Something strange is happening at Wake Forest.
Remember that? That’s how I started my first column in The Wake Forest Review. I answered the ever-so-famous question, “Why we exist” as a publication. And in about one-thousand words, more or less, I answered that it’s to “balance the discussion” and “stand up to the liberals.” All very true, but what we really need to ask now is, “What have we done?”
On May 1st, 2017, The Wake Forest Review will officially celebrate its one-year anniversary. And on that night, I will cheerfully pour myself a drink and raise it to that very same magazine, which is now framed and hanging on my dorm room wall. As I take a sip, I will be thinking, “What have we done to get ourselves here?” What is “here” though? Well, it’s being the only college conservative magazine at Wake Forest University. It’s being the only college conservative newspaper in North Carolina to host a weekly podcast and feature a U.S Congressman, U.S Senator, and chairman of the American Conservative Union. It’s being the only college conservative newspaper in North Carolina to report on two presidential campaign rallies as credentialed media. It’s hosting our own panel on conservatism, attending the Inauguration, becoming a nonprofit, raising over $10,000 in just three months, and printing our third hard copy magazine built entirely by students. This is what being “here” means. On May 1st, The Wake Forest Review will celebrate one of the most challenging and most rewarding years of our lives.
The Beginning of the Rest of our Lives
People always ask, “How did this get started?” My response to this is always that I started The Wake Forest Review in my dad’s coffee shop. I made my first contact on May 25th, 2016. It was to Anthony Palumbo. Then followed Michael Blevin, Owen Pickard, JP Hayes, Ryan Wolfe, and finally Ciara Ciez. All within about one month we became the original staff of The Review. And I’m pretty sure we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It certainly was the beginning of the rest of our lives.
One of our primary tasks was to complete the business plan. This was the original picture of our newspaper. It explained who we are, what we’re doing, our market, and finally our potential. Anthony, Owen, and myself worked on this throughout June, getting it ready for our first-ever grant proposal through the Collegiate Network.
The Collegiate Network was the first contact we made outside of our new-born staff. It is a group of independent college newspapers, mostly conservative, that provides workshops and financial support. Throughout the summer, I was in touch with Jacob Lane, who is now working with the parent organization, Intercollegiate Studies Institute. In late July, I attended the Collegiate Network’s Editors Conference, in which many of these publications came together at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia for two days of collaboration, workshops, and even late-night viewings of the Republican National Convention.
Additionally, Ryan and JP were working on other various projects to get the Review ready for our big debut before the school year started. JP was working on getting a fact-checking database set up and other sources in which authors could refer to when writing their articles. Ryan, on the other hand, was building a website as well as recruiting some other potential staff members. With everyone working hard over the summer, and taking their own time to build this publication from the ground-up, we could tell we were building something special. We were all-in.
A few weeks before the semester, on August 19th, we officially released our first article, “All Aboard the Trump Train,” written by Ryan Wolfe. Now, this would not be the most controversial article Ryan will have written for us. No, Ryan J. Wolfe lit one of the greatest fires a week into the fall semester in less than 500 words.
Sink or Swim?
We officially began our first semester with the first-of-many pitch meetings. All of the students who we recruited over the summer, about fifteen, came and pitched their ideas to write about. We had different categories written on the white board, such as “Campus” and “National” and even “Politics.” During our pitching, Ryan raised his hand and suggested that we write a brief “Welcome to Wake” story for the incoming freshmen. We decided to call it “How to Survive College as a Conservative.” As of today, that story has over 3,700 views.
After that story came out, it was clear that we weren’t just testing the waters. We jumped right into the deep end. Question was though, were we going to sink or swim?
One of the major advantages of starting in the fall was the 2016 election. It gave us content almost daily, in which we focused on heavily to bolster our image as a conservative newspaper. Two events allowed us to experience the Presidential campaign at the forefront. The first was in Winston-Salem, when then-Governor Mike Pence visited. Ryan suggested we apply for media credentials, even though it would be a long-shot. The day after we applied, I got an email from their press office. So, on the first day of classes, Ryan, JP, sophomore Matt Sebesta, and myself visited the campaign rally as “the media.” We all got a few boos.
Additionally, then-candidate Donald Trump came to Charlotte on October 14th. We again tried for press credentials, and once again we were granted access. In the Queen’s City, we brought Ryan, JP, and freshman Tom Vander Woude for his first day on the job. JP took pictures, Ryan and Tom worked the table, while I ran point between the two.
Finally, the last big event of the first semester was hosting our very own panel in late October. Wake the Vote offered us the opportunity to moderate a panel on “the future of the Republican party.” We had four students: Ryan, Ciara, Joe Macy, and Lucy Porter. That night, many of our friends from the Review, as well as many of our new friends on the Left, showed up. The panel lasted about an hour, and it was a great opportunity from the school.
These three main events really bolstered the Review’s image and we carried this momentum to our very first print copy. The semester ended smoothly, and we swam our way to winter break.
Between December and January, most of the interim was spent preparing to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We recruited a board of directors, held our first meeting, and officially became a legal entity: The Winston-Salem Review, Inc.
Calm, but Busy
There was absolutely no time to waste coming back from winter break. We had our first pitch meeting the first week of classes with Anthony as the new Editor-in-Chief. Familiar faces came back, and we even saw some new ones!
The beginning to the spring was quieter than the fall. We were adjusting to our new roles, as half of us were trying to run the newspaper, while the other half was running the nonprofit. Further, we struggling to find stories, now that Trump had been elected and the political scene was fairly calm.
However, all of that calmness would go away soon. The Wake Forest Review had the incredible opportunity to attend the Inauguration in Washington. So, Anthony, JP, and myself spent three days in the capital meeting alumni and viewing the Inauguration. We were able to connect with Jill Bader, Jack Kalavritinos, Jimmy Kemp, Farahn Morgan, and even Senator and Brooke Burr. It was probably the busiest 72 hours since the new semester started.
The rest of the semester was calm, as we published articles here-and-there online, printed our second magazine in mid-February, and started the online “Truth without Fear” podcast featuring Anthony and Ciara. While not much was happening at the forefront, a lot was happening in the background with fundraising and community engagement. So for us, it was a calm, but busy, semester.
As I take the last sip of my drink, I can look to all of our accomplishments we have made. The Wake Forest Review is not just a newspaper- it’s an idea, built by students. I am forever grateful to anyone who has helped us become who we are today, including alumni, faculty, parents, students and leaders. Thank you to our students who believe in our cause and take their time to write for us. And finally, thank you for being here with us. We look forward to what the future holds.
But in the meantime, here’s to Year 1.