By Mary Bates

This story was published in the 2022 Owl & Spade Magazine

When Ana Risano ’22 arrived at Warren Wilson College as a first-year student in 2018, she never imagined that she would become the Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, The Echo. First of all, the College didn’t even have a student newspaper at that time. The Echo had gone on hiatus in 2016 due to the supervisor leaving, a lack of resources, and a lack of interest. And second, though she had always considered herself a strong writer, Risano had come to Warren Wilson College to study Biology.

Now The Echo is back, stronger than ever, and Risano counts it as one of the defining accomplishments of her college career. Not only is the newspaper thriving, it’s award-winning—landing Best of Show from the North Carolina College Media Association (NCCMA), along with multiple other awards. Risano, together with Assistant Editor Sierra Davis ’22, Crew Supervisor Jay Lively ’00, and the rest of their team, successfully revitalized the newspaper, publishing their first issue in fall 2020—during the middle of the pandemic.

“They worked extremely hard,” said Quinn Bonney ’25, who served as Design Editor under Risano and Davis’ leadership last year and is one of two Editors-In-Chief this year. “It wasn’t really a job for us. For Ana and Sierra especially, it was a passion project. They put everything they had into it. And it shows.”

Throughout their time on The Echo, which was reinstated in 2020 as a club and then as a work crew of 12 students in 2021, Risano and Davis concentrated on investigating complex situations and getting to the root of various conversations, campus news, and student questions.

“I see it as a way for students to use their voices, have their voices be heard,” Davis said, noting that students on The Echo are “able to go and interview everyone who is a part of major decisions and get students the information they need to have an informed opinion of what is happening at their school and in the community rather than an inflammatory opinion.”

In addition to reporting on major decisions and campus news, the newspaper covers events, athletics, broader community news, features including a “science corner,” and arts and entertainment. It also provides an outlet for editorials, editorial cartoons, advice
columns, horoscopes, and podcasts.

“We want The Echo to live on for many years, be a bridge in communication between parts of campus, and help keep our community together,” Risano said. “We’re a student newspaper, for students by students, and we intend to keep it that way as long as possible. We want to be able to give support to campus in the form of news and be a place where someone can come to us with ideas and we can get them out there for them.”

Though both Risano and Davis majored in the sciences (Biology and Environmental Studies, respectively), they said The Echo has fit into their Warren Wilson experience more seamlessly than they expected.

Risano previously worked on the Writing Studio Crew, so the transition to Editor-in-Chief, where she was also helping students craft their writing, felt natural. She also worked as a Peer Group Leader, and as a Peer Supplemental Instructor for Chemistry.

“Coming into college I wanted to focus on sciences, and that led me to Biology. But I’ve always had a love for writing, and I wanted to nurture that somehow,” said Risano, whose Natural Science Undergraduate Research Sequence (NSURS) Capstone project looked at how the amount of ultraviolet pigment present in plants is impacted by climate change. “It’s nice to have two sides, doing hard sciences, being in the lab, looking in the microscope, and then also being able to write articles.”

Davis likewise had extensive leadership experience before becoming Assistant Editor of The Echo. They served as a student leader of the Construction Crew and worked as a Science Teacher at Talisman, a camp in North Carolina for kids with Asperger’s syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Their NSURS Capstone project studied the correlation between drinking water violations and demographics, including the racial makeup and economic status of the communities being served.

Now that both Risano and Davis have graduated, a new team of Warren Wilson students are carrying The Echo into the 2022- 2023 academic year. Current Editors-In-Chief Harley Woods ’23 and Quinn Bonney ’25 have many goals, including making The Echo more transparent and accessible, encouraging student empowerment, and connecting larger global and social issues to Warren Wilson College.

“By sharing knowledge and asking questions, we provide people with clarity on specifically how things are structured, who oversees what, and where the root of change should be focused,” Woods said. “Everyone should feel capable of harnessing the knowledge provided by The Echo to use it to their advantage.”

With new leadership, a larger staff, a new crew space, and more resources, Woods and Bonney are excited for the next chapter.

“To have a consistent and current flow of information is important for everyone. That’s why in this day and age, journalism is one of the most important jobs there is,” Bonney said. “Obviously no one can fill Ana and Sierra’s shoes. They’re amazing, and they did a wonderful job. They got the newspaper to a place that is unprecedented in only a year and a half. This year I’m trying to uphold what they’ve done in keeping an authentic public forum for student expression. I’m hopeful for the future of The Echo.”

This story was published in the 2022 Owl & Spade Magazine