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The Multimedia Editor’s Reflection

Juan Benn Jr. is host of “The HillTalks” season two. (Juan Benn Jr. headshot)

One of my senior year goals was to get experience working as an editor.

I always thought it would most likely be text-based due to my love for writing, and I imagined I’d spend a lot of time working with reporters and line-editing stories (fun!). Instead, I’ve spent the last seven months leading The Hilltop’s team of photographers and one multimedia journalist in  producing the paper’s multimedia output, including a news roundup podcast called, “The HillTalks.” And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

It’s been an incredible year! Our team published several photo essays documenting everything from student life to protests on campus, released The Hilltop’s first digital video story on National Mentorship Month, and worked with editors and reporters across sections every week to fulfill a variety of photo assignments for various stories. Our photographers were at football games, in the front row at Yardfest, and in the crowd at darties, being the eyes of our paper. 

Being a Multimedia Editor offered me the chance to do things I had never done before, like host and produce a weekly podcast and interview politician and voting rights advocate, Stacey Abrams. I got to experiment with audio and come up with fresh ways to bring the news to our audience. It was a rewarding experience, and I am incredibly proud of the work we produced as a team this school year, especially considering The Hilltop, not just the multimedia section, is student-run. Every editor and reporter is also taking classes. Some are working jobs and internships. It can be hard to balance it all. 

There were times when I struggled to handle everything. After failing to produce weekly episodes last fall due to burnout, I met with Editor-in-Chief Jasper Smith and Managing Editor N’dia Webb in January to express my concerns for the upcoming semester. I did not want a repeat of the fall. They listened, and then N’dia said, “You can do this, Juan,” and that had a major impact on me. As a result, I released an episode of our podcast every week this semester (21 overall) and conducted dozens of interviews. We did things we had never done before on the show, like taking our listeners to the scene of a story and introducing voices outside of the paper. 

But through all the trials, tribulations and eventual successes, my passion for this work emerged the clearest its ever been. I want to be a journalist because I believe journalism is important. It’s a journalist’s role to educate and inform the public, while also providing context for the headlines. Journalism is a service, and as student journalists, we at The Hilltop serve the Howard University community every week by reporting what’s happening on our campus and beyond. People relied on our reporting during the Blackburn Takeover two years ago, and they are now relying on our coverage of the recent death of a Howard student on campus. 

I want to be a radio and podcast producer because I think audio is one of the most effective ways to reach people. Not only in getting the news to them but also by using sound and creative storytelling techniques so the news does not leave them.

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I want to tell stories that leave an impact on whoever engages with them, and it is through my time at The Hilltop, from writer to editor, that I learned what that means and how to persevere when things feel impossible.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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