Why I Joined The News-Letter, and Why You Should Too

By SAM FOSSUM | August 31, 2017

Like hundreds of other freshmen, I began my first year by signing up for dozens of student groups. But what really changed the course of my life at Hopkins was the first time I walked into the Gatehouse — The News-Letter’s permanent office and home.

Well, not right away exactly. It took a semester of joining (and eventually dropping) at least a half dozen other clubs before someone said I should go to one of The News-Letter’s weekly meetings.

The Gatehouse doesn’t have an exact address so when I was told to just “go to the building on the corner of N. Charles St. and Art Museum Dr.,” it took me a while to actually find it. I knocked on the door and one of the News & Features editors answered, welcoming me to my first writer’s meeting.

When I walked inside I felt surprised, even though I can’t really say what I was expecting the office of a college paper to look like.  Students sat and talked on the worn sofas, a poster of Denzel Washington was taped to a door, awards dotted the walls and there were stacks of newspapers absolutely everywhere. This was my introduction to the Gatehouse, a building that embodies The News-Letter’s organized chaos.

During this first meeting I was assigned my first piece, which both delighted and terrified me. The prospect of talking to complete strangers and covering a topic in an interesting way seemed daunting. But with the help of one of the news editors my first piece turned out alright.

Prior to Hopkins I had never conducted an interview, laid out a page on InDesign, or written a news article. It was here, at The News-Letter, that I learned all of that and so much more. It is the only organization on campus that will teach you how an actual newspaper is run and what standards journalists hold themselves to. Searching for the truth will always be difficult, but our job is to figure out what is really going on ­­— not just what seems to be happening. 

Over the next year my editors would provide me with the training and the guidance to work on everything from a two-part series delving into the University’s decentralized financial structure to covering fossil fuel divestment protests. My time first as a staff writer and then as a News & Features editor was thrilling as I pursued leads and interviewed people passionate about what they do or what they are fighting for.

Being a part of an institution that provides a critical public service to both the Hopkins community and the Baltimore neighborhoods that we live in is both a privilege and a responsibility.

But what really brings our paper together are the editors, photographers, writers, webmasters and business staff who put in countless hours of work to make sure that The News-Letter arrives to our readers every Thursday afternoon. It’s these people, my fellow student journalists, who are the reason why I can start editing at four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon and remain in the Gatehouse, ripped sofas and all, until the sun rises again and the paper is sent to the printer.

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