Past the Progenitors

“Some brief insights from The R.R.’s past editors Kate Ourada and Laya Reddy.”


I ought to begin by admitting that I never really knew either of the two women I interviewed for this piece, at least during my freshman year when they ushered The Ridge Review onto its online platform where it resides today. Thus, I don’t have many memories from that time personally regarding their efforts; that in of itself made the interview with the two of them more interesting, however, as it offered better context towards the process of getting the school newspaper up and running. Either way, at some point I started bugging one of them with a bunch of questions and it managed to lead to an honest discussion that sprung up some of the most insightful oodles of commentary I could’ve heard regarding the newspaper, life in general and everything in between. 


On Thursday, the 14th of May, I sat down in a Zoom call with Kate Ourada, a sophomore and journalism major at the distinguished Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication (say that ten times fast!) who’s currently a video and podcast editor for ASU’s student run newspaper The State Press. Joining her was Laya Reddy, a columnist for the G.W. Hatchet, the newspaper for The George Washington University in Washington, D.C who’s also completing a double major in the school (currently in her sophomore year as well striving towards a political science and music degree). 


Both women worked on The Ridge Review newspaper in their junior and senior years of high school here at Ridge; well, at least, they worked on the fledgling online version of the paper. The R.R. of course has been around since the opening of Mountain Ridge in 1995, but the online newspaper only came to fruition in 2017 when Ourada, Reddy and a few others like Emma Padelford worked to bring it to life. While they’ve since graduated and are onto their sophomore year of college, the two of them had some things to say about their experiences and what they believe will follow in the future or the newspaper and their careers. 


The two of them went into the class with different expectations and interests, with Ourada joining out of a stirring interest founding before her junior year, and Reddy simply joining on behalf of Ourada as she needed another class for the year. Though both women would end up growing and figuring out their paths, the developing interests as newsies altered their high school and college careers. As they say at the best of times, the most fruitful adventures are spawned from humble beginnings. I suppose in this case, most appropriately, the burning passions present worked against the simple beginnings of many newswriters. 


“I was really politically engaged…that was something that Laya and I kinda shared,” Ourada said, Reddy following up with the hard hitting line of: “The newspaper became like, the perfect outlet to share those opinions and enact some change in the world,” which perfectly encapsulates the work put out by both women in 2017 and 2018; those words are definitely soft on the heart, though, as they represent the picturesque and genuine passions as are shared by aspiring writers and editors in the industry as a whole. 


Developing the online newspaper was definitely a challenge, though the two of them pulled through, Reddy noting how it was a “weird transition,” to go from the traditional position of a reporter to that of an editor over the span of about four months (more or less, the two had to unofficially transition from the introductory class to the advanced,) considering how they had just started writing. Yet, being “leadership inclined” as was described by Ourada allowed both women to transition and pass the baton of leadership onto someone else (in their case, Padely). 


Moving onto college definitely showed a similar shift in the environment for both women, though to a different scale. 


“I’m surrounded by several-hundred news-oriented people,” Ourada said, noting her transition from the small R.R. newsroom to ASU Cronkite. Laya continued in a similar vein, describing the process of getting her work published, in which all of her pieces went through around seven editors before it was passed. 


Though there was a sharp change in the general environment between high school and college, the experiences both women had writing for the Ridge Review definitely gave them some perspective and the skills needed to properly write for a college paper. 


“The work that we did in, at the Ridge Review totally has given me a light up my freshman year of college,” Ourada said. Between both Kate and Laya alike, it seemed as though working on the small-time high school newspaper did help a lot, with Laya Reddy also noting how she simply wished she could have “been in newspaper sooner.” 


Both women gave me a large bounty of quotes, most of which are insightful and unique, but as previously hinted at, some of the dialogue came from the discussion of the future of the press, its role in society and the like. 


On a contextual note, during the discussion, I brought up the simply sweet insightfulness as was radiated by both women; Ourada noted the remark, stating: “That’s me, surprisingly inspirational, honestly that’s us.”

Despite only being in the class for a short two years, Ourada and Reddy left a significant mark that set the framework for the future of the newspaper. The two worked extremely well together and worked hard to make the newspaper a priority in their busy schedules. Both girls were AP and honors students, and members of the marching band during their time at Ridge, and so their day-to-day activities were an endurance test on their own. Regardless of their activities in and outside of the school, Kate and Laya invested so much into writing and editing for the newspaper, as well as making sure the website was growing. 


“You get what you put into it. You get out of it what you put into it,” Ourada stated. “If you’re there to work hard and make really good quality stuff, then you’re gonna get a lot out of the organization you work out of.”


The leadership Kate and Laya demonstrated was phenomenal, and it was a legacy they passed down to the next generation of editors. They taught us to work hard through a busy and challenging life and to maintain the little things by doing what you love. For them, that was helping this newspaper flourish. 


Not only was their leadership a notable quality, but their boldness is something to be remembered. Through their work, they demonstrated how to get ideas and opinions out to the public eye without fear of a negative response. 


“You learn like, opinions are all about offending people…it’s about choosing who you want to offend,” Reddy said.


The boldness is another quality of leadership these two possessed. Because of it, everything they published overflowed with character and voice; making each piece that much more engaging. Their ability to write this way didn’t only make them better at expressing their views, but it helped them how to be better journalists. By receiving good feedback from their readers, the two learned how to shape their writing into something even more amazing, and they learned how to deal with public response.


“They’re giving me feedback on my writing but that doesn’t mean they dislike me as a writer or as a person,” Reddy stated, in response to the multiple editors she has to go through as previously mentioned.  


By facing the challenges of journalistic writing, the two were able to acquire a new appreciation for those in the news field. Running a newspaper is no easy job; by starting one up of their own, they realized that the hard way, as Reddy noted, “you learn so much from being on the other side of the news.” This is the side of news that is put in charge of not just telling a story, but making sure that the truth is being given in a way that engages readers. It also includes the side that puts diverse opinions out for all to see, with no fear of rocking the boat.  

“You have more empathy from people that work in the media,” Ourada says. “I think it’s really really valuable and so important to have that experience.”


Due to their appreciation of the field, Kate and Laya wanted to remind everyone of the importance of news. Learning how to stay engaged with what is going on in the world around us is so important in today’s society. Being able to listen and form opinions about the world are two things the girls would consider to be of great importance. This is a lesson Kate was able to learn through the journalism course, as she now has an extremely defined passion for news. 


“I think that news literacy is so vital to the culture that America has right now in response to the media,” Ourada said. “If schools don’t have a supportive system to be teaching that news literacy…then it’s a total loss.” 


On a final note, the transition to an online newspaper was extremely smooth, thanks to the support and leadership of Kate and Laya. For the future generations of newspaper, it is extremely important to develop a sense of community among yourselves, so you can have a strong team. This is something that the original group was able to maintain, which is why Kate and Laya had someone to “pass the torch” to when they moved on in life. 


Myself, and Emma included (who will be graduating this school year) are the final members of the era that began back in the winter of 2017. Through countless ups and downs, we have learned a lot over the past almost 3 years. Carrying on the legacy that began all those years ago has been an absolute honor. Seeing the Ridge Review blossom into what it is today has been such an adventure, and we are beyond jazzed to see where it is taken into the future.


When I’m gone, things are definitely going to have a different air. All of the expectations will have been set; set as in, most of everything will have been set in stone. This experience, however, is something that will leave our hearts ever-changing. The past, is the past, so when it comes to the future, who knows, maybe there’ll be another two strong-willed women, much like Kate Ourada and Laya Reddy, or another pair of Newsies like me and Emmy Padely, to lead the idea behind The Ridge Review into something most spectacular.