My name is Jeresa Anderson, a graduating senior journalism major. I have had the honor of serving as the managing editor for The Hilltop student newspaper, the oldest Black collegiate newspaper in this nation.
My introduction to this publication came in high school when I read “How it Feels to be Colored Me” by Zora Neale Hurston. I was fascinated by the fiery wittiness in her writing style and her ability to tell thought-provoking stories, something I’d never seen in any of the literature I was required to read up until that point in my academic career. From there, I researched her life and found out that she attended Howard University, an institution I hoped to attend since 8th grade. Almost a century after she graced the classrooms of this university, I was able to do the same. It is with gratitude that I was given the opportunity to write for The Hilltop, the publication she co-founded in 1924.
I joined The Hilltop my freshman year as a news reporter. I wasn’t perfect by any means, but I was excited to take on that role and leave my mark on the history of this institution. Throughout that year, I learned a lot about myself as a student and as a person in general. However, through those lessons I learned about myself, I also gained more respect for the art of storytelling and the work that journalists do to keep people informed, because it has not been an easy ride.
I’ve witnessed several shifts in the operations of The Hilltop. During the 2019-2020 academic year, our publication was forced to start publishing almost exclusively digitally due to financial issues and changes in the news industry in general. That same academic year, all students were sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I rejoined The Hilltop in a new role as the News Editor during the 2020-2021 academic year. I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to maneuver a completely virtual setting. By the end of that year, The Hilltop stopped producing stories every week, which ultimately felt like one of my biggest failures as a new student leader.
The 2021-2022 academic year has been trying for the Howard community, and The Hilltop felt this as well. Trying to navigate publishing stories throughout the pandemic has been nothing short of an experience. As student journalists, we were tasked with navigating a cyber security attack and the historic Blackburn protest during the fall semester, two events that not only affected us as students, but as a publication as well. Despite this, our reporters, editors and leadership moved to re-establish this publication’s presence on campus.
I am thankful for all of the meaningful connections I have made with staff members this year. Covering the news is not easy and the job never ends, which is why I applaud our staff members who worked diligently throughout the year balancing academic life with their work at The Hilltop. I’ve learned many valuable lessons throughout my time with this publication, and it is my hope that staff members who take on the task of working for The Hilltop in the future not only realize how great of a task this is, but also the responsibility they have of continuing an almost century-long legacy.
As I embark on a new journey as a graduate of this university, I leave behind a publication that I hold close to my heart. Though my time as managing editor has come to an end, I am more than confident that The Hilltop will continue its legacy as an integral feature in the Howard community, and it is my sincere hope that our community will continue to support and engage with the work of the future Black journalists that this publication will produce.
In Truth and Service,