Stories from The News-Letter


On creating the Blue Jay

When I first went to work at The News-Letter in September 1965, its office was on the ground floor of the Merrick Barn. It wasn’t until 1966 that co-editors Caleb Deschanel and Jim Freedman, both members of the Class of ’66, moved it to the Gatehouse — which was brilliant. I don’t know how they managed it, but the Gatehouse was — and still is — the perfect headquarters for the paper. 


Quiz: People of News and Letters

Greetings, quizlings! After 25+ years of dormancy, The Quizmaster has once again re-emerged into the sunlight to delight and annoy you! Like some kind of defective cicada, only with less flying into your face. In honor of The News-Letter’s 125th anniversary, this issue’s quiz is about people connected to Hopkins who were well-known journalists and/or authors. 


Discovering The News-Letter

Attending Hopkins was among the most important experiences of my life. For the first time, away from the protective — and irresistible — constrictions of my family, I took myself and the world seriously; I worked hard and nearly up to my potential; I met new people and learned new things; I was advised by intelligent and caring friends and teachers, who, unlike family members, were not obligated but had chosen to take an interest in me and my welfare; and I made decisions about my future — decisions that I have certainly questioned on occasion, but from which I have never significantly deviated. 


Why I still follow Hopkins sports (and not just lacrosse)

This year, as I do every year, I filled out my NCAA basketball bracket. Like most years, I did not do very well. My wife kicked my butt (again, like most years), and I barely beat my 10-year-old son. The one thing that saved me from finishing last was my faith in the University of Southern California (USC). I had them in the Final Eight, and that’s exactly where their run ended when they lost to Gonzaga. I really knew nothing about them and had not seen them play all year. I picked them for one reason: Andy Enfield.


For the love of beer

We began our love of good beer at Hopkins, back in the early ‘90s. In human terms, that was a generation ago — we each have kids and stepkids of our own attending and looking to attend college. In beer terms, eons have passed. The nascent microbrewery scene has blossomed locally in Baltimore and far and wide across the country into a varied world of brewpubs, craft breweries and highly specialized nano-breweries. Heck, some of our favorite independent breweries are no longer that, as they have been purchased by other breweries or even some of the multinational breweries. Our 30-year journey has been quite the trip.


Why student journalism still matters

Okay, I’ll admit it — like many college students, I was partially in it for the free food. 

When I was a News & Features Editor at The News-Letter, Wednesday evenings were brutal — a long, mad dash to put the paper to bed before sunrise. The Gatehouse’s heavy door was a portal to a place past exhaustion, where a manic giddiness usually set in while my editor friends and I stared blankly at an InDesign page that refused to lay itself out. 


How our reporting exposed the secrets of Homewood Campus

Being a part of The News-Letter, as a contributing underclassman all the way through to being Editor-in-Chief, was a singular piece of my Hopkins experience. It ranks with having graduated as a working engineer for the Federal Aviation Agency. 

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Delaware Dave yaks recalling Jays lax

I walked into the Gatehouse during orientation of what was my sophomore year in 1978 and immediately fell in love. I was a Hopkins legacy but a transfer, having spent a year in an experimental high-school-to-college program at the University of Delaware. I had a desire to write. I had been an editor at my high school paper at Wesley College where the Delaware program was housed, and I had even been a sports stringer for Dover Post, a local paper founded only a few years before.


Ancient Escapades and the importance of feature-style writing

Not long after the middle of the last century, I became an undergraduate at Hopkins. I had received a rigorous but rather unexciting preparation at Baltimore City College, after which Hopkins felt like an awakening. The courses, of course, provided much of the stimulation, but there was an extracurricular electricity too. It became evident one morning in my freshman year as I walked across the Upper Quadrangle. I looked up and saw that someone had decorated the Gilman Hall clock with a beautifully executed Mickey Mouse face.

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Dribbling irreverence into the Sports section

My fondest memories of college are related to my time at The News-Letter. I had been an editor of my high school paper in Brooklyn, N.Y. that was released only six times per year. I already knew that I wanted to continue to write for my college paper, and then when I decided to go to Hopkins, the excitement grew, as I had been an avid reader of Russell Baker in the New York Times, and I knew of his Hopkins days.

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Exposing discrimination in Baltimore in the early '60s

During our senior year as undergraduates at Hopkins from 1959 to 1960, my News-Letter co-editor Stanley Handmaker and I, as well as our entire staff, did our best to call attention to several "major" issues of the day as we saw it. 

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How a quest for imaginary hockey players led me to The News-Letter

I cannot remember a time in my life without newspapers. My parents always had them in the house, and my sisters and I would try to find the hidden Nina’s in Al Hirschfeld’s inimitable drawings. My first job, or at least my first real job where I did not work for my parents, was at Frate’s News Store in my hometown. I had to get there at 5 a.m. every Sunday to assemble the New York Times; back then, the paper was shipped in sections to be collated by kids like me at each store. This was three hours of intense shuffling, hands covered in ink, $5 in my pocket and a new pack of gum for the bike ride home.


Remembering The News-Letter seven decades ago

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


The Johns Hopkins News-Letter from 1953 to 1957

The News-Letter had a very different and more important role during my years, 1953 to 1957, on the Homewood Campus.


Sports, spilled cereal and Jim Valvano: A reflection on my three years at The News-Letter

Hello. I’m Eric Goodman — Hopkins Class of 2011. I worked on The News-Letter from 2007-2010, the first year as a Sports section staff writer and the last two years as a Sports Editor. Since graduating from Hopkins, I have worked in consulting in D.C. and New York, got an MBA at New York University and now work and live in Seattle with my wife who also went to Hopkins (Class of 2013). 


Finding a home at the Gatehouse when the world was our ashtray

In the fall of 1969, I was in front of Shriver Hall heading for sophomore-year registration when I noticed a tall, shaggy-haired guy approaching. 

“You’re coming back down to The News-Letter, right?” he asked. 

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Etaoin shrdlu: learning to proofread on Baltimore Street

I joined The News-Letter as a freshman in 1964. One of my assigned tasks, in addition to turning out profound, satirical, highly principled journalistic gems, involved going to our printing plant on Thursday evenings to proofread, an odious task reserved for rookies.

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A psychologist sits down with her 1999 self

I still walk past the Gatehouse sometimes, 20 years later. Its arched windows and vestigial chimney still stand sentinel over the students who pass through its gently creaking doors, clicking their words onto screens late into the night. The sameness is somehow comforting. 

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Re: The News-Letter 125th anniversary project

The News-Letter emailed over 800 alumni to ask if they would be interested in contributing to this magazine issue. Many responded to simply say yes, they would, but David Hawk went above and beyond and replied with a 1350-word reflection about his time at the paper before we even asked him to write anything! What follows is his email to us, edited only for length and clarity, to preserve its enthusiasm, thoughtfulness and beautifully impromptu nature.


Ham on Wry: How to become an obscure novelist

From 1980 to 1984, when I was very young and very thin and absolutely adorable if your vision was blurry, I wrote a silly humor column for The News-Letter. It was called Ham on Wry. I still don’t know why it was called Ham on Wry. That’s the name the paper’s scruffy editor came up with (hello, Andrew Hurley), and it stuck for four years through a couple more editors (hello, Steve Eisenberg). I probably should have asked one of them what the name of the column meant. They probably would have explained it to me if I’d asked.

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Dotto goes blotto while recalling times floating in News-Letter bravado

I’ve always fancied myself a writer. That’s why I responded when The News-Letter called for more voices, urging, “If you want to say something, write it down, and bring it in” (Friday, Oct. 4, 1974). Congenitally unable to pay careful attention to directions and details, I anonymously sent my article by campus mail and included my campus box address. Russ Smith (A&S ’78), one of the Features Editors, soon paid a visit to Hollander House.


Risky business between The News-Letter’s sheets in the ‘80s

The dream is always the same. I’m writing a screenplay about a teenager fantasizing about his babysitter when my wife flings open the bedroom door. Writing is risky business. Or is it dreaming? I do more than my share of both, and The News-Letter, where I first let my imagination run wild on the printed page, must bear some of the blame.

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Good luck early on: Working with a talented team at The News-Letter

When I began college in the fall of 1966, I wanted to do well in some extracurricular activities. I tried out for the football team and lasted two practices. Then I ran cross country during my first two years. I worked on the speech team for a year. I was involved in a campus community service program for three years. 


Growing up in public

It’s 1981, a few months after U2 released their debut album Boy. Perhaps the editors at The News-Letter knew a good joke when they saw one, so they assigned a boy to review it. That’s how I, a freshman and not even 18 yet, got to pen a review that’s not quite as embarrassing as I feared it would be upon re-reading it 40 years later. “Since all members of this group are under 21, musical history could be rewritten if this act gets itself together,” I offered in a bet-hedging opening graph. 

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Eat This!: G is for Gatehouse

It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly 25 years since the two of us were spending every Wednesday night in the Gatehouse basement, churning out the Features section late into the night and developing valuable skills and a lifelong friendship. After polishing stories from our writers, putting the finishing touches on our own features and laying out pages, we would use our last bit of sleep-deprived, slap-happy creativity to put together the “Cartoons, Etc.” page. This included constructing a quirky Word Find — with themes such as “Parsnip (And Other Words We Like)” and “After This, I Get to Go to Sleep (And Other Things to Be Happy About)” — and of course, writing “Eat This!,” the recipe column.


A look into The News-Letter in the late 1980s

Walking into the Gatehouse, to the right sat a long table with mismatched chairs. On a good day, pizza had just been delivered. On a bad day, half-empty boxes sat with grease congealing on cold slices. The paper had an arrangement with local pizza places: free pizza in exchange for ads. For hungry News-Letter staff, it was mutually beneficial unless you were a discerning eater. Cokes and Pepsis, regular and diet, were the fuel of choice.

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Telling truth to power in the '60s

As a precocious kid growing up in the ‘50s, I was a daily New York Times reader and avidly followed the ups and downs of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the early ‘60s, I chaired a student World Affairs Council in high school and dreamed about becoming secretary of state. 

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