Last spring, I signed up with the Hopkins Job Shadow program in the hopes of being matched with a Hopkins alumnus who shared my passion for writing. When I received word that I would be shadowing Dan Slotnik, Hopkins Class of 2001, a senior news assistant at The New York Times, I was thrilled. Writing has long been my passion, having been avidly involved in the school newspaper, The Razor, since freshman year, currently as the News Editor, and also serving as Editor in Chief of Hopkins’ first online cross-cultural student-led magazine, Hopkins to Hangzhou.
I arrived in New York City on August 3, expecting that an office at the Times would be an austere, sterile setting, but the deep crimson of the walls, haphazardly placed coffee machines, and the clock that declared “time to write” reminded me of the classroom at Hopkins where the Razor staff works.
After leading me on a tour of the Obituaries department for which he writes, Dan invited me to sit in on a weekly planning meeting, during which the section editors were planning which past Olympic athletes to honor as part of the “Not Forgotten” series. I had imagined that assigning articles at the Times was a formal process, but the editors delegated articles in much the same way as the Razor staff, bouncing ideas off of each other and soliciting advice from fellow colleagues.
Before lunch, Dan also led me to the newspaper’s archives below City University of New York, directing us through a labyrinth of nondescript hallways into a room overflowing with stacks of files and photos. As he searched for clippings for an upcoming article, Dan pointed out the antiquated card catalogue system and the photography section. As I sifted through photos taken almost two hundred years ago, I stood dumbstruck, awed that I was chancing upon such images as those of gymnasts at the boycotted 1980 Soviet Union Summer Olympics. Last year at Hopkins I started my own photo project, taking portraits of friends and documenting their definitions of certain words, such as beauty, strength or diversity. The photos and thoughts of my peers are stored on computers at school, but much of the unpublished Times photo archives are not digitized; thus if a fire were to consume the building, these files, the last traces of past eras and cultures, would be lost once and for all.
After we returned to the newspaper’s headquarters, Dan showed me the article he was planning to publish the following day, even soliciting my advice. As I looked over the copy, pointing out ways to smooth a transition or substitute a word, I slipped into the same mindset as when I edited articles for my school publications.
Later in the day, Dan brought me to the fifteenth floor of the Times, dubbed “The Pulitzer Wall.” The orange walls were decorated with the photographs of 117 Times journalists who had won a Pulitzer Prize since the founding of the acclaimed award in 1918, yet the overwhelming majority of these recipients were men. I have long respected The New York Times, eagerly poring over every weekend issue and seizing the opportunity to talk to OpEd columnist Charles Blow when he visited Hopkins last year, but as I thought of the few women on that wall who had overcome additional barriers in order to receive equal recognition for their work, it struck me that the media still had much to improve toward treating women equally.
Visiting the Times’ headquarters allowed me to discover that the inter-nationally respected publication was very similar to the writing environment I had been involved in for all of my high school career: the staff welcomed new ideas and the hectic office environment and the writing and publishing methods echoed the familiarity of the process at Hopkins publications. The efforts of the Hopkins Job Shadow matched me with a Hopkins alumnus whose tour of The New York Times reaffirmed my passion for writing.
If you would like to host a Hopkins student for the 2017 summer Job Shadow Program, please contact Lauren Reichart at email@example.com.
This article was originally printed in the Fall 2016 issue of Views from the Hill.