Farewell from the chief: A bittersweet goodbye and thanks to everyone

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Editor-in-Chief, Vanessa Marie Booth poses on the UNLV green with copies of Free Press issues. Photo by Kalin Sipes.

It feels just like yesterday that I was a starry-eyed staff writer passionate about becoming a student journalist. Four years later and with many articles published, this is my final issue as editor-in-chief of the Scarlet & Gray Free Press. 

It’s difficult to sum up four years in one story, but like any tale, it never really ends does it? Editors go on to continue reporting, writers continue to edit, and the news never stops. 

The beauty of it all is that amidst the ending of my chapter at the Free Press, I get to pass on the torch to the next generation of rebellious reporters. This has been my favorite revelation during my time as editor-in-chief. As years go by, the Free Press will always record the history of this university and be a Rebel’s number one news source. It has been one of my greatest honors to become a part of this history, let alone record it, and join alums dating back to 1955. 

When I joined the Free Press in the fall of 2019, I started as a staff writer. Thereafter, I was promoted to news editor, managing editor, and now, editor-in-chief. From partially serving as copy chief, distribution manager, and arts & entertainment editor, every hat I have worn at this paper has been one of my most treasured undergraduate experiences at UNLV.  

A Reflection  

As I look back on my memories with the paper, many notable milestones come to mind. We created the Free Press weekly wrap-up newsletter sent out to 31,000 students, transitioned out of the COVID-19 pandemic back to print editions, participated in the homecoming golf cart parade, increased staff stipends, brought back old roles, grew staff writer retention, rebranded the student paper, created a banquet tradition, and brought the paper back to life.

Photo of Vanessa Booth by Kalin Sipes.

Despite these editorial successes, my proudest accomplishment has been creating, lobbying and implementing a student fee to save the campus newspaper. Many moons ago, I remember vividly stressing about whether the Free Press would exist in the spring. Amidst funding cuts from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and depleted funding resources on campus, I knew that the paper’s one shot at survival was the passage of the fee I dreamt up. 

Facing what seemed like much of the world, I got to work and bet on the only shot I knew this paper had. Gaining coverage from local news outlets like the Nevada Independent, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Fox 5, 8 News Now and Channel 3, I was incredibly grateful to have support from the Las Vegas editorial community. 

Fast-forward to the Dec. 2 Board of Regents meeting, the fee passed after unwavering support from student testimonials and campus administrators. While the passage of this fee will not affect me, it feels incredibly comforting to know that it will sustain the paper indefinitely and that there will always be a student newsroom on UNLV’s campus, especially since this fee will triple the paper’s current budget. 

Giving Thanks 

As I reflect on my time in the newsroom, I have so many people to thank. Firstly, thank you to my parents for always reading my stories and being my number one fans. 

Thank you as well to the long list of colleagues whom I have had the privilege of calling my friends. Allister Dias, thank you for supporting me through every challenge, to Abbie Millman for teaching me about friendship, to Larissa Geilen for having my back these past four years, to Kalin Sipes for the endless convos and laughs, to Kloe Dougherty for always laughing at my jokes and knowing just how to edit, to Taylor Finelli for knowing how to both love and work with me, and finally to Rita Khalaf for being the friend I needed and the most valuable editor this staff has had. Each of you has left a lasting impression on my growth, and I am incredibly grateful for that. 

Thank you as well to my newer staff members whom I get to equally call my friends: Kayla Roberts, Alex Romero, Ryan Gilder, Julia Sidley, and Annie Vong.

Photo of Vanessa Booth by Kalin Sipes.

I have a special thank you to the “office boys.” Many of us in the office like to refer to them as our paper’s voluntary cheerleaders. Thank you to Stefano Rubini, Marcos Villanueva, Steven Tran, Jared Nixon, Henry Luong, Del Dotson and many others from their crew for your countless actions that have supported this paper. 

Lastly, thank you to my mentors. To my advisor, Rick Velotta, thank you for always challenging me to be a rebellious journalist. Thank you to Carri Geer and April Corbin for inspiring me to lead the paper with grace and poise. 

Thank you to my journalism professors at the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. While there are many I am proud to have been a student of, one, in particular, stands out from the rest for his commitment to saving the paper and helping me through one of my most difficult times as editor-in-chief. Professor Gregory Borchard, thank you for your countless hours of support, mentorship, encouragement, and guidance in journalism. Thank you to my high school journalism teacher who sparked my passion for reporting, Regina Roybal. 

Looking to the future

As for the future of this paper, I know my vision will continue, flourish and evolve under the leadership of Allister Clyde Dias, who will take over my position as editor-in-chief this June. Allister has worked tirelessly as managing editor, and I know he will exceed expectations in my role. 

So you might be wondering, what’s next for me? Two weeks after graduating, I will be moving to Providence, Rhode Island. There I will complete Brown University’s accelerated one-year Master of Public Affairs program thanks to the Watson Leadership Scholarship. I plan to continue my journalistic endeavors and take on policy research during my time there.  

While my departure is bittersweet, I believe that I am leaving this paper better than I found it. This has been exactly what I wanted for the past four years. A newsroom for the next group of rebellious reporters to flourish in. This is just the beginning of a long and historical chronicle that never stops.

1 COMMENT

  1. Creating a sustained legacy for the school paper was an enormous achievement. Thank you for doing this for the UNLV community. Having a school paper is such an important part of the University Community.

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