Still Stinging at 70
State Hornet builds careers, tells school story
By Jose Fabian
The State Hornet, Sacramento State’s student-run news organization, celebrates its 70th anniversary this spring with a series of community events and alumni gatherings to honor The Hornet’s influence and impact.
The newspaper, which published a four-page inaugural issue in January 1949, has produced evocative and memorable news coverage, careers and experiences.
From the university’s cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1952, to Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Sac State in 1967, to coverage of protests, 9/11 and sports successes, State Hornet student journalists reported, photographed, wrote and edited stories that would propel them to bright futures.
The work reflects seven decades of milestones at Sac State and demonstrates how the university has enriched the region, state and nation.
Many accomplished, award-winning journalists got their starts reporting for The State Hornet.
Derek Moore had never reported before joining The Hornet as a student from 1991–93. In 2017, Moore was part of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the wildfires that ravaged Napa and Sonoma counties.
He recalls The Hornet “wasn’t the theory of reporting. It was the practical application of reporting. Basically, I learned the fundamentals of how to be a reporter at my time on The State Hornet. I’ve carried those with me throughout my entire career.” Today, Moore is president of the Pacific Media Workers Guild.
Kristine Phillips is a State Hornet alumna who began as a news writer on the paper before advancing to the role of news editor.
Phillips moved to the Indianapolis Star and Washington Post before settling into her current job as a justice reporter at USA Today where she covers national stories, such as the U.S. Justice Department investigation led by Robert Mueller.
“As a college writer, I made a lot of mistakes,” Phillips says. “As a college editor, I made even more. But nothing else could have prepared me for a career in journalism than making all those mistakes—and learning from them.”
Phillips spent many sleepless nights and years of hard work producing The State Hornet, but the time invested brought significant returns.
“Most importantly, it gave me the spine to not just ask the right questions, but also the tough ones,” Phillips says.
Another alumna who solidified her confidence on The State Hornet is Elizabeth Graswich. Graswich is director of communications and community relations at San Ramon Valley Unified School District. She is a former Sacramento Bee reporter (and married to Inside contributor R.E. Graswich).
When the Olympic trials were held at Sacramento State in 2000, The State Hornet was granted two press passes. Graswich and another reporter went to pick up the passes, but were turned away.
“I was determined to cover it,” Graswich says. “So, I camped out there all day hounding (the event’s media coordinator).” After a day’s struggle, Graswich received the two promised press passes.
“One of the lessons as a journalist was determination,” Graswich says. “You get turned down a lot. It takes grit and determination to be successful, and that was a real turning point for me and my confidence to go after what I wanted.”
Sam Amick, a former NBA reporter for The Bee and USA Today who covers pro basketball for The Athletic, got his start in sports journalism on The State Hornet.
Long before he covered Lebron James and Steph Curry, Amick drove out to Lake Natoma to cover Sac State women’s rowing—a sport Amick knew nothing about.
“I had to instantly kind of learn how to connect with people,” Amick says. “And basically conduct the kind of interviews and have the kinds of conversations that would help me understand what it is that they all did.
“That was easily the best experience I had as I was trying to figure this whole thing out,” Amick says. “The real-life experience, what reporting was, the camaraderie of the newsroom.”
The State Hornet is the most-requested research collection at the Donald & Beverly Gerth Special Collections & University Archives at Sac State. To mark the historic anniversary, The Hornet and the archive organized “The State Hornet: The First 70 Years,” a free exhibition featuring more than 20 large reprints and original editions dating to 1949.
The exhibition runs at the Archives through May 3, then moves to the Harper Alumni Center at Sacramento State for The State Hornet’s 70th Anniversary Celebration and Alumni Reunion. The celebration will be May 4 from 7–10 p.m., and includes food, no-host bar and souvenirs.
Tickets are available at statehornet.com/70th for $45 before May 4, and $50 at the door.
Jose Fabian is a State Hornet staff reporter and political science-journalism major at Sacramento State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.