The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet


June 30, 2021

Thriving in a pandemic

The last year was one of uncertainty, isolation and struggle for the world, the country and the students at Sac State. Through it all, The State Hornet adapted to continue to carry out its mission of informing and sometimes entertaining a large audience of our university community while being remote and physically separated.

The last year was the second full year of The State Hornet transitioning to being a digital-only organization, and that change put our organization in a perfect position to thrive at a time when we could not be on campus to talk to students or each other. Instead we had to use the power of our reach digitally to inform our audience through a time that included an unprecedented election, social upheaval and change and a pandemic with ever changing conditions for our community.

The State Hornet used its digital reach and technology to not only continue it’s reach to our audience but to grow and expand our coverage at a time when the world and the people in it were contracting into their homes. With expansions of podcasts, broadcasts, newsletters and audience engagement, The State Hornet continued to demonstrate its effectiveness in student media as a digital-only organization.

The first sentence of a photo caption is the who, what, when and where, The second sentence is the why.
The first sentence of a photo caption is the who, what, when and where, The second sentence is the why.

Web Design

Over the summer of 2020 The State Hornet sought to modernize the look of its homepage during the second year as a digital-only organization. The editor-in-chief and web editor partnered to take a course through SNO on news website design and overhauled the homepage to not only fit more modern standards and practices for a news website but to also make the homepage and mobile homepage much more customizable to allow editors to easily highlight special stories, videos, podcasts and breaking news in real time.

These updates helped The State Hornet secure a first place finish in the ACP Best in Show spring conference 2021 for schools with more than 10,000 students.

In addition to the homepage, The State Hornet used new design capabilities to produce more immersive and unique web treatments for larger stories. The plug-in Beaver Builder allowed the team to create layouts for stories with animations, more colors, overlaid captions and anchor links. Whether it was a landing page for all election coverage or variety of layouts for feature stories, when appropriate The State Hornet pushed the envelope on design to make certain stories seem like more a part of an online magazine then a simple student news site.

Elijah Dotson

Newsroom expansion

2020-21 saw the realization of a long-term dream of The State Hornet - securing enough newsroom space on campus to create a state-of-the-art newsroom space.

In October Editor-in-Chief Max Connor, Managing Editor Maddie Beck and adviser Stu VanAirsdale put together a proposal and presentation to the school administration’s Space Committee to outline the importance of an updated newsroom space to allow The State Hornet to continue to expand their multimedia coverage of the campus and local community while also having space to expand marketing and sales to support the organization. That presentation won the approval of the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and in April, The State Hornet was granted nearly 1000 square feet of additional space to the 700 that had been currently in use.

The new space is spread across three rooms which will be allocated for separate uses. One will be an all-purpose newsroom used for meetings, collaborative reporting and a hub for student reporters to meet and discuss stories. Another will become a multimedia space complete with a podcast studio and broadcast set to give The State Hornet a permanent home for audio and video coverage of its community. The final small space will be a dedicated office for our promotion, sales and marketing team. It has been years since The State Hornet has had a dedicated ad office and this space will allow for better recruitment of public relations students and students from the business school to help The State Hornet add to its revenue stream with partnerships and advertising.

Elijah Dotson


The State Hornet started its broadcast show in the spring of 2020. After just a few biweekly episodes, it was forced to pivot to students shooting in front of a white wall with their cell phones as cameras.

Despite not being on campus for the entire 2020-21 school year, the multimedia team was determined to expand the scope of the broadcast program and quickly found that shooting outside on campus in various locations gave the show a depth and style that couldn’t be found shooting at home.

Outdoor broadcasts gave the audience a connection to campus that was otherwise non-existent while delivering the most recent and important news to the student body regarding vaccinations, campus services, athletics and events.

To serve a goal of the masthead this year, the broadcast team also expanded their coverage to add a Spanish language version of each biweekly broadcast starting in the spring of 2021. These broadcasts gave concise and important Sac State news to the Spanish speaking community connected to campus.

Elijah Dotson


Spring 2021 was the first semester where The State Hornet fielded a dedicated podcast staff. This extra attention on the section helped us to greatly expand the scope of our audio content, with several new shows and increasing regularity and polish on existing ones.

Our flagship new show, the aptly-named “State Hornet Podcast,” went from an irregular once-a-week upload to a recurring site feature uploading three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

We were able to accomplish this by rotating the podcast section across each show, with two hosts on the Monday and Wednesday editions and the section editor on Fridays to spread out the workload of selecting stories to cover, writing the script, recording the audio and getting the files edited and ready for upload.

We also introduced a Spanish language version of the podcast partway through the semester, affectionately titled “El Avispón Del Estado.” This greatly expanded the reach of some of our most crucial stories, and our incoming editor-in-chief, Jordan Parker, has been outspoken in his desire to see multilingual content continue to grow at The State Hornet.

In addition to our news podcast, we also produced several other shows during the semester to great acclaim, including “Real Talk with Rose” which covered student advice topics in an innovative format and “Unforgettable,” a massive semester-end project that chronicled the student experience during the year 2020 and the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elijah Dotson

Audience Engagement

This year saw the creation of a new team at The State Hornet focused on audience engagement on social media. Without traditional means of creating more visibility on campus, the team set out to create more engagement online, particularly with Instagram and Twitter.

In the spring, each section (news, arts and entertainment, sports, multimedia) had a dedicated audience engagement staff member to ensure that stories were being put out multiple times on social media and tracking analytics to see how stories were gaining traction.

In March, the team, along with section editors, created an interactive campaign to mirror March Madness but with the topic of Most Binge-worthy TV Show bracket. That three week campaign saw The State Hornet tally thousands of votes across social platforms from the audience. The campaign included a printable bracket and updates on upsets, with a single landing page serving as a hub for readers to follow the results.

Elijah Dotson


This year, The State Hornet surpassed its advertising goals thanks to a comprehensive sponsorship package sold at the end of spring 2021 to a new student housing complex near campus.

Each spring, The State Hornet holds a Best of Sac State poll to engage with their readers about what they love best about Sac State and some of their favorite bits of pop culture.
Despite not being on campus for over a year, The State Hornet reached out to its audience with newsletter and social media campaigns to engage with readers in the annual poll.

That engagement helped the organization get Hornet Commons student housing to buy a package that included sponsorship of all the Best of Sac State assets, a sponsored newsletter, podcast ad reads and a broadcast commercial.