Ellie Wolfe ’19 Named to Editorial Role at Bates Student Paper

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Ellie Wolfe ’19, the previous Editor-in-Chief of The Willistonian for two years, has, in only a year- and-a-half, taken the prominent role of Assistant News Editor for the Bates College student newspaper.

Wolfe, who was part of The Willistonian staff for three years, said she was not ready to give up her journalistic pursuits after she left campus. “I get a bit protective over it – [The Willistonian]; it was a place I felt the happiest.”

Initially, she had not planned on joining the student newspaper at Bates, but she was looking for something to do and ended up going to one of the meetings. However, she quickly changed her mind. “One meeting turned to every meeting. I really liked the staff, and I really loved writing.”

One perk of writing for The Bates Student, as it’s called, is getting familiar with the campus. Not only did she get to know more about her school, but she also got to meet a lot of different people. To that end, Wolfe decided to branch out and write sports pieces at college, something she typically didn’t pursue at Williston. “It’s a good way to broaden you horizons,” she said, noting she was particularly proud of a piece on the large crop of freshman tennis recruits.

Wolfe made a quick adjustment from The Willistonian to the Bates Student, even if her college paper picked up the pace a little.

Instead of publishing the print edition once every trimester, The Bates Student publishes once every two weeks. Wolfe explained that it is possible because of the bigger staff. “We have a web designer and a Managing Design Editor and two Assistant Design Editors.” At Williston, Wolfe, who took journalism a total of nine trimesters, would pitch, write, and edit articles as well as design the entire print edition. In her spare time.

Wolfe said she appreciates the amount of editorial freedom she has at Bates. “There were articles that I definitely pushed at The Willistonian that we were not allowed to publish. she said. “With The Bates Student, we have total freedom in basically what we publish, which includes our forum (op-ed section.)”

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, a 1988 Supreme Court decision, dictates that student newspapers are not subject to the same First Amendment protections as independently-run papers, and are not protected from administrative censorship.

The opinion pieces are very different than the ones at Williston, Wolfe explained. “It can get pretty intense.” Wolfe said she feels a significant part of the paper’s readership comes for the forum.

Though she didn’t cover topics quite as heated or politically divisive at Williston, Wolfe said her experience here gave her an edge at Bates. “I understood when to not overwrite and I wasn’t someone that ever overcommitted myself to stories,” she said. “I also understood from the editor’s perspective the importance of deadlines.”

Her skills were evident: her fellow staff writers saw her talents with the paper and gave her a position at the end of her freshman year. “I actually applied to be a copywriter, but they offered me the Assistant Editor position because I had the experience of editing other writers’ stories, which I did a lot at Williston,” she said.

One advice that she wants to give to current Willistonian writers is to “always read faculty email — it is a really good way to get ideas.”

She added that volunteering to write stories that Matt Liebowitz, the journalism teacher and faculty advisor to The Willistonian and the editors suggest is also a good idea. “Even if a story you might assume is boring, you talk to interesting people and learn new things that will help you with other stories.”

Though her star is rising at Bates, Wolfe said she still thinks fondly of her time at The Willistonian. “The Willistonian is very fun,” she said. “I know I had to sell a lot of people on that when I was the editor, but it is a fun time.”

[Editor’s Note: Wolfe is almost single-handedly responsible for getting Poojaa Prakash Babu, 2020 Co-Editor-in-Chief, to sign up for the class as a sophomore. And she was instrumental in passing the torch to Poojaa and Erin Chai ’21, the current Editor-in-Chief and Poojaa’s Co-Editor last year.]

Liebowitz said doesn’t remember exactly when he first met Wolfe, but that she immediately demonstrated her leadership and became a presence. “I just remember one day my journalism class had one student leader, Ava McElhone Yates ’17, and then all of a sudden Ellie was there and we had two,” he said.

He’s not surprised Wolfe joined the Bates paper. “I knew Ellie would succeed in whatever academic challenge she took on, so I’m not surprised she’s excelling at her college paper,” he said. “She’s one of the most tenacious and curious reporters I’ve ever taught.”

Her versatility, as a writer and reporter, will serve her well at Bates and beyond, should she continue to pursue journalism. “She’s equally capable of covering dense, complex topics and then turning around and declaring her love for Lady Gaga,” Liebowitz told The Willistonian. “That’s the mark of a good journalist: she’s curious about everything.”