More than just a student newspaper

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Madison Hoff

“You’re just a student newspaper.”

A few times this semester when someone didn’t like the way something was phrased, or the angle of a story in The Brown and White, I had to explain how we don’t modify quotes or change the angle based on the source’s preference, and practice journalism the same way any other publication would.

In between their response, they mention that the student newspaper, The Brown and White, is just that — a student newspaper.

Although a rare comment, it is still important to bring attention to because we are not “just” a student newspaper. We provide inside information of what is going on across campus, profile student accomplishments and write about memorable sports games. We break news on social media, do on-the-spot video interviews for people’s opinions and take more time to cover investigative stories.

We jump at the chance to get another interview that will provide another voice to a story, even if the interview is in between classes or late at night, aren’t afraid to knock on residents’ doors to see what they think the issues in the community are, and don’t hesitate to ask the Lehigh administration tough questions.

Reporters and editors at The Brown and White still write and follow ethics as if it were any other professional newspaper. It is important we hold journalistic principles to the highest standard even at a university-level publication.

Having The Brown and White be entirely run by students has its benefits for the university. We have editors and reporters from across different majors, involved in different clubs, with different reporting interests so we can get news tips from different places. This variety also ensures we are writing a diverse amount of stories from investigative pieces, to sport recaps, from featuring a new student-developed app to Path to Prominence stories.

Sometimes I overhear people talking about a campus-wide or local issue and have to restrain myself from jumping in and saying, “You can learn more about that in the most recent Brown and White article.”

In some ways, we are the eyes of the campus.

We have written impactful stories, such as the response from junior and senior housing elimination to community issues in the Lehigh Valley.

I think I was so taken aback by the comment “you are just a student newspaper” because I felt that being addressed that way diminished the validity of our work.

We should be a place where faculty, students, alumni and other readers can learn about what is happening at the school and what the hard-hitting issues are. We should be a publication that students can trust to get the information they need about what is happening right on campus.   

I have seen firsthand the impact that The Brown and White has.

As I served myself dinner at Rathbone, the chef I interviewed came over to share his appreciation for my article about the real food improvement at Lehigh dining halls, because it brought attention to their hard work.

I wrote about Seasonal Affective Disorder during my sophomore year. My friend later that day said her professor was talking about some of the information from the article in class.

Just today, someone told me their professor mentioned a recent Brown and White article.  

Another professor curious about The Brown and White, when I was a sophomore, said she has seen the quality of the content improve. This comment motivated me as I continued to write and took on higher editor positions to write about and approve of stories that I believe would be important for the Lehigh community to know about.

The Brown and White has helped me improve not only as a journalist but also as an individual.

It taught me to learn how to communicate in different mediums, be open to criticism and see a story from different points of view.  

Twice a week, the long nights editing every story for both web and print before they are published might be a lot, but I have enjoyed and grown immensely from my experience. I have enjoyed collaborating with the other editors and seeing reporters get excited of the story they wrote about.

Being part of The Brown and White has taught me to not be afraid to ask hard questions and get out of my comfort zone.

I have knocked on people’s doors to see what they believe the issues in the community are, visited and talked to three local schools to learn about food insecurity and programs offered to help foster students’ potential, attempted breaking news and integrated different data visualizations to find another way to tell a story.  

We adapt to the ever evolving world and adapt to these changes like any other professional publication. We also perform accuracy checks, study libel and ethics and stop what we are doing to cover breaking news around campus.

So yes, we are a newspaper created by students. But that doesn’t mean we should be treated with any less respect than a professional newspaper. And it definitely does not mean that we will lower our standards and professionalism because of our student newspaper label.

Madison Hoff, ’19, is the editor in chief for The Brown and White. She can be reached [email protected]

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