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'Hilltop,' Howard University's student newspaper, is going strong at 100 years old

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Howard University's student newspaper celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. Students and alumni of the nation's oldest Black college newspaper spoke with NPR's Alana Wise about the legacy of that paper and what they hope for its future.

ALANA WISE, BYLINE: The Hilltop newspaper was co-founded in 1924 by Eugene King and Harlem Renaissance legend, then student, Zora Neale Hurston. From its inception, the paper would highlight important issues happening on campus and around Washington and the talents of its young writers.

JOY YOUNG: Writing on The Hilltop feels like being a part of living history.

WISE: Joy Young is a 22-year-old senior journalism major and one of 65 students who make the daily news publication come alive.

YOUNG: It just feels like you are contributing to something bigger than yourself, and you are just really becoming part of your community.

WISE: The publication cover stories about issues on campus, such as student and staff protests against work and living conditions and updates from around the country, like a recent interview with New York Attorney General Letitia James. Jasper Smith, the paper's 22-year-old editor-in-chief, says that being on staff during such tumultuous times, both on and off campus, has kept her and her team inspired to tell these stories.

JASPER SMITH: Being a young journalist on campus when it seems like every media outlet in the country is, like, trying to be, you know, on your turf, essentially, covering your stories and trying to scoop you - the adrenaline rush I got from that has, you know, kept me so excited, you know, about this industry since then.

WISE: The paper employs campus reporters, investigative journalists, a multimedia team and more. Aside from funding, The Hilltop is independent from Howard, meaning the administration doesn't have a say in what they report or how. But to help nurture the students' talent, Keith Alexander, a crime reporter for The Washington Post and an alum of The Hilltop, helps advise the students.

KEITH ALEXANDER: At The Hilltop, that's what these kids want to do. They want to become journalists. They want to become the best writers - newspaper writers or magazine writers - that they can. And that's what I really want to spend my energy on - trying to help shape and mold young people who really have a passion for journalism.

WISE: Over the years, the paper has seen a number of prominent journalists walk through its doors. Bestselling author and former New York Times reporter Isabel Wilkerson is one of the most well-known. Shirley Carswell is another prominent alum of The Hilltop, and she is now executive director of the Dow Jones News Fund. She worked alongside Wilkerson during their shared time at the paper.

SHIRLEY CARSWELL: If those walls could talk - because you think about what The Hilltop has witnessed in 100 years as a voice for African American students. I think it's been a vessel for history. And, you know, it's a treasure, a jewel, I think, that we have to keep going for, you know, another hundred years.

WISE: The publication is available to read at thehilltoponline.com.

Alana Wise, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOAPELE SONG, "CLOSER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.
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