Jasper Smith, a sophomore journalism major, sociology minor and The Hilltop’s current chief copy editor, wrote, read poetry and frequently watched the news as a child. However, it was a high school English teacher who planted the seed that journalism could be a viable profession for someone with her talents.
Today, Smith is taking further steps to water and nurture that seed by stepping into the role of editor-in-chief of The Hilltop for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Smith brings to this role a year of committed copy editing and coverage of the historic Blackburn protest, the Howard University Hospital nurses’ strike and the averted adjunct faculty strike. Before having stepped into such a leadership role her first year on the paper, Smith confessed to having impostor syndrome and fearing applying for the role.
“I was really scared about applying because I didn’t think that I would get it…but I’m so glad that I did because, without The Hilltop, I wouldn’t be the writer, the journalist, the editor that I am today. Through The Hilltop, I’ve been able to grow my skills and my passion for journalism…I’m really fortunate that, as a sophomore, The Hilltop was really able to mold and shape me into a better journalist,” Smith reflected.
Regardless of time, Smith has demonstrated an excellence and integrity in journalism and distinguished leadership among her peers that has led to receiving this role.
“I know that Jasper will bring her strong organizational and outstanding mediating skills to the position, which will make for a strong staff,” Ashleigh Fields, the current editor-in-chief of The Hilltop, said. “I am excited to watch her embark upon this illustrious and exciting journey. I will always be here to support her and those that follow in continuing the legacy of our beloved founder Zora Neale Hurston.”
Stepping into an astute leadership role as editor-in-chief of a historic Black collegiate newspaper will come with great challenges that many trust Smith will be able to conquer.
“She will have to motivate students who have been challenged with so many issues these past few years, including attending classes during Covid, the cyber attack, the historic student demonstration and overall student class workloads. Encouraging her staff to produce their best work, while navigating publishing a newspaper, writing weekly editorials and ensuring her staff has a strong mix of stories each week, will be most challenging. But I see how Jasper works with her colleagues already. I have seen how she works with me and seeks counsel from myself and journalism professors, taking in all suggestions and then making an informed decision. That is the mark of a leader,” Keith Alexander, a Pulitzer Prize-winning crimes writer for The Washington Post, Howard alum and The Hilltop’s current editorial advisor, said.
As the chapter that is the 2021-2022 academic year closes, Smith is already planning for the next chapter along with new managing editor, N’dia Webb, and the editorial advisor. She has a vision to develop a stronger multimedia strategy for the paper that will diversify reporters’ skills and aid in their professional development as contributors to the student voice.
“One of the things I’m looking forward to doing is having a podcast or audio cast element…online. I feel like we are in a digital age, and I feel like the best path moving forward for The Hilltop is to incorporate more multimedia aspects, so I’m really excited for that,” Smith said. “I really want to get our engagements as high as they can be, so I think working with people who are skilled in social media and social marketing is something I really want to spend more time on. And really just getting these stories out…I want The Hilltop to be a publication people go to first for their news, especially Howard students.”
Copy edited by: N’dia Webb