The Crimson White’s news editor, Keely Brewer, will serve as editor-in-chief of the paper beginning in May 2021.
“Keely comes to the position with an incredible amount of experience as a student journalist,” said Monique Fields, the Office of Student Media’s associate director of editorial, who advises The Crimson White. “She is an award-winning reporter and is destined to do well in the field. I am confident she will succeed in her position as the editor-in-chief at The Crimson White.”
Brewer has worked at The CW since her freshman year, when Rebecca Griesbach, The CW’s current editor-in-chief, began noticing her work. Griesbach was production editor at the time.
“The first time I really noticed Keely’s work was when she was a freshman, and she did that exposé on Matt Fajack,” Griesbach said. “That’s when I knew she would be the editor.”
Several university employees had expressed concerns about Fajack, UA vice president for the Division of Finance and Operations, and rumored plans to axe spring breaks for employees or outsource some labor on campus. Brewer sat down to interview Fajack in person, and even got Fajack to sit for a photo to accompany her story.
“She’s just got phenomenal reporting experience,” Griesbach said. “She has the ethical backbone and the kind of knowledge that you need to help advise students on hard news stories.”
At the time of the Fajack story, Brewer was a contributing writer for the paper. In her sophomore year, she became a staff reporter. By the second semester of that year, she had been tapped to serve as assistant photo editor. Brewer remained in that role until December 2020, tacking on assistant news editor in the fall semester as well. Since January, she has been The CW’s news editor. The whirlwind of promotions left Brewer shell-shocked, but game.
“I think it’s a little scary…,” Brewer said. “It pushed me a lot, to lead a team and challenge myself. I really enjoyed it. I’m glad it was such a quick turnaround, because I think it made me more excited about the work I’ve been doing.”
Brewer, who is also pursuing minors in international studies and computing technology and applications, has never been one to shy away from a little extra responsibility. In addition to her work as a student and editor, Brewer has been interning with Victor Luckerson, a former CW editor-in-chief who is writing a book about Tulsa’s Black Wall Street.
As a research assistant to Luckerson, Brewer is responsible for cataloging changes in property ownership in Tulsa. It’s a spreadsheet-heavy workload that Brewer said is “super fun, actually.”
“I’ve been really impressed with her work there,” Luckerson said of Brewer’s research. “Looking at centuries-old land deeds is actually pretty complicated, and it took me a long time to get a grasp on it. But she’s picked it up really fast and been very efficient at it.”
As editor-in-chief, Brewer will continue working with Luckerson, who is also president of MASTHEAD, a UA student media alumni organization that funds diversity efforts at The CW and 1956 Magazine. Brewer will attend MASTHEAD meetings and be a liaison between the paper and the nonprofit.
“It’s important to me that we’re identifying things that student leaders actually want to execute and achieve,” Luckerson said. “I’m hoping to talk to her soon about MASTHEAD and see what her vision is and how MASTHEAD can fit into what she’s trying to achieve at The Crimson White.”
Brewer included diversity efforts in her proposal to the Media Planning Board. She hopes to expand opportunities for The CW’s race and identity desk, which was established this semester with funding from MASTHEAD. Brewer said she also wants to build a greater sense of community within the paper, and she’s optimistic that staff will be able to return to meeting in person. The CW has not held any in-person staff meetings since March 2020, and editors and designers have worked remotely since then.
“I hope we’ll be back in person next year,” Brewer said. “I’m looking forward to that, that’s obviously the goal.”
Becoming editor-in-chief will put a cap on a college journalism career Brewer didn’t even expect to have. As a student at the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science, Brewer figured she would take a STEM route. In fact, she applied to The University of Alabama as an engineering major. But when she wandered into a College of Communication and Information Sciences recruitment session as a high school senior, something clicked.
Part of the appeal of journalism, Brewer said she soon realized, was how much opportunity it could give her.
“I think when I settled on journalism, I thought I had to betray all of the STEM-minded things I had also loved,” Brewer said. “But journalism is such a broad field that there’s room for all of it. That’s what I love about it, that I can still practice all of those things.”
And according to Griesbach, who was once Brewer’s desk editor, Brewer does all “those things”—data analysis, photography, leadership, the works—with admirable, if mystifying, aplomb.
“She just sort of exudes this effortlessness that I think is almost… bewildering,” Griesbach said. “She’s just on it.”