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Senior staff spotlight: Aliza Davner
April 23, 2012
By Robert Rinaldo
Aliza Davner, a senior English Literature major with a double minor in philosophy and German, will retire from her current position as editor-in-chief of the Lycourier at the end of the semester.
“It’s hard not to develop an emotional attachment to something that you’ve worked hard on,” Davner said about her time as editor-in-chief. “I am proud of the Lycourier this year and I will miss it greatly.”
Davner first joined the Lycourier as a staff writer during her freshman year. “My roommate at the time and I thought it would be cool, something fun to do. I like to write, and the Lycourier was a way to write outside of class that wasn’t related to my course of study. It was a writing outlet and it had a bit of creativity.”
Davner remembers how different the Lycourier was when she first joined compared to now. “It wasn’t as relaxed as it is now.”
“Ashley Wislock, the editor-in-chief at the time, ran a tight ship. She was tough and made sure that everybody wrote something. We always put out a 12-page paper. My sophomore year, when Eddie Frick was editor-in-chief, it was much more relaxed, almost too relaxed. There were not any solid deadlines, but things still got done and everybody was much more chill. Back then, we did interviews via e-mail.” Davner commented that compared to the previous two editors, she was a happy medium between them.
Davner became a page editor the fall semester of her sophomore year. “I jumped at the chance to be college life editor. I had a lot of fun, and it was a great way to become super involved in school activities.”
Eventually, Davner was named editor-in-chief at the end of the spring semester of her sophomore year.
“Being editor-in-chief certainly helps with grad school applications, but it was mainly a great way to prove that I could write well, that I could work well with others, that I could meet deadlines, and that I could lead a group efficiently. It was definitely a character-building position.”
Davner comments that the position was much harder and much more than she thought it would be. “It is enjoyable, but it comes with a lot of stress. There are actually more responsibilities than you would think. I have to be in contact with everybody on campus for article ideas and so we can maintain constant communication. I have to recruit students to join as writers and editors and I need to make sure that those students do the work. I then have to develop the print schedule and write up the spreadsheet as well as establish deadlines for when articles are due. On top of that, I have to produce four pages myself and then edit all of the pages. It involves a lot of late nights; we’ve actually spent several nights until 3 a.m. putting the paper together.”
Davner says that working with the Williamsport Sun-Gazette has been a pleasant experience. “We used to print on campus, but it was too expensive and the print room was closed down. The people at the Sun-Gazette have been extremely nice to us. They let us know when we have issues with photographs and send us story ideas. It is definitely a partnership because they want to make sure that we put out a great paper.”
Davner enjoys working with the staff writers and editors. “We had a good staff this year. The writers were all enthusiastic and did all of their work, which made my life so much easier. We had less writers in the spring than the fall, which is to be expected, but those we had got in all of their work on time. The editors have also been great. We spent one night writing, editing and laying out an entire paper from scratch. It was a long night, but they stuck through it. We put out 15 issues on a bi-weekly basis, and I am very proud of that.”
Davner especially enjoys working with Lycourier adviser Janice Ogurcak.
“Jan is the most fabulous woman I have ever met. She has such an indispensable knowledge of the journalism field and is such an asset to the Lycourier. She does all of the edits and keeps me on top of things.” Davner describes their relationship as an “old married couple.” “We bicker often, but she buys me pizza. She has been great, and I wonder what will happen in future years without her.”
Davner comments on the major accomplishments the Lycourier achieved this year.
“I think the big one is that more people are physically taking the paper and reading it more than any other year. We had a few really big front page stories such as the hot dog eating contest, the B & G building fire and President James Douthat retiring. The faculty has been much more responsive and supportive of the paper as well. Dr. Christopher Kulp reads every single issue and inspired us to start the science column. Other offices such as dining services and Long Hall have shown great interest in putting stories in the Lycourier. It is just great the paper is being noticed. And I taught Jan some slang.”
Davner enjoys the experience of being in charge of a professional group and mentions the office space as one of her favorite parts of being editor-in-chief.
“I like having an office to call my own. I like having my own desk, computer, chair, even a couch! I have taken a few naps in the office on my couch.”
One thing Davner will not miss is the late nights. “Three in the morning and I do not get along. I am a like a robot then. Do not try to be funny or make any snide comments with me, they do not work.”
She also explains how frustrating working with people sometimes gets. “I find it frustrating when you ask to have something done and people leave you hanging. I do not like sending out angry e-mails, but I feel like sometimes I have to be their mom on top of editor and manager.”
Davner mentions faulty computers and the obscure location of the communications building as other factors she does not enjoy.
“It can be a very stressful job,” Davner summarizes, “but I do enjoy it and like it a lot.”
Davner recalls one particular moment that she treasures during her junior year. “Jan, Steph VanDerWal and I were working on the layout one night. We had two back-to-back issues and it was 12 a.m. I was exhausted and freaking out about something and almost started crying. Steph pulled up a clip of Aladdin without telling me, and all of a sudden we hear ‘Calm yourself Iago!’ I almost fell out of my chair. It became our motto whenever I got stressed out.” Davner recalled Frick and Ogurcak visiting urbandictionary.com as another memorable moment.
Davner explains that the Lycourier helped develop her own sense of leadership. “I like to think of my leadership style as a happy medium between a prison labor camp and a hippie commune. I knew I was assertive and that I could communicate with others, but I also learned a higher degree of professionalism. There is certain decorum to journalism that you have to learn, like ‘you cannot ask that’.”
Davner hopes the paper can return to the 12-page version.
“We ran a small paper the last two years, but there is always so much going on campus. I hope the Lycourier can start to include more on-and-off campus events as well as different pages like a letter to the editor page or a world news page. Having a bigger staff would be very nice.”
Davner concludes with these parting words to next year’s staff, “Peace (comma) yo.”