Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 23, 2020

Public Editor





COURTESY OF KATY WILNER
Public Editor Jake Lefkovitz is distributing a survey to better understand The News-Letter’s readers.

THE PUBLIC EDITOR: Won't you be our readers?

Today, the future looks uncertain, and the conditions of life seem untenable. This is what it means to live in times of crisis. And in times such as these, the journalist’s highest form of service is to faithfully deliver to the public whatever measure of clarity and understanding that they can. But to do that, they need the public’s trust. They need to have earned it in the past, and to have kept earning it ever since.


THE PUBLIC EDITOR: Thank you, readers. You make The News-Letter worthwhile.

As I prepared to tread the path of Public Editor, I searched for signposts which would show me the way. I connected with other public editors, considering their ideas in the context of The News-Letter. I read journal articles about the ethics of the reader representative role and studies about how journalism’s audience shifted in the digital age. I pored over our past issues to understand the history underpinning the paper’s coverage of Hopkins students. 


THE PUBLIC EDITOR: COVID-19 interrupted print production. When the paper returns, what changes?

Editors gathered on the Wednesday before spring break to put together a final print issue before The News-Letter shifted temporarily to online publication. Hopkins had announced the suspension of in-person activities through mid-April the night before due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but editors were uncertain when they would be able to return to the Gatehouse, the home of the newspaper’s production.


THE PUBLIC EDITOR: "There's something more important"

When the current editors of The News-Letter went through election interviews last April, nobody asked them how they would adapt their roles to a global pandemic. A year ago, no one imagined life as we know it changing so drastically. 



THE PUBLIC EDITOR: The guiding stars in a complicated conversation: fact, opinion and trust

Readers have recently seen some of the paper’s first coverage of the protests in Hong Kong, a clash between demonstrators and state forces over China’s executive authority in the city. Though these protests having been happening since last June, they didn’t reach Homewood Campus until Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, two activist leaders of the Hong Kong movement, spoke at Shriver Hall on an invitation from the Foreign Affairs Symposium (FAS).


THE PUBLIC EDITOR: A snapshot of The News-Letter’s shifting photo culture

If you even casually flipped through last week’s paper, you probably noticed the stunningly striking photo essay, “Frozen land: scenes from the Swedish mountaintops.” What you may not have noticed, though, was that the photographer’s name appeared elsewhere in the issue alongside photos assigned to articles. Yes, please join me in extending a warmest welcome to  the paper’s newest contributing photographer.


THE PUBLIC EDITOR: Before plugging in your headphones, try plugging into Charm City’s arts scene

You’re a Hopkins student. You wake up, and if you’re not already on campus you’re probably no more than a few minutes away. You grab coffee and a croissant from Brody Cafe before class. You catch the JHMI, which ferries you across Baltimore to the Hospital’s doorstep. You’re in the lab, head bent, back aching for hours. You head back to campus, hit up the library and then the rec center. You grab dinner at the FFC or, if you’re feeling adventurous, somewhere along St. Paul, on your way home.


THE PUBLIC EDITOR: Making the most of Your Weekend in Baltimore (Hopkins bubble optional)

What is Your Weekend? I’m not talking about the weekend, those horribly magical two days during which you can both take a breather from the last week and work yourself into a panic about the next. Nor do I mean The Weeknd, whose mixtape collection Trilogy remains perennially underrated. And while we’re on music, I should clarify that I’m definitely not thinking of SZA’s timeless sidechick anthem “The Weekend.”




THE PUBLIC EDITOR: Who appeared in The News-Letter this fall?

When I started recording data on the number of different types of perspectives represented in The News-Letter, I wanted to give editors a benchmark to measure the scope of each week. That’s not to say they should always strive to increase these numbers — at some point, the paper will reach critical mass and just be too full. Instead, I hope it can offer a new way to track coverage from one week to the next.


THE PUBLIC EDITOR: On print deadlines, making time for sources and sketching the elephant

A firm press deadline can feel like the end-all be-all for News-Letter reporters in the run-up to Wednesday night. The news editors wrap up their section and head home sometime early Thursday morning while the Editors-in-Chief send the pages off to print. If they’re lucky, the news team will have time to breathe over the weekend until Wednesday starts to loom again.


THE PUBLIC EDITOR: Popping the humanities bubble, one section at a time

As the Public Editor, I scrutinize the ways the paper represents its readers. The News-Letter is a campus newspaper, and undergraduate students make up the primary readership. I think a lot about the different types of undergrads that the paper represents, as well as who is most likely to pick up a fresh issue on a Thursday afternoon. 



THE PUBLIC EDITOR: On crafting a more representative front page

After three and a half years at The News-Letter, I’m pretty confident that I’d ace a quiz on the parts of the paper’s front page. Even just above the fold — what we call the top half that’s visible when you see the paper around campus — there’s already a lot going on.


THE PUBLIC EDITOR: On respectfully representing survivors of sexual violence

Four and a half years ago, the University shut down the Hopkins chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon after reports of sexual assault at one of the fraternity’s parties. In an editorial headlined “SAE suspension wrong, requires reversal,” The News-Letter called the decision “draconian,” prompting understandable pushback from readers.


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