“We Became More Aware”
Two student journalists take stock.
If 2020–21 was a year of upheaval for high-school students, it was also a tumultuous time for journalists documenting a pandemic, political chaos, and racial and cultural uprisings. What happens if you’re both?
The editors of NMH’s student publications found themselves producing stories and social media content that felt more volatile than anything they’d worked on before. They were also scattered around the world, with some living on campus and others attending classes through NMH’s Lab Program for students who had to stay home. That included Janice Cho ’21 of Seongnam, Korea, editor-in-chief of The Bridge, and Bill Wu ’21 of Shanghai, editor-in-chief of The Hermonite.
In an interview with NMH Magazine in late March, Cho and Wu reflected on their work this year. Their responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.
What was it like to lead campus publications when you couldn’t be on campus?
JC: Communication was hard. At first, I tried to do a lot of things myself because I was so separate from people, but I realized there were lots of people I could rely on.
BW: I didn’t think I was going to email and text so many people so often. And have so many people not reply!
The past year challenged everyone in so many different ways. How did it affect the publications you led?
JC: We covered more serious topics, more global news. Besides COVID, it was things like the Black Lives Matter protests, the insurrection at the Capitol, the shootings in Atlanta. In past years, we tended to focus on campus events. But with everything that’s been happening around the world, and with students being spread out for at least part of the year, it changed the scope of what we were covering. Also, people became more active in sharing their opinions and experiences. We were reflecting a lot more. I think we became more aware.
That’s the big picture. How about more specifically?
JC: Because we were covering more national and global news, or more sensitive content, it felt like there was more pressure to be careful. We were asking, what’s journalistically appropriate? Is this fact accurate? How is the tone? Is this pushing the line too much? Is it repeating something obvious and not sharing anything new?
What was difficult for you as leaders?
JC: The responsibility. And the uncertainty. There was no other student I could ask, “How do I lead a Zoom meeting for kids going to NMH from all over the world?” Who do I ask about writing an Instagram post about standing in solidarity with the Asian community after the shootings in Atlanta?
BW: I’m not sure this was just because of COVID, but writers or other core members of the team were preoccupied a lot. You’re relying on them to do something, and when they don’t, it was hard to know if they were going through something.
How do you view student publications now as opposed to when you first got involved?
BW: I joined The Hermonite because somebody told me it would look good on my college application. But it became something way more important. I wanted us to put out quality content. We had a bigger responsibility.
What do you know now about journalism that you didn’t know a year or two ago?
BW: Regardless of what you write, you have to keep the reader in mind. You have to have something that readers can grab onto and say, “That’s new.” Journalism should also be more than simply reporting. It’s writing about things that you care about and that people want to read. Not just things that anyone can search on the internet and get an answer to a question.
Photos courtesy of Janice and Bill