As we approach the final week of in-person instruction of what might be Lehigh’s most tumultuous semester this century, we want to take a step back and reflect on all we have accomplished both as a campus community and publication this semester.
First-year students attempting to navigate a nearly empty campus and find their home in a foreign environment is hard. Underclassmen last-minute signing off-campus leases in an unfamiliar neighborhood is hard. Teaching Zoom lectures and getting to know your students virtually while caring for your own children is hard. Reporting on an incessantly sad news cycle during a pandemic and presidential election year is hard.
Over the past 12 weeks, we as a Lehigh community have been handed an enormous amount of challenges. But as we all know and have learned to live by, it’s not the challenges thrown at us but how we choose to handle them is how we grow.
We as students, friends, roommates, professors, reporters and editors have grown immensely these last 12 weeks.
The Brown and White has grown from a campus-focused paper to a local news source for our school, its families and the greater Lehigh Valley. We’ve risen as a publication and gained new readership, and more importantly, those readers’ trust. We’ve become a reliable place for people to turn to in times of uncertainty to help themselves understand how to proceed.
Since June, we’ve covered an ever changing campus reopening plan. A pro-Black Lives Matter demonstration literally covered up by the university. A sudden announced resignation by President John Simon. A flawed campus-wide testing policy. A major off-campus COVID-19 outbreak. Local congressional election campaigns and the most recent presidential election and Pennsylvania’s prominent role in determining our next president.
While we definitely have gained the appreciation of our readers and the campus community, we’ve also been handed a great deal of backlash and challenges within our own realm of reporting and publication management as well.
We’ve been stonewalled by the administration at several turns in search for the truth. We’ve been criticized by our peers for acting biased on the school’s behalf for our political coverage.
But we didn’t let that deter us.
That is what journalism is about. About serving the community around us so that together we can proceed through an uncertain time as informed as possible. We’ve spent late nights, weekends, early mornings and every quick change at a moment of breaking news to bring our campus and community the answers they need.
As a publication we have grown to operate on par with professional journalism. As the world around us is constantly shifting, we had to as well in order to bring what was needed to the table.
We were breaking news about Lehigh’s plans and procedures throughout the pandemic before they informed the community themselves. Our original work is cited as a source in a plethora of larger, better-known publications throughout the area.
Not only were we able to serve our campus community in these roles, but also the Bethlehem community at large. By reporting on local issues and events we were able to better knit the area to our school and make our presence known outside of just our campus. What happens in Bethlehem affects Lehigh and vice versa.
We as a publication chose to continue our work this semester. Or to better phrase it, saw no world in which we wouldn’t.
Amidst the ever-changing news cycle and state of our country and the various challenges that come with being a college student in general — and in a pandemic — many student publications have cut back on their production and reporting or even halted it completely. While we respect and understand those publications’ choices, we used this as an opportunity to blaze our own path.
Students from every area of the paper chose to add on more responsibilities rather than back down. Through these connections to our school, community and the news circling the world around us, our work at The Brown and White has rooted what we do with more purpose than ever before. Given that so much of what we are used to participating in at Lehigh has been minimized in some capacity this semester, our dedication to the paper has become even more of a focus than usual. The times we live in demand it.
In a time in which we have been forced to slow down, The Brown and White chose to step up. As a result, we’ve become the strongest version of ourselves from both a staff and editorial standpoint.
We’ve bolstered our role as truth seekers and professional journalists, and this is just the start of a new beginning.