The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Letter from the editor: This Student Press Freedom Day, I celebrate my staff

Letter From the Editor

If you told me three years ago when I first stepped into The Battalion’s newsroom that I would be leading the fight for the publication’s survival and its right to freedom of the press, I’d probably have thought you were speaking to me in a foreign language. I’m an international studies major, after all, focused on diplomacy, not law or even journalism.
Yet, diplomatic I was on Feb. 11, 2022.
After a whirlwind 24 hours — during which, for the record, I was told we’d likely have to vacate our newsroom in the Memorial Student Center if we didn’t follow Texas A&M President M. Katherine Banks’ new plans for The Battalion — the independent student voice of Texas A&M managed to stay afloat.
I could use this letter to tell you my story from those 24 hours, but you’ve likely already heard it. Instead, on this year’s Student Press Freedom Day, I’d like to recognize the amazing, dedicated staff and adviser, whose work was all equally as important, if not more so, than mine in the fight to keep The Battalion as we know it.
First and foremost, to Julia Potts, my managing editor and second-in-command: thank you for keeping me sane.
Julia was in the initial conversation alongside me on Feb. 10 with Dean of Students Anne Reber, and her cool, collected demeanor and hard stare even set me on edge — she had a point to prove — The Battalion was not just simply going to accept these demands.
From “this doesn’t make sense” to “you’re not giving us an answer as to ‘why,’” Julia stood her ground throughout the hour-long conversation. And when shit hit the fan, Julia stood by my side, answering the phone that didn’t stop ringing for a solid five hours, scheduling interviews with various journalists from around the state and communicating with our staff.
To Cori Eckert, my design editor and student business manager: you are a godsend.
As The Battalion’s page designer since 2019, Cori had her job in the balance and a fight on her hands as she joined the Zoom call with myself and Banks on Feb. 11. Despite this, she was professional and polite, even when she told Banks, “I’m disappointed in your decision.” Kudos to you, Cori, for standing up to the woman in power charged with leading the largest university in Texas.
For reference, Cori was named Designer of the Year in 2021 by the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association, a testament to the hundreds of hours staring into InDesign files in the newsroom and the beautiful collection of art she has produced within The Battalion’s print editions. She deserved the opportunity to express her disappointment to the administration.
To my staff adviser: Douglas Pils, thank you for being the newsroom’s rock during hard times.
Pils has mentored and offered advice to every single one of the staff members who walked through The Battalion’s doors since taking up his position in 2014. Even with his job nearly on the line, Pils stood by our side and defended The Battalion’s freedom of the press.
To Nathan Varnell and Casey Stavenhagen: thank you for becoming The Battalion’s “Spotlight” duo, staying in the newsroom until God knows when, investigating for our next big story in the works. Nathan, our assistant opinion editor, also communicated with members of the nonaffiliated #SaveTheBatt group to share updates on the administration’s demands, and he framed our editorial message, with the help of our opinion editor Caleb Powell, that print is not, in fact, dead.
Currently, Casey, our sports editor, is also working tirelessly to put together our 2022 Spring Sports Maroon Life, delayed for the events of late. So, when you pick up your magazine in about two weeks time, make sure to think of the care and dedication Casey and his assistants, Kay Naegeli and Jordan Epp, put into every single page at the same time when The Battalion’s printing status was in jeopardy. And make sure to give our sports podcast Home Turf, produced by Grant Gaspard, a listen to hear more about the production of the magazine and the status of A&M spring sports.
To our news team, Aubrey Vogel, Michaela Rush and Kyle McClenagan: thank you for always being willing to jump into the next big thing.
Our news editors collectively wrote 2,600 words to share with you all, the Aggie community, the details behind the administration’s demands for The Battalion last week. Michaela also worked on a deep dive into the administration’s demands for Draggieland, while Julia investigated new changes for Fish Camp, to highlight that administrative overreach is not a problem unique to The Battalion. The work of all four of them helped give a voice to our three organizations when administration would not. In fact, Kyle, who also doubles as our multimedia editor, literally gave us a voice in last week’s episode of The Batt Signal.
To Kathryn Miller and Caroline Wilburn, our life & arts editors: thank you for always keeping the newsroom a lively environment.
Kathryn and Caroline work to bring fun into The Battalion, both through our content and in our office, with their bubbly personalities and never-ending, quotable jokes. They worked to give the student body a voice over the events of last week — one of the fundamental jobs of student journalists.
To our photo chiefs, Robert O’Brien and Ishika Samant: thank you for the endless hours you dedicate to The Battalion, around campus, at games, attending protests and more. Ishika’s photo is the face of the now most-widely circulated article in The Battalion this semester. And a special thanks goes to Bobby, who is staying up until the wee hours of the morning, carefully designing the art for our Spring Sports Magazine in collaboration with Casey, so be sure to tip your hat to him, too, when you’re flipping through.
To our audience engagement editor Lauren Discher: thank you for keeping The Battalion’s digital presence — yes, we have that, too — professional and up-to-date.
Lauren carefully curates each of The Battalion’s posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and she, too, was on the ball last week making sure all of Aggieland was kept up-to-date on the news.
To my staff as a whole: thank you for putting up a fight and for working seamlessly together to produce our staff report, editorial and print edition last week. To our staff and photographers: you are the backbone of The Battalion, and your work never goes unnoticed.
So, this Student Press Freedom Day, I celebrate the student journalists who have built the 129-year tradition which documents Texas A&M’s history. We may have won the battle for now, but these student journalists will continue fighting the war for student press freedom.

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