In April 2020, sitting at computers almost 3,000 miles apart, we were elected to be Editors-in-Chief of The News-Letter. By then, we’d been doing remote production for about a month, but at the time, we believed that things would soon return to normal.
They did not. The pandemic raged on, and The News-Letter started off the fall semester without a print issue, transforming from a print-first weekly to an online-only daily publication. But despite the challenges of this isolating and exhausting time, we as a paper were able to accomplish a lot this year.
We revamped our social media presence, and our Design/Creative Team made more graphics and cartoons than ever before. The Science & Technology section kept readers apprised of COVID-19 research developments. Arts & Entertainment showcased how groups and artists adapted to constraints on performances. With no Hopkins athletics this fall, the Sports section shifted its focus to the national landscape. And with hardly any in-person events to cover, News & Features reported on administrative and local developments as quickly as possible.
To the best of our ability, we’ve created a record for how Hopkins students coped with a tumultuous year. We’ve chronicled how we felt during an unprecedented election and a historic reckoning with racism and how we found joy during a time of pronounced fear and loneliness.
Most importantly, we were the link that tied students back to campus — and to each other. Even throughout the summer, we published articles to keep students up to date on the University’s response to COVID-19.
With the student body and our staff scattered across the globe, we did our best to stay afloat. Fortunately, being online allowed us to update the Hopkins community in real time as opposed to waiting until Thursday to print.
Of course, going out of print was a big loss (who doesn’t love the feeling of leafing through a physical newspaper?). As our Editorial Board wrote in fall 2019, “online archives simply do not have the same tangible impact as our print records, in the same way that online editions of novels do not do justice to the experience of reading a bound book.” However, weekly printing is not sustainable financially or environmentally, with online ads becoming increasingly prominent and many papers going to waste.
The weekly print schedule was also not sustainable for our staff mentally. This year, editors were finally able to space out their work throughout the week and were (usually) in bed by a reasonable time on Wednesdays. In the past, the day before sending the paper to print was a black hole of long nights turned mornings of scrambling to edit, to lay out pages and to 7-Eleven for 3 a.m. coffee. While a part of us misses the chaos, we know that this will be better for students’ well-being in the long run.
We are excited to see how these breaks from tradition inspire next year’s editors to find ways to improve and modernize the paper. With your help, we raised over $10,000 in celebration of our 125th anniversary to adapt The News-Letter to the 21st century. We now have money for new cameras and computers; for enhancing our website; for launching new multimedia features; and for speakers who can help ensure that our reporting is diverse and inclusive and help us train the next generation of journalists.
It has been a privilege to serve as Editors-in-Chief of The News-Letter, and we hope that we have helped lay the groundwork for our post-pandemic newsroom. We know that our successors, Leela Gebo and Laura Wadsten, will achieve great things next year. It’s hard to say goodbye, but we are so excited to see what next year’s staff will accomplish, hopefully in the Gatehouse.
Thank you to our readers for engaging with our content and to everyone who shared their stories with us this year. The paper could not have made it through this difficult time without your support.
Rudy Malcom is a senior from Port Washington, N.Y. majoring in Writing Seminars. He is a former Editor-in-Chief, News & Features Editor and Magazine Editor for The News-Letter.
Katy Wilner is a senior from Los Angeles majoring in English. She is a former Editor-in-Chief and News & Features Editor for The News-Letter.