(Courtesy of Matthew McClain)

Edit desk: Community first


At the end of my time as the Lifestyle Section Editor in May 2020, I knew that I would be venturing off into a territory that was mostly unknown to me.

After applying for a few different positions, I had a conversation about where I would be ending up the next semester.

“Community engagement editor,” our advisor said to me via phone call. 

I had seen what previous editors in this department had done before with things like social media and a weekly newsletter, but it seemed like the role would be different for me. 

The department now had the aim of engaging with the community.

Our first go at this came after the brutal murder of George Floyd and the other losses that reignited the fervor of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Emily Thampoe

During this time, The Brown and White was covering Lehigh’s response to the tragedies, the movement itself, as well as the protests occurring locally. 

We began to reflect on our journalistic practices to look at how we could cover all voices, in a way where everyone is comfortable.

This began with a conversation among some of our top editors, our advisor and professors from the journalism department, wherein we discussed our practices and came up with ways to move forward. 

This conversation turned into the former Editor in Chief and Managing Editor of Engagement and I writing an abstract for an event that we called The Brown and White Community Forum. 

Our objective was to hopefully provide an outlet for our communities, to voice their thoughts on the publication’s coverage of topics that pertain to marginalized communities that are seldom discussed in mainstream media.

We eventually reached our goal and held our event in October 2020. 

While it was quite taxing to organize, the event turned out wonderfully.

We had a sizable attendance, with those who came eager to share their thoughts on the topics posed. 

This event led to more conversations, including that of my final destination on the paper come Spring 2021. 

Again, our advisor and I hopped on the phone.

This time he said, “Managing Editor of Engagement.”

While the position would be very different than it was previously, I felt at home and a bit more at ease.

Somewhere along the way, we discussed the logistics of establishing a special section that would boast community-first reporting through publishing stories about issues that matter to the residents of South Bethlehem. 

That section would soon be monikered The Brown and White Community Pages and as of March 26, we have published two issues.

We have also established a new tab on our website where we have been putting our team’s efforts with engaging and reporting.

It took quite a while to get here, but I am grateful that we did.

As a student who has dedicated the bulk of their time toward journalism and public health, I know firsthand how important engaging with and serving the community is.

I am honored to have a part in contributing to reporting that covers issues such as food insecurity, housing, economic hardships, health disparities and education, all of which I have seen the impacts of through my courses and my community health work experience. 

I have learned a great deal through our reporting efforts and through making connections with those in the community.

As a result, the bonds between myself and the community have gotten stronger in the last year.

And while I will most likely be departing from Bethlehem upon my graduation in May, this feels like home–in location, mind and heart.

Emily Thampoe is the Managing Editor for Engagement for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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