Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 27, 2022

Remembering The News-Letter seven decades ago

By ROSS JONES | May 17, 2021

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COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES — SHERIDAN LIBRARIES 

Jones stands with fellow graduates and their girlfriends at Commencement 1953.

My recollections of The News-Letter reach back more than 70 years to when I joined the staff as a reporter in the fall of 1949, my freshman year at Hopkins. I had been editor of my high school newspaper and had worked a couple of summers as a copy boy at the Courier-Post, a newspaper in Camden, N.J. So I was anxious to work for The News-Letter

In those days, our office was in a small room in the basement on the north side of Levering Hall. A room next door was the campus barber shop. The site was destroyed when the Glass Pavilion was attached to Levering Hall in the early 1970s. 

In those days the paper came out once a week on Friday. It was printed in an industrial area, downtown, in a small plant whose main product was a German language newspaper. In 1951-52, I was co-editor with my classmate, Frank P.L. Somerville. Our routine was to collect stories reporters had turned in during the week and, on Thursdays, pull it all together. Very late in the evening we would take the copy downtown to the printer and push it through a slot in the door. Early Friday morning we would go back to see the paper laid out in its lead type. When we were satisfied everything was in order, it was printed and delivered to the campus that afternoon. 

When I was a freshman, I wrote my first “big story,” for which the editors gave me a byline. 

Toward the end of 1949 and into the 1950s, the country was experiencing many labor strikes, one of the largest being among coal miners. In those days, there was always a huge pile of coal outside, next to the Homewood Campus power plant.

I wrote an article which became the lead for one of the editions, in which I said that the University would soon have to close due to the lack of coal. The editors gave the story a big headline.

Minutes after the paper was delivered to the campus that Friday, I was summoned by the Dean of the Homewood Schools, G. Wilson Shaffer, to his office, then located in today’s Homewood Museum. Shaffer waved the paper in front of me and asked where I had gotten my information for the article. He made it quite clear that the University would not be closing due to a lack of coal and that I had better get my facts straight before I turned out another story for the paper.

After graduation in 1953 and service in the army, I worked briefly for newspapers and The Associated Press before returning to Hopkins in 1961 as assistant to then-President Milton S. Eisenhower. I retired in 2003.

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