TPN sends off graduating senior opinions columnists

By Rachel Soloff and Grace DeLallo

The opinions desk says farewell to the fantastic seniors graduating this spring. These columnists have made the opinions desk the best desk with their kindness, great ideas and willingness to step out of their comfort zones. We will truly miss them and wish them well!

Anita Bengert, Staff Columnist // Grace DeLallo, Assistant Opinions Editor

Anita was the first person that I worked closely with on a column. I remember hopping on Zoom, us wading through all of her thoughts and concerns and her thanking me for my efforts and patience. She always came with questions and a determination to create something reflective of her intentions. I always wanted to make sure she produced work she was proud of, and I hope I accomplished that. 

I’ll also never forget the time I got your ghosting column into copy without any comments. We worked hard to shape your thoughts and collaborated so that you felt proud of it. I will miss your insights and your contributions to other columnists’ pitches.

Juliana Morello, Staff Columnist // Rachel Soloff, Opinions Editor

I had seen Juliana sitting at the copy desk in the office. In typical copy fashion, she sat and carefully went through all the articles for the paper while I, in usual disruptive editor fashion, would talk too loudly to the other editors. Sometimes though, I would see Juliana giggle at one of my jokes, which always made me smile. My goal then became to make her exclusively laugh.

When Juliana messaged me that she wanted to work on the opinions desk along with her work with the copy desk, I was thrilled — another person to laugh at my jokes! Editing her columns about digital cameras, hook-up culture and her amazing silhouette was always a pleasure. 

Jessica Snyder, Senior Staff Columnist // Grace DeLallo, Assistant Opinions Editor

Before getting to know Jess last May during a program we were both in at the Hill District CEC, I didn’t think she liked me very much. She came in with her eyebrow pierced and tattoos, and then I learned she has a pet tarantula — she was too cool, anyway. But after spending time with her, I learned that Jess is so funny and we grew closer. We just had to warm up to each other. I mean, you have to be if you’re going to talk about Punxsutawney Phil being turned into a hot dog. 

I’m so happy for you and your husband and your kitties. Bon voyage, Jess. We will miss you and your peculiar mix of pitches

Sarah Liez, Senior Staff Columnist // Rachel Soloff, Opinions Editor

Sarah was totally a nepotism hire. As my first-year roommate in Tower A floor seven, Sarah has become an integral part of my college experience. We’ve had some crazy adventures, from going to Schenley Park at weird times of night to going to parties we maybe weren’t welcome at, but I couldn’t imagine spending these times with anyone but her. 

Sarah always watched me go to my many Pitt News meetings, so when she wanted to join the opinions desk with me, I was so excited. Her interview essentially consisted of us chatting, and although she was a nepotism hire, her work at The Pitt News was phenomenal. 

She wrote about anything and everything from Halloween to communist Spongebob — every piece has had her distinct voice and persuasive writing style. I’m very excited to see her continue to grow as both a writer and a human, and I’ll miss her a lot.

Talia Spillerman, Senior Staff Columnist // Grace DeLallo, Assistant Opinions Editor

Every pitch meeting, Talia would walk in with a shining smile on her face. It’s one that can light up a room. She always came with curiosity, which led her to write about a number of differing topics, like the tough yet glamorous sport of cheerleading, the problem with TikTok babies and a love letter to Pitt set in the style of “My Favorite Things.” 

Talia was always so receptive to everybody’s inputs on her pitches because she genuinely cared about what her fellow deskmates had to say — even if it was feedback on a column from the perspective of a Towers fork. I think the longest discussion occurred when she pitched her Muppets column, which she and Rachel bonded over. And anyone who loves The Muppets is OK in my book. 

Talia, you will make the best future lawyer, and I wish you the best of luck in whatever niche you choose. You are kind, bright and want the world to be a better place! 

Paige Wasserman, Senior Staff Columnist // Rachel Soloff, Opinions Editor

There’s truly no one else on this planet like Paige, and I knew from the first minute I met her in The Pitt News conference room. Her interview quickly derailed and turned into a 20-minute conversation about “Fleabag.” Her energy is so infectious, and she is so naturally funny, which comes through so well in her writing. 

From our pitch meetings to the Charli XCX concert we went to together where she couldn’t stop saying that she was out with the boss, Paige has made me laugh so hard that I definitely peed a little. Her columns have ranged topics, but all of them contain her distinct brand of humor. From her controversial bagel column to the toxicity of Linkedin, Paige’s columns have made a splash. 

Lynnette Tibbott, Staff Columnist // Grace DeLallo, Assistant Opinions Editor

When Rachel asked me if a culture writer could switch to opinions, I was skeptical. It wasn’t because I think that culture writers don’t make good opinions columnists, it was just that we had a desk full of new hires, and I was worried about adding yet another new voice who needed to be shaped — but boy, was I wrong. 

Lynnette came into the opinions desk with a strong voice, one that reminded me of my style of writing. Lynnette puts her topics into conversation with the reader and brings them alive. She writes with poise and flare, while also educating the reader — which definitely comes from her science background. From what I can tell in the year that I’ve known her, Lynnette will excel wherever she goes because she cares about people’s health and safety and wants to see a better world — all of which comes through in her work. 

Paul Beer, Staff Columnist // Rachel Soloff, Opinions Editor

When we interviewed Paul, I was way too impressed with him. He was so intelligent and put together that I genuinely couldn’t see myself as his boss. Paul is one of the best additions to the desk, insightfully suggesting ideas for other columnists’ pitches and pitching equally creative columns himself. Paul has brought a culture back to the opinions desk that was missing since the pandemic. He is friendly, an attentive listener and super funny, coming to our pitch meetings with a funny story about the kids he works with or his amazing Doordash/UberEats couples costume.

Paul’s columns have run the gambit, from his experience as a poll worker to the bird flu. His columns are informative and written extremely well. Every time I have edited one of Paul’s columns, I have learned something new, which is one of the best parts of this job. 

Ashanti McLaurin, Staff Columnist // Rachel Soloff, Opinions Editor

Ashanti’s columns are ones that make me think about things in a new way. I remember editing her column about skin bleaching, and I had to read it twice to edit it because I was so enthralled by her writing that halfway through I realized I hadn’t left a single edit. Her writing style is so gripping and mixed with interesting topics.

Although Ashanti’s schedule as a kick-ass Pitt cheerleader prevented her from coming to our weekly pitch meetings, she always sent the most lovely Slack messages filled with emojis when she wanted to pitch.