Real Newspaper People
Get to know some of the key people at your award-winning Crimson White
It’s easy to equate The Crimson White to just a newspaper that appears in the many boxes across campus on Monday and Thursday mornings. But there are many people behind this newspaper who work every day to make sure they produce the best newspaper possible to represent our campus. The paper has won the Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker Award, considered the highest honor among American college newspapers, three times in its 126-year-long run, and the third time just happened to be last year, under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Savannah Bullard. And the previous year’s editor-in-chief Jake Stevens.
Bullard is a 21-year-old journalism major, with a minor in art and a concentration in printmaking. She came to UA, she says, to study journalism and to work at the CW. A graduate of Sparkman High School near Huntsville, she considers herself a native of both Alabama and Tennessee. After all, her grandparents lived on Stateline Road, where it’s like their mailbox was in Tennessee and their house was in Alabama, “… so truly on the state line.” She’s the oldest of eight siblings, the youngest being 7, and her parents have been separated for as long as she can remember, but she had everything she needed, and she loves her hometown with all of her heart. She’s known among her family and friends as a super try-hard nerd, who skipped class in high school to attend a journalism convention.
During her time as editor her main goal was personifying the newspaper.
“That means showing the people behind the pages,” she says, or basically making people aware that when they comment they’re talking to real people, not just a text box. Bullard accomplished this with aggressive Get On Board Day efforts and social media campaigns. When I asked her about the Pacemaker Award, that was the most excited I’ve ever seen her. “Just being finalists, that was crazy, I was freaking out. When they called our name it was incredible. It was instant shock.”
The Crimson White’s first female editor was in 1942, almost 50 years after the paper’s founding. As one of the 20 female editors since then, Bullard thinks this speaks to how far female students have come at UA, with continuously strong and outstanding female editors. Next year the CW editor will be current news desk editor Rebecca Griesbach.
“She will be absolutely phenomenal,” Bullard said.
After graduation, Bullard hopes to find herself in a place where the news scene will be similar to that of Tuscaloosa. Places like New York City and Washington D.C are at the top of her ambitions.
“If I can find the perfect job, and the perfect apartment and the perfect 12 roommates to be able to do that, then I may be going north after graduation,” she says with a laugh. But she’s keeping her options open, looking toward locations that include Texas and Atlanta.
While Bullard holds one of the most important positions at the CW, there are many other people in the newsroom who help produce the print edition. Her right-hand man is Ben Stansell, who works as the managing editor and, as such, has been integral to the planning and production of each issue. Another key staff member is Ryan Riha, who as digital editor works tirelessly to get stories online, and trying to make sure they are compelling, not simply just a headline, photo in the top corner, and story. Elsewhere in the newsroom, there are desk editors running each of the four main sections of the newspaper — News, Opinions, Culture, and Sports — along with the photo, copy editing, and design desks. There is an editor and assistant editor for all desks except for opinions where there is only an editor. There is also a large group of reporters who write stories before filing them to the desk editors.
At the news desk, we have Rebecca Griesbach and Reid Bolling, with the occasional help from Griesbach’s dog Albert, who has become a CW mascot of sorts. Bolling’s mom cooks the best biscuits ever, according to Bullard. The culture desk is headed by two strong women, Meghan Mitchell and Leah Goggins. Goggins is a quiet leader and Mitchell one of the most confident people Bullard says she has ever met. Two “Jameses” in the room run the sports desk, James Ogletree and James Benedetto. Their fellow students have affectionately dubbed Ogletree as “G” and the other James as either “Benedetto” or “Pigeon,” which is hockey slang for dumb or messed up, which is the opposite, actually, of the real Benedetto. Everyone that I asked about G said that he was the nicest, most kindhearted individual they’ve ever met, and he also knows everything about sports. Benedetto makes Bullard laugh harder than anyone in the newsroom. Opinions has Brett Hodges as its editor, whose cadre of columnists tend to show up unannounced at his apartment, Bullard says, at his apartment at any time.
Other than the four main desks, there are three other desks that have a major part in getting the paper rolling. David Palmer, Alexander Plant, and Hannah Saad read these stories multiple times throughout the night at the copy desk, checking for grammar issues, mistakes, etc. Saad, who is also the photo editor, along with Assistant Photo Editor Keely Brewer takes many of the phenomenal photos that appear in the newspaper week to week. Saad has extensive knowledge of sports, and the newsroom is currently participating in a fantasy hockey team, where she is beating basically everyone including Benedetto. The design desk is my favorite, but that’s because it’s where I sit. Carly Farmer is the lead visuals editor and Bullard says that she always comes in ready to show her what crazy socks she has on. Madison Ely is the lead page designer, who Bullard got along with instantly and has made her grilled cheese in the late hours of the night at her own house. Overall there about 100 people on the CW staff, but these are the people who make up the newsroom on production nights, and everybody says that’s the best part about working at the CW. The second family that they’ve gained, they hang out and go get lunch, the relationships don’t stop at the doors of the Office of Student Media (OSM.)
I have no doubt in my mind that Rebecca Griesbach will do great next year as editor, and it will be an added bonus to see Albert in the newsroom for another year. But I will miss Bullard and the energy she brings to production nights. Editors to come will have big shoes to fill personality-wise, but I’m excited to see what Bullard will accomplish after graduation.