board, it’s our job to produce two weekly editorials in which we address topics and issues that we think are relevant to the Davis community. Because seven of the nine of us are new to the Board this year, we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce ourselves and share our passion for student journalism.

Sophie Dewees, Editor-in-Chief

Oddly enough, I first became interested in journalism in fourth grade. We had a special, highly-anticipated event known as “Gold Rush Day” in which we created a tiny cardboard town — complete with storefronts for banks (to trade in rocks painted gold) and bakeries (serving tasty, homemade snacks). We each chose our career for the day, and instead of being a banker or a baker I chose to work on a newspaper. While our paper only consisted of a few printed pages of our written work, I remember feeling extremely proud of it, and I had an immense desire to continue writing in some shape or form as I continued my education. Six years later, I discovered journalism in high school. It was the perfect outlet for my love of writing, allowing me to speak with new people and learn how to articulate the important and interesting stories of my community members. While I couldn’t have fathomed becoming the editor of a college newspaper when I opted to be a journalist for a day in fourth grade, I feel so honored to take on this role this year and to have the opportunity to guide our staff as they pursue (or discover) their passion for storytelling.

Katie DeBenedetti, Managing Editor

I often think about my first memory at The Aggie — sitting down in Lower Freeborn after a 30-minute search for the stairs to the basement of the Memorial Union, I felt like the hardest part of my interview must be over. That was until I was asked to complete a “quick and simple” mock news brief (which I then had to frantically Google the definition of). Coming into college with zero journalism experience and a pretty big fear of talking to strangers, I don’t think I would have believed you if you told my freshman self that I not only got the job, but stuck with it for all four years of my college career. 

Now, at the start of my senior year, I’m so grateful that working for The Aggie has been the throughline of my time at UC Davis. During my freshman and sophomore years as a writer, I was able to speak to local environmentalists, business owners, teachers and so many more inspiring and intelligent people in the Davis community. Last year, as the features desk editor, I had the pleasure of working with an amazing team of student journalists and Editorial Board, and this year, in my new role as managing editor, I am excited to support our editors, reporters, photographers, graphic artists and whole team of incredible students who make it possible for The Aggie to publish impactful stories each week.

Sonora Slater, Campus News Editor

When I was five, I wanted to become a teacher. I loved school — the only goal every day was to learn something new. I figured if I was a teacher, I could stay in that perpetual learning environment forever. But in high school, when I started writing for the school paper, my goals changed; I found another place where I never had all the answers and my mission was to find them. So, knowing that I wanted to become a journalist, I went to UC Davis, a school with no journalism program, and majored in managerial economics. Makes sense, right? 

That’s a story for another time, but part of the reason why I chose UC Davis was because I believed The California Aggie would be a place where I could gain real-life reporting experience. Two years later, having written about space lettuce, dark matter, helium recycling and more for The Aggie’s science desk, I can say with certainty that I have learned about things I never expected to understand. This year, shifting to campus news editor, I’m excited to learn about things a little more directly applicable to UC Davis students. Plus, my mom wrote news for The Aggie when she was at UC Davis, so… I had to continue the tradition.

Chris Ponce, City News Editor

I began working for The Aggie last school year, and throughout my time, I have come to understand the vital impact student journalism can have. During spring, I covered a story about a Ukrainian candlelight vigil held downtown, and the words spoken by the organizers have weighed heavy on my heart ever since. People in attendance, many of whom had family in Russia or Ukraine, took center stage to share their stories of hearing air raid sirens, evacuating their homes and seeking refuge. Every single voice that night deserved to be heard. As I stood before the vigil, wax dripping down my fingers from the candle in my left hand and my phone documenting in my right, only one thought echoed in my head. Every student in Davis needs to hear these stories. I rushed home to transcribe the speeches. As I listened to pieces of the testimonies on repeat, being sure to make no errors when transcribing, a tear ran down my cheek. At this moment, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I understood the value of giving a community a microphone. That’s what journalism is to me — it’s taking a community’s voice and sharing it with the world. Being an editor is certainly a different beast. I’m aware there will be mistakes and challenges ahead, but I’m optimistic of what the city news desk can accomplish this year.

Owen Ruderman, Opinion Editor

I remember being incredibly pumped when I picked up a copy of The Aggie, flipped to the opinion section and saw the article I had written appear before me. Ever since that moment one year ago, I’ve been endlessly chasing that high. Now, as the opinion editor, I have the opportunity to give other people that same experience. Student journalism is, I think, as fun and fulfilling as it is useful and necessary. I’m honored to be a part of The Aggie and hope I can make just one person’s day brighter — and maybe inspire another person to think critically — in my limited time as an editor. As a transfer student, it’s inevitable that I will have less time to be a part of this wonderful paper than some of my peers. But you can be sure I’ll make the most of it. 

Of course, I can’t write about being the opinion editor without mentioning Eden Winniford, my predecessor. Without her encouragement I wouldn’t be as strong of a writer, and I definitely wouldn’t be the opinion editor. Even though I’ve got big shoes to fill, I’m looking forward to delivering the hottest takes, wittiest satire and most relatable cartoons I can. Here’s to a great (and heavily opinionated) year!

Levi Goldstein, Features Editor

Since I started writing for The Aggie, I’ve interviewed a high school principal, a Davis city council member, a hobbyist astronomer, a mother-daughter duo who co-own a small local business, a baker carrying on family traditions, a racial justice educator, a local activist very passionate about trees, more than one climate scientist and many others. My favorite part of being a journalist is talking to people and learning about the diverse experiences that make up our community. To me, journalism is about connecting global issues to local voices and being a megaphone for those without a platform. It is both an incredible gift and a tremendous responsibility. I’m grateful for the people in our community whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting and having inspiring, thought-provoking conversations with. I’m also grateful for the people that make up The Aggie’s Editorial Board and managing team with whom I can’t wait to build meaningful friendships. As an editor, I’m looking forward to being a mentor to Aggie writers, as the previous city news desk editor, Maddie Payne, was for me, and to cultivating a passionate next generation of student journalists.

Clara Fischer, Arts & Culture Editor

If you had told my high school self that I would be working at a college newspaper, let alone as an editor, I never would have believed you — but I probably would have wanted to know more about where you got the time machine from. Joining The Aggie on a whim in April of 2020, perhaps fueled as much by a search to find community in a COVID-marked year as by a deeper-rooted desire to emulate Carrie Bradshaw, has set my career at Davis on a different path than I ever imagined. My time at this organization has taught me that one of the best parts of working as a student journalist is the conversations you get to have with people that you wouldn’t have ever thought you’d have a connection with — small business owners, artists, musicians (shoutout Carpool Tunnel) and students alike. Being able to not only continue forming those relationships, but also help guide others through that process, is something I am honored to have in my job description. I’m so happy I took a chance on this publication, and would like to give a special thanks to my predecessor, Allie Bailey, for mentoring all of us on the Arts desk and always offering her sage guidance when it was needed. 

Marlon Rolon, Sports Editor

Last year during a cold night in mid-October I covered my first game for The Aggie. There’s nothing like being under the bright lights at UC Davis Health Stadium. Having the opportunity to interview coaches and student athletes at a prestigious university is by far the best hands-on experience I can get as a student journalist. Fast forward to one year later, that statement still rings true. Being part of The Aggie has opened so many doors for me and working with my fellow staff members has been truly amazing. I’ve met so many wonderful people with bright minds and endless potential. I’ve learned so much from those who came before me; my previous editor, Omar Navarro, helped me grow as a journalist. His guidance has led me to be the new sports editor. I hope to make the most of my last year at the Aggie and inspire the person that will come after me. This is what it’s all about — creating a culture of inspiration and getting the most out of student journalists to maximize their potential. I couldn’t be at a better place, and I’m forever grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of The Aggie.

Brandon Nguyen, Science & Tech Editor

When I initially joined The Aggie, I only saw student journalism as a hobby, but it became more than just that. Having interviewed countless UC Davis researchers at the forefront of science, physicians and nurses at Davis’ School of Medicine and patients who had undergone transformative experiences, I realized the impact and the weight that my writing carried. I will never forget my interview with the mother of a child who was born with a condition called an omphalocele, where the abdominal organs develop outside of the body. She trusted me with her child’s story imbued with the rollercoaster of emotions she felt through the entire process. Now, as a Science and Technology editor, I better understand my role in journalism — one where I am both an informed listener and a responsible reporter of the truth. I am so grateful that I ventured my way into The Aggie, being able to meet and grow with fellow passionate writers and editors, and I look forward to the many more stories I will get to write with my new team.

Written by: The Editorial Board