Through a year of pandemic, protests about racial injustice and divisive politics, Bella Davis made it to graduation, leaving behind a massive legacy of reporting in her wake. With a major in journalism and a minor in international studies, Davis is also ending her time as a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo.
Davis pursued writing throughout high school but wasn’t sure which path was best for her when she began studying at the University of New Mexico. By the end of her freshman year, she applied to work for the honors literary magazine Scribendi and was accepted — much to Davis’ surprise. She continued to realize her full potential by becoming the editor in chief for Limina: UNM Nonfiction Review during her junior year.
But something was still missing. Davis candidly expressed the discouragement she felt after years of classes in the communication and journalism department. In those spaces, she was confronted by professors who told her that “in order to be a good reporter, (you) have to be objective and have to remain neutral.”
“I’m angry about a lot of stuff, and journalism is a way to confront those things that are so unjust,” Davis said. “Capitalism and white supremacy are not natural systems — they were made, so they can be unmade, and journalism should have a role in that.”
Davis found that her pursuit of social justice issues and fighting inequity led her directly to the doorstep of the Daily Lobo. Last March, she approached former Editor-in-Chief Justin Garcia about a piece she wanted to pen about the impact the closure of Student Health and Counseling would have on students for the rest of the spring semester.
“Like a lot of people, I kind of just fell into it and fell in love with it,” Davis said about the Lobo.
Likewise, the Lobo fell in love with Davis and the wholly unique way that she covered stories, unlike any other news outlet in the city of Albuquerque.
Current Editor-in-Chief Alex McCausland spoke about how impressed he was with Davis’ first few articles covering the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in May. But what stood out to him the most was Davis’ coverage of the Albuquerque Police Department shooting of Max Mitnik which emphasized “specific moments in the body cam footage that highlighted the emotions and experiences of people involved in the situation, instead of just reporting on it like it was a news story.”
Daily Lobo copy editor Andrew Gunn recalled his rapid-pace introduction to Davis on the streets of Albuquerque, where the two dodged rounds of sponge grenades and tear gas deployed by riot police at a George Floyd protest in May. Gunn was impressed by her refusal to leave long after other news stations had left the fray and said Davis has “courage, tenacity and a desire to tell the whole story.”
“Lots of people were yearning for the type of coverage that (Davis) provides, and I think she came to understand that over time and was more emboldened to express herself freely. To me, that's what journalism is about,” McCausland said.
Davis was pleasantly surprised to find her work filled a hole in news coverage of the community.
“The reaction from the community was incredible and still blows me away,” Davis said. “I still have people messaging me about the reporting that I did and other reporting from the Daily Lobo (saying that) if we hadn’t been out reporting, they wouldn’t have known what was going on.”
In August, Davis secured a fellowship at New Mexico In Depth, an investigative news organization, in a time when journalists are increasingly out of work due to COVID-19. She will continue there until the spring but doesn’t know the finer details of what her journalistic pursuits will look like after that.
“I feel more tied to Albuquerque and New Mexico than I have before, and that makes me want to stay here,” Davis said. “I view my reporting as trying to serve my community … and I would love to keep doing that here.”
However, Davis will be remembered for even more than just her transformational reporting for the Daily Lobo.
Gunn noted that the same kindness and passion Davis applies to her reporting translates into fiercely loyal relationships with her friends and colleagues.
“She has a sort of tenacity at getting at the truth of things … and as a friend that looks like someone who doesn’t have all of the answers off the bat but will help you get to them in a really helpful way,” close friend Ben River said.
Claudia Dimond, one of Davis’ best friends, described her honesty, kindness and intense passion for the things she cares about.
“I feel like people don’t love to hear this about themselves, but (Davis) is genuinely what a good human is,” Dimond said.
McCausland said what he’ll miss most about the loss of Davis from the Lobo is her defining quality of passion and said, “When you care enough about what you’re writing about, it comes out in the articles that you produce.”
Gunn seconded the sentiment and said he would miss her courage and passion, qualities he said are a far cry from the status quo of journalism in Albuquerque.
Davis has left a profound mark at the University. There’s no doubt that she will continue to inspire a new generation of journalists who value truth and humanity over so-called objectivity and bothsidesism.
Shelby Kleinhans is a freelance photographer and beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99