Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 23, 2024

The indispensable role of journalism on college campuses

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | April 25, 2024


As the school year draws to a close, The News-Letter is reflecting on the successes and challenges of this year and our role in the Hopkins community. It is a unique time to be working for a college newspaper. Following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, college campuses are making national headlines as student protests and institutional practices come under scrutiny

As editors of The News-Letter, watching breaking news notifications about our peer institutions roll in makes us wonder: What is the role of a university newspaper? Are we even making an impact? What can we do better? 

The News-Letter has a rich and storied history of reporting on issues important to the Hopkins community. From documenting the Vietnam war protests in the 1970s to tracking the development of the Johns Hopkins Police Department, we have served as an archival source for the news and events on campus since 1896. Professors and students alike turn to our paper to research the history of Hopkins and Baltimore.

In the pages of The News-Letter, pieces of history that have shaped the world as we know it are immortalized. When editors of decades past return to the Gatehouse during Alumni Weekend, they flip through old papers to find their coverage of 9/11, the Iraq War and student sit-ins. This is the history of Hopkins, written by and for the students. 

We are proud of our work, both past and present. The News-Letter has broken important  stories, informing the Hopkins community of critical matters that would otherwise go overlooked. 

Just last week, our News & Features team published an investigation into the University’s real estate holdings, from the well-known and controversial East Baltimore Development Initiative to the lesser known acquisitions around Charles Village. Earlier this academic year, we were the platform that the Hopkins faculty turned to in order to publicize the open letter demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. We also reported on the increasing salary inequity between tenure-track faculty and non-tenure track faculty at the School of Public Health.

Our Science & Technology section highlights the research of Hopkins students and their efforts to advance scientific knowledge. Our Arts & Entertainment section showcases creative events on the Homewood Campus and across the wider Baltimore area. 

Our Opinions section gives history a personal form and provides insight into how Hopkins students have felt at varying points in history. Decades from now, students can read The News-Letter to better understand how the campus felt about the TRU-UE protests or the renovation of Milton S. Eisenhower library. 

While we remain committed to our founding mission, The News-Letter has faced recent challenges. We have a small news team, and while we do our best to cover the pressing news on campus, we cannot report on everything that we’d like. 

We pride ourselves on being an organization that is entirely financially independent from the University, but our limited budget makes it difficult for us to provide the level of journalism that we aspire to. We may be the world’s last users of InDesign 2008 — who else, if not a financially-strapped college paper, would use a version that was released before the first iPad graced the earth?

Though creating The News-Letter is a labor of love, it is definitely still labor, and we don’t get paid for it. Our staff spends hours each week attending events, interviewing sources and writing articles. The lack of pay is a hurdle for students who need to put those hours toward Federal Work-Study or must support themselves through college. 

Our paper is our pride and joy, but we recognize that The News-Letter still has a lot of room for growth. 

Firstly, we should do more to better connect the Hopkins campus with the Baltimore community. Each year, we love to talk about the “Hopkins bubble” and encourage students to pop it. Yet, our coverage often falls victim to the same logic as our weekend plans — it’s just easier to stay near campus. Our responsibility as a college paper is to inform Hopkins affiliates of what’s going on around them. Seeing as Hopkins doesn’t exist in a vacuum, our coverage shouldn’t either.

In the future, we hope our staff ventures to other Baltimore neighborhoods more frequently to highlight the events, stories and people found away from N. Charles Street.

Likewise, we should be covering more on other Hopkins campuses. Peabody is only a JHMI ride away, and the same can be said for the School of Public Health or the School of Medicine. Homewood may be the paper’s home, but we should be doing our part to represent our peers at other Hopkins locations. 

Even on the Homewood Campus, we could be highlighting more diverse perspectives. Though any student is able to contribute to the paper, we should improve our outreach to ensure better representation of the myriad backgrounds, experiences and opinions found at Hopkins. 

We acknowledge that much remains to be done, and some of our goals may be unrealistic. At the end of the day, The News-Letter is run by students. That person who you saw collecting interviews on the Beach or who wrote that op-ed you despise might be your classmate or neighbor. We try, and we are always open to feedback on how we can be better. 

Journalism is an underappreciated profession. Without it, many of the important stories of our time would go untold and unseen. We don’t claim to be the pinnacle of modern journalism, but we hope to foster a culture of open dialogue, and above all, we try to serve as a record of the Hopkins that exists today. It certainly won’t be the same Hopkins that exists tomorrow.

We hope we've done alright this year, but we know the job isn't over. To our new editors, who have officially been passed the batons this week, good luck! 

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