Only two Saint Mary’s women have ever been chosen to lead The Observer. Here are their stories
Genevieve Coleman | Wednesday, February 5, 2020
The Observer General Board elected Maria Leontaras as Editor-in-Chief for the 2020-2021 school year. When she begins her term on March 1, she will be only the second Saint Mary’s student to occupy the role.
Marti Hogan was the first Belle to hold the position, serving during the 1977-1978 term. She said she began her career as assistant night editor her freshman year.
“At the fall open house my freshman year, most students who attended wanted to write, but I was interested in all aspects of production,” Hogan said in an email. “The position was open, and I accepted it that night.”
Hogan was one a small group of Saint Mary’s writers, rising through the ranks to become Saint Mary’s News Editor. In addition, she invited more Belles to join The Observer. Hogan admits she was surprised to be elected Editor-in-Chief.
“We had a very dedicated and talented staff, and I was shocked and honored to be selected by the board,” she said. “I looked forward to adding more Saint Mary’s coverage and bringing our campuses closer together.”
Hogan reflected on what working on the paper taught her throughout her time in college.
“The Observer attracted a diverse group of creative and clever people, not all looking for careers in journalism, and I probably wouldn’t have met most of my colleagues if not for the paper,” she said. “Even when opinions diverged, we discussed and listened with respect. I truly enjoyed those sometimes heated and often hilarious conversations and learned to value variety when working toward a common goal.”
Hogan now works at the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) as a communications consultant, joining the company in 2006, according to her LinkedIn page.
Maria Leontaras, a current junior at the College, is following Hogan’s path by becoming Editor-in-Chief.
(Editor’s Note: Leontaras is currently an Assistant Managing Editor at The Observer.)
Leontaras explained her motivation for joining The Observer when she came to Saint Mary’s.
“I didn’t just come to campus and just sign up for something random and get on with it,” she said. “I’ve loved journalism since freshman year of high school.”
Leontaras credits her initial interest in news stories to an article written about a lost peacock that got into her friend’s backyard. She then became an active member of her high school paper, eventually serving as Editor-in-Chief. She said she was not ready to quit her journalistic career when she was in college.
“When I came to Saint Mary’s, I knew there wasn’t a journalism major, but I still wanted to be involved with it because it was such a big part of my life,” she said. “I didn’t want to just let it go.”
She said the enthusiastic staff she met at the Saint Mary’s fall activities fair affirmed her decision to join.
“I remember the Saint Mary’s editor … Martha Rilley … was so excited for me to be excited to sign up,” she said. “And then I knew that The Observer was going to be something that I really wanted to commit my time to.”
Leontaras began as a writer and became Associate Saint Mary’s News Editor the spring of her freshman year. She went on to become an Assistant Managing Editor the following spring and has retained the position until now. She said has greatly enjoyed her time in both positions.
”I really liked being able to help everyone and not just be within the Saint Mary’s News department. I really got to talk to more people and make more friends beyond the editorial board,” she said.
Leontaras considered applying to be Editor-in-Chief but was hesitant to throw her hat in the ring. However, by the encouragement of her Notre Dame professor Rich Jones — her advisor in the Journalism, Education and Democracy program — she grew more confident and decided to apply.
“I’m just really excited to do it and to have the opportunity,” she said.
Leontaras said she feels that The Observer is moving in the right direction.
“I feel like now more than ever, we have come to a place where we can put aside where we go to school and just see people for their passion and their drive and what they want to do,” she said. “I think that it’s a good step towards The Observer becoming something that truly represents all three campuses and can take this opportunity that we have to build off of it. Make something great happen.”
Hogan, for her part, expressed excitement that she will no longer be the only Saint Mary’s alumna to lead The Observer.
“I am thrilled that Maria will be the next EIC and look forward to following her progress,” she said. “… The fact that Maria is only the second EIC from Saint Mary’s suggests that SMC students are missing opportunities to lead. … Perhaps the first step is getting involved.”
Leontaras encouraged those who are thinking about applying for Observer leadership roles, along with those who have not yet gotten involved in the Observer, to give it a shot.
“I always tell everyone, if it’s something you want to do, and you want to do it because you think you’d be good at it, because you have good ideas, [and] because you want to take The Observer to the next level through your contributions, just apply. Just do it,” she said.