Like many freshmen, when I first got to Hopkins I had no idea what I was going to do with my time here. Pacing through the aisles at my first Student Involvement Fair (SIF) and putting my name down for any club that sounded vaguely interesting, I cast a net as wide as I could. Most of those frantic, overeager freshman sign-ups amounted to little more than receiving monthly emails from clubs I never ended up attending. The News-Letter, however, sent the one club email I actually paid attention to.
Still clinging onto my days as a copy editor for my high school newspaper, I started going once a week to The News-Letter’s office — the Gatehouse — to help edit articles as a copy reader. Back in that pre-COVID world, The News-Letter produced a newspaper in print every Thursday, which meant Wednesday nights were when pretty much the whole paper was put together within the walls of the Gatehouse.
The fact that The News-Letter’s home was this cozy, cottage-like building with a storied history dating back to the 1800s instantly drew me in. I would walk in every Wednesday for my copy reader shift and would see editors strewn about the building. Some were nestled on the couches in the main room furiously typing away on their laptops to finish writing an article, while others blasted music on the Macs in the side rooms as they designed the paper’s pages with the ever-fickle Adobe InDesign. I absorbed everything around me, amazed at all of the hard work that came out of this tiny building every week. As a Computer Science major, I relished being in an environment light-years away from the stresses of Calculus III midterms or buggy coding assignments.
By my sophomore year, I’d been elected as one of the copy editors. This meant I was joining in on those delirious Wednesday nights in their entirety, copy editing every article that the paper published each week with my co-editor. Reading all of those articles, from major news events like the Garland Hall sit-in, to personal essays in the Voices section, to Hopkins lab spotlights in the SciTech section, made me feel more connected to Hopkins in a certain way. I felt like being involved with The News-Letter helped me stay informed and engaged with what was happening around me. It also helped me stay critical of the University as I learned more about the inequities and injustices faced by our student body at the hands of the administration.
I began to feel connected to the rest of The News-Letter staff as well. Those long days that stretched into nights and back into days were certainly draining at times, but there was a sense of purpose and camaraderie that kept us going. Coordinating 7-Eleven runs with editors for late-night snacks, creating copy-editing memes with my co-editor (which were definitely only funny for us but that we proudly still sent to everyone in our Slack channel) while we waited for pages to be ready to edit, writing funny quotes on the quote-covered Gatehouse walls whenever someone said something particularly outrageous in their sleep-deprived fog — these are the memories that I take with me from my sophomore year as an editor.
And then COVID-19 hit. When we got the email that fated Tuesday in March 2020 announcing we were being sent home, I was in the Gatehouse getting a head start on copy-editing that week’s articles. The next day, we proceeded like normal, putting together what we didn’t realize at the time would be the very last print edition of The News-Letter for the foreseeable future. There was uncertainty in the air as people hugged each other goodbye, then trickled out of that last late night.
For the rest of that semester, we started publishing all of our content online only, keeping up with production from our far-flung corners of the country. I made the transition from editing articles surrounded by my fellow editors on Wednesday nights to editing a few articles every day in my room, by myself.
I continued on as a copy editor my junior year, and as a paper, we continued with online-only production. There was definitely something lost in The News-Letter experience when we were entirely online; I never even saw my new co-editor in person that entire year. Still, we carried on. I continued to look forward to reading and editing The News-Letter articles, as it centered me in a way. It reminded me that there was actually more going on in the Hopkins community beyond the limits of Zoom calls. We still had opinions to share, art to review and news to report — even if that news tended to consist of ever-changing COVID-19 policy updates.
I became one of the managing editors of the paper my senior year, and with a more leading role on the paper came a year of planning how to transition back to a more in-person experience of The News-Letter again. It wasn’t a full transition back to what the paper once was; we still published daily online content instead of weekly print editions, so those long Wednesday nights in the Gatehouse remain long forgotten.
But we started holding our weekly staff meetings in the Gatehouse again, everyone crowding onto the couches to listen to and laugh at everyone’s answers to the infamous question of the week, checking in face-to-face with each section of the paper instead of over Slack. I also stood at an actual table for SIF once again, enticing a plethora of eager-eyed freshmen to sign up for The News-Letter like I had three years earlier.
My fellow editors and I began to fill the Gatehouse with new memories: exploring the dusty attic littered with yellowed The News-Letter clippings from decades past and launching The News-Letter podcast by repurposing an empty side room in the basement as a podcast studio.
My Hopkins experience certainly would not have been the same without The News-Letter. It’s gone through some major transitions during these four short years I’ve been here, but the fact that I can say I’ve contributed to a historical record of Hopkins during this extremely eventful time is not lost on me. And most importantly, the impact the paper has had on me — from the stressful deadlines and long nights to the slap-happy jokes and bonds shared between editors — will stay with me long after I’ve graduated.