Izzie Hicks: “I’ve always been a writer”

December 17, 2021 | NEWS | By Josh Kalenga | Photo by Isaac Yee

Izzie, an outgoing Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Catalyst, reflects on being raised by journalists, rediscovering her love for writing, her time with The Catalyst, and her life beyond the paper.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

“So both of my parents, my mom and dad, were journalists. They actually met when they were young and working for the same paper. My dad was the managing editor of this Denver newspaper for like 20 years and then because of budget cuts for newsrooms around the country, they ultimately let his position go when I was, I don’t know, 14.

Just because you know, newspapers around the country are downsizing. I was really lucky. He was actually able to find another job that same week so it didn’t have a huge financial impact on my family.

I wouldn’t say they discouraged me from going into journalism, but they definitely wanted me to think about other options that they saw having more of a future since they had witnessed print journalism just get gutted over the time that they worked as professional journalists.

But I’ve always been a writer and I’ve always loved writing. I went to art school for creative writing for seven years and it was always just the thing that I love to do. And I was a little burnt out on it by the time I graduated, just writing and yet also not going into college thinking that I would study journalism.

And it actually was kind of an accident. I didn’t get into one of my blocks freshman year and just decided to take a reporting on government class instead because I thought it looked interesting. And I think it was then that I remembered how much I really love to write and really missed it.

And also I got really into interviewing sources and doing research and writing about current things that were happening. My parents didn’t seem that surprised I became interested in journalism, and they’ve been really supportive.

I love interviewing people and learning more about what’s going on. But my favorite part is always when that information is all in the document and then you have to go through and piece it together in a way that is engaging and reads well, and I’ve always just really enjoyed writing and working with words.

I think my favorite part of being an editor is seeing how other people write. And because there’s so many talented writers who write for the paper every single week. It’s helped me grow myself as a better writer, but it’s also just been very enjoyable seeing how other people write.

In fifth grade, maybe fourth grade, I was pretty young, me and my best friend Natalie made our own newspaper. It was called the ‘NataBelle News’ because it was a combination of our names and it was handwritten on printer paper and stapled together, photocopied and we’d distribute it to the 20 people in our class.

I was so into it.

I wrote that I was managing editor because that’s what my dad was and I did it for at least six months. There was a lot going on in my elementary school, I guess.

But, yeah, my parents saved the newspapers. And so I think when I knew I was going to be editor in chief, but before I started, I went to my basement and found those and just thought it was so cute — seeing how I wanted to do that as like a little kid.

I grew up in Denver, Colorado, pretty close to the Springs, it’s about an hour away. I really liked my childhood and where I grew up. Comparatively Denver’s not really a big city. But it’s city enough to have a downtown and, you know, concerts and food and all that kind of stuff, easily accessible.

But then also being so close to nature and the mountains definitely had a big impact on me growing up as a kid and I was really lucky that my parents made an effort to expose me and my older sister to nature and mountains at a young age.

Photo courtesy of Isaac Yee

Going to camp and you know, skiing, that kind of stuff, I think has really instilled such a deep appreciation and gratitude for nature and the environment and that made me end up choosing my college major as environmental studies.

My older sister is about three years older than me, but both my parents and me really love writing, it’s what we’re skilled that. But she’s a chemist and getting a PhD in chemistry right now. It’s just kind of funny how I got all the writing genes and she didn’t get any of them. She definitely has other skills though for sure.

I signed up for another journalism class my sophomore year and in that class I got an email from the current editors in chief. I guess the professor of my first journalism class had given them names of people who he thought would be good writers. And so me and my really good friend, Sam, both got that email and were super psyched and honored.

I had never even thought that hard about joining the Catalyst. I thought the staff was full or something like that, but then they invited us to apply for the longform writer position. We were both really excited and both did it and both got it.

From my first article I was so into it. I just really, really loved it. I put so much effort into every article, which I feel was somewhat unique to the longform position because [we] had a month to write each article and they could be longer.

The first article I wrote was about the meal plan and whether it really is sustainable. That topic is definitely written about a lot but I was really excited about it. I interviewed the Bon Appetit head chef and they gave me a tour of the Rasties kitchen, which I thought was really cool.

I also interviewed Robert Moore who’s the Vice President of Finance and at least one other person for the article. I knew that the main thing I needed was interviews so I just went out of my way to talk to everyone I could. I really wanted to do a good job.

I remember being really stressed out about how I was going to write it. I turned it in and then that Friday, I get a snapchat from Sam and my article is on the front page, the first one I’d written!

So after that I was totally hooked and every week I was like, ‘How can I make my piece the best piece so that I can see it above the fold again?’ It was just like kind of addicting at that point and made me really want to just try really, really hard and I think that work ethic and that passion got me really far.

When the school shut down from COVID and everyone got sent home there was that two weeks [when students] didn’t really know if The Catalyst was gonna continue to be a thing. But then I heard from the news editor asking me if I wanted to write about COVID and what was going on.

The two articles I remember from that time were CC’s refund policy after kids went home and questions about how the school [was] going to refund housing and meal plan costs and people were really upset about it. And then also, I wrote one just about how different clubs and friends were coming together, virtually as a community.

I was really into asking poll questions over my Instagram story for a while because everyone was so bored and online. So many people ended up responding, friends that I was physically apart from because we were all in quarantine.

And so from that I would text and call the people who responded to my questions and get quotes from them. I was able to get pretty well-reported articles with a lot of sources for those two things, but it was also just really fun for me because I was really lonely and not really sure what was going on with the pandemic or when we were going to go back.

I had a lot of ideas for The Catalyst that felt really apt, like ways to improve their social media and their COVID coverage, especially since it was online when we started. So I was just really excited to have a vehicle to implement those ideas if I became the editor in chief. Even if I wasn’t an editor, I felt qualified with the writing and reporting experience that I had.

So I just decided to apply and it worked out. I’m really glad I did

The biggest lesson was just how to work in a team. I think The Catalyst is just one big kind of group project every week. I think it was important for me to get over that attitude where if I want something done right I have to do it myself.

You need to ask for help and you need to support the other people in your team as best as you can.

It was valuable to have [Josh] as a co-editor and learn how you can also take on this extremely stressful job with someone and know that you’re both in it together, have the same goals and are able to split up the work and do a good job, but also have a lot of fun at the same time.

Seeing the paper in print every Friday, and all of the articles written by different people, most of whom I’ve never met in person, and all the photos and all the editors, knowing how much work went into that 12 or 16 page paper – it’s a reminder that this isn’t something that is only us because we’re the editors in chief.

It’s literally such a team effort based on so many different CC students with different experiences and yeah, it’s just refreshing and very important for me to recognize that I can’t do everything by myself.

The Catalyst has been by main thing for years. I mean, I am an environmental studies major so I’ve been doing State of the Rockies research for the past several months too. That has been really interesting to me and I think very important to my development academically and as a researcher. So that’s been fun.

Aside from that I’ve always really liked animals and being outside and you know, feeling connected to the earth.

I got really into gardening and farming and growing food recently, which has been very rewarding. Also I fostered several kittens during the pandemic and yeah, I think other than those specific things, it’s really important for me to spend time with my friends, whatever it may be that we’re doing.

Izzie with her foster kittens, photo courtesy of Ella Neurohr

I think that throughout college, it’s been really rewarding to me to blend my love and knowledge of the environment and addressing climate change with writing. Because I think there’s definitely a lot to be improved upon with science communication as it stands right now.

I don’t have an ideal career. Because I could just see it existing in so many different ways whether it be doing predominantly agricultural or restoration or conservation work and writing about that on the side, or primarily being an environmental reporter.

I’m also really interested in doing environmental research and stuff like that in the hopes of maybe going to grad school and being a professor, but I just, yeah, I don’t really have a set path which is definitely terrifying.

But I also think that I have the skills and the work ethic to do well at whatever I choose to do, while also knowing that I might change paths in a few years and not end up doing the first thing I do when I get out of college. So time will tell.

I’ve just felt really grateful to be helping with the only student newspaper at CC with such an incredible team of people who have really stepped up to the moment and the added challenge of just existing during the pandemic, while also being journalists.

It’s been a very unique historical experience to live through and see in other ways how important news outlets and journalism in general is to provide information and help people understand what’s going on in the world. I’ve just felt lucky.

Yeah, I didn’t feel lucky when COVID sent us all home last year. But I think I’ve been lucky to have been a journalist during this time, to be able to work with such great people and have a fun time while we’re also doing what I feel is very important work that needs to be done by someone.

I’m glad it is being done by us. And [no longer being Co-EIC] is just gonna feel weird. Next semester on Thursdays, having time. I’m excited but I’m also gonna miss it.

But I also have complete and total faith that the new EICs are going to do an amazing job. And I’m just genuinely really excited to see all the new things they bring to the paper.

We did it. Wow. It’s crazy!”

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