Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 29, 2022

A conversation with Marie Cushing, Editor-in-Chief '10

By AMELIA ISAACS | May 17, 2021

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COURTESY OF MATTHEW DUJNIC 

Cushing was on staff at The News-Letter when the News and Features sections merged.

Marie Cushing attended Hopkins from 2006 to 2010 and worked on The News-Letter as the inaugural Layout Editor, Your News-Letter Editor (now Leisure), News & Features Editor and Editor-in-Chief. After graduating from Hopkins she taught for a decade in Memphis and now serves as a research specialist in education for the University of Virginia.

The News-Letter: Why did you first decide to join The News-Letter?

Marie Cushing: I had always had a real love and appreciation for journalism and for nonfiction storytelling and just a deep nerdy desire to be a little sleuthy reporter, but also a genuine interest in telling people's stories and giving ears to the earless. And so I just sought out the Gatehouse, and once you go into that place, you can't really leave it. It's just a magical, funky, weird spot of like, oddballs driven to make a paper happen.

And I just started doing whatever I could. I read copy, then started going to City Council meetings, finding ways to expand folks' interest. Hopkins can be very insular, especially within Baltimore. So trying to find ways to tell stories that still mattered to people at Hopkins — how to make more of Baltimore matter to folks at Hopkins.

And then I just kind of worked my way through the ranks. I was the first Layout Editor, I kind of made that position for myself. I think I started The News-Letter’s Facebook page, which had not happened before. And when I was News & Features Editor, the Editor-in-Chief at the time, Sal Gentile, dragged us into the radio station and was like, “Okay, so just like read the big headlines, and we'll put out snippets and use that as a way to get people excited.” I was like, no way this is gonna work. And that predated the booming podcasting industry. So it goes to show you my instincts were very far off, and his were right on track. And then I just worked my way up to Editor-in-Chief.

N-L: Can you tell me a bit more about the radio?

MC: Oh, it was a mess. Because the last thing that somebody who's really into writing wants to do is hear their own voice. So it was just the four of us at the time, the News & Features Editors stuttering over our words, and it was just such a bomb. It didn't work at all. And it didn't really draw people to the website in the way we wanted to. It wasn't really like a big selling point. So unfortunately, we didn't find a way to make it work. But it's just interesting to think of how we were on the cusp of so many things changing in journalism and reporting and the impact of that.

N-L: What were some of your favorite articles that you wrote or edited?

MC: One that was written very early on in my time there by my friend Max McKenna, who wrote for the Feature section [when News and Features were separate sections] and he went to a Botox party in... what’s the flamingo neighborhood?

N-L: Hampden?

MC: Yeah, he went to a Botox party, I think in that neighborhood. And it was a real slice of life, and it was cool because, you know, you feel like you're a ragtag group of kids, but then to see somebody really going out there and telling this weird, somewhat obscure story was just really, really cool to see. So I think that's one of my favorites, just because I'm attracted to that kind of weird stuff.

I think, on the editing side of things — just helping to grow our science section a lot more. You know, Hopkins being such a science hub, it felt important to be able to tell the story of what people were researching and really grow that way. 

I think, unfortunately the things that stick with me too, are covering the tragedies. When you lose members of the school community, having to talk to people in mourning about their life and try to do them justice can be very, very difficult. It felt very powerful to be able to do, but you really felt the weight of telling someone's story in a way that’s not like covering the latest update on the quad or that kind of stuff. Not that that's not important, but there's more seriousness to it.

N-L: You mentioned that while you were on the paper the News and Features sections merged. What was that like, and were there any other big changes that occurred while you were on the paper?

MC: The News and Features sections combining was a really big one which was, you know, the decision made above me, so I went from like applying to be one of two News Editors to now having a team of four, so it was great to be able to like spread the load that way, and I think gave us space to be able to do more in-depth Features reporting.

We helped turn what you're doing — the special segments — into more of a Magazine-style thing. Before they were just inserts, and we would do the welcome to campus one [The Cover-Letter] and the Earth Day one, but then flexing so there was more opportunity to do more of that in-depth Features reporting, which was really cool to be able to do. We spearheaded getting The News-Letter to have its own website and not be affiliated, which was really cool to be a part of. Oh, and I started the Layout Editor position.

N-L: How did N-L impact your life as a college student? Why was it important to you? 

MC: I was a writing major. So it was great to be able to write and edit and have that real-world practice. And one of my strongest groups of friends was from my time at The News-Letter, bonding over very, very, very late night to early morning sessions.

There's that glow of Homewood at 2 a.m. when you're coming out and it's not quiet, but it's dimmed. It's very invigorating. I wish I still had a job where — I can do without the deadline and having to call the poor guy at the printing press to say we were gonna need another hour — but when things were really humming and working along, and everybody's got the deadline, but we're in a good place, and we feel like we have great stuff to write powerful editorials about, that kind of feeling is something that I think I appreciate more now being in the professional world, and you kind of chase that idea really strongly.

And then it helped make me a more confident person, and to feel like I could be a leader of people and develop my own kind of leadership style that's funny and affirming and helps people really see themselves for the talents that they have. But then also not be afraid to be like, “Okay, it's that time, we have to get something together.” And that's been invaluable.

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