As the current editor in chief for The Los Angeles Loyolan, Chris Benis ’24 is helping to connect current student staff at the campus newspaper with its 100 years of history. “Every day I really stress to our student staff: When you publish an article under The Loyolan masthead, you’re publishing an article beside thousands of passionate alumni and with a mind of who came before you,” said Benis.
Chris Benis ‘24
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
“We’ve covered the L.A. riots, the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, and how it impacted campus,” he said. “We’ve covered every major historical event that’s come up in the past 100 years. And you should approach each story with that sense of pride and that high bar when you submit an article, when you engage with students for source quotes, so that it’s something that is constantly on the minds of our students.”
One of Benis’ favorite interviews was with Michael Ambrozewicz ‘03, an editor in chief for two years who shared that he would have continued for a third year if he could have. “When he took over the editor’s seat during his sophomore year, he began to realize that The Loyolan was facing financial peril because they were running ads from local businesses but had not charged the businesses to run those ads,” said Benis. “So, he immediately came into this sinking organization and being pulled in two directions to run both editorial content and help the organization achieve stable finances. I can’t imagine how he had gas left in the tank to be a full-time student.”
Ambrozewicz also shared with Benis about his experience on reporting and writing about the Sept. 11, 2001, attack and how it impacted this campus. For Benis, it is work like this on reporting on a tragedy that was impacting the nation and making it relevant to the current campus community at the time. For example, trying to find a photo of impact for something that is happening nearly 3,000 miles away from the LMU community for your front page that does its job of telling the story.
“Michael immediately went into crisis communications mode and scrapped the entire issue of the paper that was set to go out the next day on Sept. 12 for a whole new 9/11 edition,” said Benis. “And he sent his top photographer out across campus to see what he could capture for the headline story. The photographer went out and captured from under the flagpoles an image that looks as if the American flag has turned in on itself, it’s twisted and that’s what they ran with. This idea of The Loyolan having a more lateral pulse of the campus sphere is something that I’m taking and applying this semester. In the event of breaking news, I’m asking my staff what we are doing to inform our readers of what only we can do in terms of the student perspective.”
In the story, Benis wrote, “Michael Ambrozewicz stepped in to aid a dying newspaper at the turn of the 21st century. It took one determined 19-year-old all of four semesters to transform the suffering operation he inherited into an unrecognizable force for good.” Read the full story here.
Another piece that stuck out to Benis was about Danielle and Nick Velazquez, who met during their time at LMU putting in late nights in The Loyolan newsroom. Danielle was editor in chief in 2009 and Nick was an assistant sports editor and delivered the paper around campus. They ended up getting together a couple of years after they graduated. “It really introduces for me the lifetime element of working at The Loyolan,” said Benis. “Their story is a true Jim and Pam from “The Office,” type of love story. Both with other people when they worked in the newsroom and never quite got the timing right, until they reunited after graduating and got married in 2017. If it were not for The Loyolan, they would have never worked or had the chance to really be friends.
In the story, Benis writes, “Danielle Corkhill ’10 did not meet Nicolas Velazquez ’10 at a royal ball, accompanied by a fairy godmother and a pumpkin carriage. Nor did Nicolas make his acquaintance by rescuing Danielle from the tallest tower in a massive castle guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. No, the truth is far more romantic than any storybook fairytale. She was a copy editor, he was a sports editor. Their love was forbidden.”
For Benis, this centennial experience has helped him take the temperature with alums on what the newsroom has meant as a service and how it connects to the student experience pillar of committing to service and justice. “I see journalism not as a job, but as a service to our community and that’s one of my mantras for our work each week,” said Benis. “We get compensated for our work, but it is a responsibility and an obligation for me to honor each person who came before me in the editor’s seat and their legacy that they left behind. And, as journalists are usually moving so fast, we don’t get time to sit down and methodically look back at what’s been done.”