Note: This is an editorial I wrote on behalf of the editorial board at The Reflector, the student newspaper of Mississippi State University. 

Student press deserves protection, freedom

On Aug. 15, the top editors and other student journalists of the University of Georgia’s independent student newspaper The Red and Black left their jobs after viewing a draft memo by their board. This memo suggested professional staff would have more control over what stories the students should or should not cover. This memo also alluded to implementing prior review of the student newspaper. Prior review means someone in an executive position reads over the material before it is published.
The former staff of The Red and Black created The Red and Dead and continued to publish news online. By Aug. 17, the board met the requests of the student newspaper and eventually rehired Polina Marinova, editor in chief, as well as the managing editor. While the board sorted out this “misunderstanding,” the students proved to the nation they understood ethical journalism better than the board members who tried to control them.
One of the points of the draft memo was a balance of good and bad content, with a note saying, “If in question, have more good than bad.”
Ethical journalism isn’t about making content look good and straying away from things that look bad. The responsibility of a journalist is to seek the truth and report it.
Marinova wrote concerns in her statement announcing her resignation.
“Recently, editors have felt pressure to assign stories they didn’t agree with, take ‘grip and grin’ photos and compromise the design of the paper. But what’s most alarming to me is that there was no input from The Red and Black student staff about any of these changes.”
According to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Marinova said during the process of working with the board:
“They met all the key points we asked for,” she said. “…we found out they’re willing to listen to us. They allowed the student voice to be heard.”
The things the student editors of The Red and Black asked for of the publication board were nothing short of what we, as student editors, have here at The Reflector.
The content of The Reflector comes directly from students–from the articles written to the design of the advertisements to the graphics and everything in between. The last pair of eyes to see this paper before it goes into print are those of our fellow student and Editor in Chief Hannah Rogers; not a hired professional. Our adviser, Frances McDavid, is a wonderful mentor to us and teaches us how to be better journalists, but she does not have the final say.
The board’s attempt to control the student newspaper violated their rights as student journalists as well as their First Amendment rights.
A student-run newspaper is a learning experience. We, as student journalists, have as much of a right to free speech as any other citizen of this country. The value of having our freedom to run this student newspaper on our own is the chance to make mistakes and learn from them. With that responsibility and opportunity, we will leave The Reflector with valuable experience to benefit ourselves in our future careers.
Both The Red and Black and The Reflector staff have the responsibility to create an ethical, correct and professional newspaper that serves the university. Prior review defeats the purpose of a student newspaper. We learn by doing, and when things go wrong, we take responsibility for our actions.
The unity of the The Red and Black staff during all of this turmoil was very encouraging to see. Passion is at the core of student journalism, and student editors coming together and working with each other instead of against spoke volumes of the character of the staff. We, as The Reflector staff, hope to continue to possess passion for our jobs and cherish the unity of our staff members.


Note: This is an opinion article I wrote in my column, The Constant, published in The Reflector. 

U.S. wastes nearly half its food, still hungry

On Aug. 24, The Los Angeles Times published an article about the amount of food that goes to waste in America. According to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw out nearly every other bite of their food, wasting up to 40 percent of the natural food supply each year, equaling up to about $165 billion in uneaten provisions.
Can we all just step back and think about that statement for a moment? We throw out almost every other bite of our food. We’re already stereotyped for consuming large amounts of food as Americans, but to add wasting nearly half of it is humiliating.
The article in The Los Angeles Times was sobering to say the least. Also according to the NRDC, food waste is the largest single portion of solid waste in American landfills. An average family of four wastes about 20 pounds of food per month.
The reasons behind our food consumption and waste vary. I think our food distribution is a major problem with our wasting of food. It’s easy to order a meal at a restaurant and not finish all of it because of proportion sizes. And even if you do take the leftovers home, how often to you forget about them and throw them away? As The Los Angeles Times article pointed out, we’re used to seeing a pyramid of produce in grocery stores. Think about how much of that is thrown out from going bad. Perhaps something as simple as changing our display of food in grocery stores could cut back on our wasting of natural resources.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t guilty of wasting food. My intentions are good, but the selfish, spoiled American in me sometimes doesn’t always want to eat her leftovers or the Spaghettios in the back of her pantry and ends up throwing them away.
I think what hurts most about these facts and statistics is there are people in our country, in our state and in our city who go to bed hungry. We are surrounded by families who don’t know where their next meal will come from. It’s bad enough to know there are people all over the world who literally die because they don’t have food to eat, but to know there are people around us who are hungry is absolutely heart wrenching.
According to, in 2010, 48.8 million Americans live in food-insecure households. Mississippi has the highest percent of household food insecurity at 19.4 percent, exceeding the national food insecurity rate at 14.6 percent. Our state is hungry, while at the same time has a reputation for being overweight. What a sad paradox.
Over the summer, I spent a lot of time thinking about what breaks my heart. A dear friend of mine shared a quote from Frederick Buechner with me.“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.”

This article isn’t about believing in God or if he calls you to something; I want each of you to think about the “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.” For me, I’ve realized my heart breaks for the broken hearted. Seeing a homeless person beg for dinner in my own hometown kills me. May my deep gladness be meeting the world’s hunger.
I want to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and be aware of what you waste. Make an effort to be thankful for what you have and conscious of how you use it.


Note: This is an opinion article I wrote in my column, The Constant, about my experience as a member of a marching band for ten years. Published in The Reflector. 

Ten years of marching band comes to an end, changed for good

In spite of the Bulldog’s victory against Arkansas Saturday, I left Davis Wade Stadium with a sad, aching feeling in my chest. After four years of hard work and more fun than I could have ever imagined, I had finished my days of being on Scott Field during pregame and halftime with the Famous Maroon Band.
One of our directors pointed out to us seniors we never think this day will come when we’re freshmen, but then it does. The last home game as a member of the Famous Maroon Band sneaked up on me as fast as the past four years of college have flown by.
Ever since I was in the seventh grade, music always controlled my social life on weekends in the fall. I joined my high school marching band when I was going on 13, so for the past decade, I have never attended a football game for my school without being in a polyester-wool blend band uniform surrounded by my closest friends.
Being a member of the marching band has shaped me into who I am today. There are so many lessons other than music that can be learned through marching band, and I would like to share them with you now.
First of all, being in marching band taught me discipline. I have seen and experienced this concept firsthand: if you want to become better at doing something, you have to practice. You have to practice when you think you’re good enough not to. Marching band showed me if I work hard at something, I will see the rewards. My senior year of high school, our marching band was third in the state of Tennessee Division I Championships. Four years earlier, we never had a chance of making finals, much less coming .55 points away from taking home a state title. We succeeded because we wanted to be good. And we were good — we were very good — because we worked hard.
Being in marching band taught me how to be a leader and how to be a follower. In high school, I was the drum major for two years. During that time, I led my peers and had to set the example for how I wanted the rest of our band to act and focus during rehearsals. I learned how to lead by serving. I also developed thick skin. I learned how to not get my feelings hurt when I was criticized, but instead learn how to make myself better.
I firmly believe because of my leadership in high school marching band, I have been able to lead in other areas of my life, such as being a camp director this past summer.
In college, I learned to follow. I learned you don’t always have to be the leader. In life, sometimes you are expected to simply do what others ask of you. As a member of the Famous Maroon Band, I was able to be a face in the crowd — a tiny dot in the “MSU” and “STATE” spell-outs during the pregame performances, but I was also a part of something much bigger than myself.
Band taught me how to be a sincere Bulldog fan as well. Singing the fight song after a major loss is hard. But win or lose, I will always be proud to be a Bulldog. The school spirit in this university is tangible. And because of the Famous Maroon Band, I can sing all the words to our alma mater by heart because I learned them during my first week of band camp.
Marching band gave back to me in ways many people never realize. I receive scholarship money each semester for being in the Famous Maroon Band. I would be in the band regardless of the funding, but that money has helped supply my college financial needs more than any other scholarship I receive.
My dad lost his job after his company filed for bankruptcy during my senior year of high school. I knew I wanted to attend Mississippi State, but my family had the obstacle of paying out-of-state tuition on top of regular college tuition, as well as tuition for my twin sister.
Because of the discipline I learned from marching band, I pushed myself in high school to get good grades and obtain as many scholarships as I could. My parents sacrificed so much for me to attend MSU. I often reference my parents in my opinion column, and I don’t thank them enough for everything they have done for me. They really are the smartest people I know.
My mother has consistently gone above and beyond to make me happy. I’ve never met anyone more True Maroon than my dad. Making them proud these past four years as a member of an SEC college marching band has been a joy. And from being laid off from his job of 24 years to having major surgery for what we all thought was kidney cancer, I can’t explain how good it felt to be on Scott Field and see my dad sitting five rows diagonally to the left of the F section on the west side of the stadium, ringing his cowbell and smiling. Through hard work and God’s provision, I will graduate college debt-free. I will never be able to thank the Famous Maroon Band enough for helping meet that need.
I would be wrong for not mentioning my growth as a musician because of marching band. I have developed a skill I can use for the rest of my life. I will always listen to music with appreciation and understanding. Music really does feed your soul.
I think the most important thing I can take away from a decade of marching band is the relationships I developed with my life-long friends. I met the greatest friends I’ll ever have in marching band. Most of the few people with whom I still have a lasting friendship from high school were band members alongside me. And, in spite of being involved in numerous other campus organizations, I can easily say my best friends are people I met in the Famous Maroon Band.
On my first day of band as a freshman, the directors of the Famous Maroon Band knew me by name. I wasn’t a number on a drill chart. I was Mary Chase Breedlove from Somerville, Tenn. I was truly invested in by three directors who knew each of us — all 350-something — and treated us with care and intentionality.
The directors of the Famous Maroon Band were a lot like my band director in high school was to me. They were teachers, mentors, critics and friends. I think it’s safe to assume you just don’t see that kind of relationship among college band members and directors every day.

I consider myself blessed to have such wonderful people who influenced my love of music and helped me become the best version of myself.
This journey was not always happy-go-lucky. In sickness and in health, band was hard sometimes. (During the Music City bowl trip last year, I got the worst stomach virus I’ve ever had in my entire life. It took me nine years, but I did in fact throw up on a band bus during my career as a band kid.)
My heart has been broken from the death of a fellow band member from high school, the loss of one of our close-knit “band parents” and from various hurtful circumstances my friends and I have endured. However, the bond of being in the band together held us up during these hard times and made the good times even sweeter.
So, after four seasons of football, three bowl game trips, countless boxed dinners on a charter bus, many rehearsals at 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and some of the best memories I’ll ever have, I will close a 10-year long chapter of my life in a few short weeks. Like any season of life, I know it must come to an end. I can never thank the directors, parents and friends enough for the past 10 years.


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