For junior Abby Bravo ‘24, there’s nowhere to go but up for The Chronicle, The College of Saint Rose’s student-run newspaper. Bravo has been an active member of the paper since coming to Saint Rose as a first-year student in 2020, working as the news editor for two years before becoming editor-in-chief in the spring of 2023.
In 2022, Bravo and her small but passionate editorial team submitted the paper to the New York Press Association’s (NYPA) Better Newspaper Contest. This spring, the NYPA awarded them second place in the General Excellence category of their 2022 Best College Newspapers list. The Ithacan, Ithaca College’s award-winning student-run newspaper, came in first.
We sat down with Bravo to discuss her love of journalism, what this accolade means to her team, and what’s next for The Chronicle.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What first drew you to journalism?
I had a unique experience in high school. [Saugerties High School] had this program called Computer Video Production (CVP), and there were three classes involved with it. There was CVP 1, CVP 2, and then broadcast journalism was the last class. You would start your sophomore year and then take one class per year. I condensed it and started my junior year. That was really cool. My teacher, Jackie Hayes, was really motivating, and she’s one of my favorite people on the planet. She made it a really enjoyable experience. I thought, “If this is what it’s going to be like in the real world, I want to do this forever.”
How long have you been involved with The Chronicle?
It’s the first thing I did when I got on campus. That first week, they were holding open meetings, and I went. It was really funny because it was on Zoom – I got here in 2020, so COVID was still in full swing – I joined, and the look on everybody’s faces…I was like, “Hi, I’m Abby!” and they were like, “Oh my gosh, a new person.” They took me and ran with me.
Walk us through the process of entering the NYPA contest.
It was really last minute. Our advisor, Dr. Shawn McIntosh, told us about it. At the time, I was still just news editor, and Ameara [Ditsche] was still editor-in-chief before she graduated. This was right after we did our big rebrand, so that was the first semester where we had the new logo of the sun and the new page layout. So, we were like, “Might as well see what they think of the new pages!”
We didn’t have a lot of editions to pick from at the time because we did five or six editions that semester, and we didn’t want to submit any old ones, so we submitted the best three from that semester for three different categories. There was general excellence, which is what we placed second in, and we submitted a news story and a photography story. We didn’t place in those. We submitted the last day of the application; we didn’t even know that it came out. Ameara – she’s working for the Daily Gazette in Schenectady – her boss gave her the pamphlet for the NYPA, and she was looking through it and she was like, “Oh my god, it’s The Chronicle!” and she sent me a picture.
What does coming in second mean for you and the rest of the editorial team?
I’m really proud of it. It’s really cool, especially because I’ve been involved for my entire college career and this is the first time that we’ve won an award to my knowledge. Last semester, Ameara and I got editors awards, but this is the first time that the paper itself has won an award [since I’ve been at Saint Rose]. I love that paper, so it’s nice to see what I do get recognized. Especially because Ithaca – [the Ithacan] placed first – and they win that contest every single year. It was just cool. I wasn’t expecting to beat Ithaca, especially because they’re such a strong presence for that competition and they’re a good paper, but it was cool to be right next to them. I saw that Syracuse [University] entered and all of those bigger colleges placed in the smaller categories. We still beat Syracuse!
One of the NYPA’s suggestions was to include a stronger campus focus in the paper. What else are you taking away from the whole experience?
I think that the news has to be more about the campus, so I think it was more so in arts and opinions that they were talking about doing more campus-based stuff. It’s just hard sometimes to find it, but we’re doing that this semester. Our opinions editor, Milo Smedley, has their whole section on the website called “Milo’s Sodexo Adventures,” because they’ve written so many opinion pieces about the dining hall. That kind of thing is really fun to do. And in the arts section, we’re trying to do more with the music industry program.
They also said something about the layout, which was something we were fixing this semester before they gave that feedback. All the editors lay out their own section; news, arts, opinions, and sports all have different editors that lay them out. Obviously, the styles are going to be different and not entirely cohesive. It’s also in black and white in the middle. We always have the front and back page in color, but this semester we’re doing the front page, two middle pages, and the back page in color. The arts section gets the two middle pages, so that gives a lot more time and space to make a better layout and better designs. It’s really design-based. I also think our articles have improved, and that’s solely on Shawn. Even if we don’t have class with him, he’s really on top of reviewing our articles and giving feedback. My biggest issue is using passive voice, apparently – he does not like that.
Can you tell us more about the rebrand?
The [thought behind the] old paper was very, “This is what it’s going to look like every single time.” We had our little Chronicle logo with the yellow box, and it was a full broadsheet paper, so it was big. The way it was laid out before was one story on top and one story on the bottom, and that’s just kind of how it always looked. It never really clicked in our heads that we could change things. There were rarely any jumps*, and it was mind blowing when Shawn said, “You know you can jump, right?” And I was like, “Wow!” He came in and saw what we were working with, and we said we kind of hated it, and we were talking about how we hated the logo and the layout, but we were like, “It is what it is.” And he said, “You can change it if you want to change it, there’s nothing stopping you.” That’s when Ameara and I said, “This is our paper and we can change things if we want to change things.” We worked on new logo designs and we really liked the sun. It’s a little generic for a newspaper but it was cute and I really like it. We put it in the middle and changed all the fonts in the paper. We changed the headline fonts, the caption fonts…I know now more about fonts than I ever thought I would know. Shawn introduced the idea of colored boxes, and that really threw me for a loop! It really helps to add color and eye-catching stuff to the pages that do have color. We changed pretty much everything. I don’t think we kept any design stuff that the old paper had.
* A jump is a directional line of print at the end of the first part of a divided story or article in a newspaper (ex: “Continued on page 4.”)
What should we expect from the Chronicle next year?
I’m not going to be here next semester – I’m going to Greece to study abroad. Our web editor is also coming with me – we’re going to Greece together and she’s one of my best friends. It’s kind of scary for me after being here for three years to just kind of say, “Here you go, do whatever you want for a semester.” But Shawn’s training a good group in his journalism classes, so I think they’ll be able to do it. I’m excited to see what they do when I’m not around. Hopefully it’ll have more people, because right now it’s very much just me doing news stories, and then other stories trickle in from other classes which is very helpful; I don’t know what I’d do without them. I’m just excited to see what else changes since we don’t really have a limit.
Anything else we should know?
I’m just really proud of everybody. Ameara and I were pretty much manning the news pages when she was here, so being here by myself has been kind of scary. I’m just really appreciative of everyone that’s helping. I’m hoping more people will get interested. Hopefully there’s more first-years like me who are like, “Let’s do it! Let’s do the paper!” Big thank you to Shawn for everything he does for us, because we would have our ugly little box logo and story on top/story on bottom layout if he didn’t open our eyes.
I think we have a cute little team. We’re all really close, too. It’s nice to be able to do stuff with your friends, because you’re doing important work. A lot of the time it’s stressful, but if you’re with people you like, it’s not that bad.
By Sarah Heikkinen