Web Accessibility Support

More Than Just Paper

A former editor-in-chief of The Hilltop looks back on the responsibility of reporting facts, recording history, and representing student and Black voices.

by Monica Lewis

The Hilltop staff in 1996. Monica Lewis is center, in white turtleneck.

The Hilltop 1996

The Hilltop staff in 1996. Monica Lewis is center, in white turtleneck.

In October 1995, hundreds of thousands of men descended on Washington, D.C. for the Million Man March. I was just recently named editor-in-chief of The Hilltop for the ’95-’96 school year. Our staff was excited to cover the march, especially the diverse contingent of Howard students – fraternity members, athletes, artists – walking in unity from campus to the National Mall.

That year, the nation was also captivated by the O.J. Simpson case. From the infamous televised police pursuit of Simpson in 1994 to the not guilty verdict rendered just two weeks before the march, race was top of mind. The Hilltop covered it all, student journalists, cartoonists, and photographers capturing moments in time that we’ll always remember.

In the days following the march, I was asked to appear on ABC’s “Nightline with Ted Koppel” to discuss race relations with other regional student leaders. That appearance caught the attention of producers from “The Montel Williams Show,” who flew me up to New York to appear on their own episode about race relations. I was also a frequent guest on PBS’ “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” discussing how my generation viewed everything from politics to pop culture.

From the moment I stepped onto campus in 1992, The Hilltop taught me about the power of journalism, developed my leadership skills, and strengthened my understanding of the world around me. It wasn’t long before I realized how much people view Bison as thought leaders.

As a reporter and editor for The Hilltop, I was privileged to have a front-row seat to history in the making. As campus editor my junior year, I covered memorable moments such as the special convocation honoring Nelson Mandela; the selection of Howard’s 15th president, H. Patrick Swygert; and the University’s decision to forbid Nation of Islam member Khalid Muhammad from speaking on campus. I even covered the magical, undefeated season of the 1993 Bison football team as sports editor during my sophomore year. I vividly remember everyone running onto the field in front of the sold-out Aggie homecoming crowd during our thrilling 41-35 overtime victory over North Carolina A&T.

My days at The Hilltop started with sports coverage, where I was presented the prestigious Perry Newbie Freshman Sensation Award at the year-end banquet, annually bestowed upon the freshman staffer who has given outstanding service to the paper. As I held the plaque, I knew that what I gave to The Hilltop was more than just game recaps – my work built a sense of trust, reliability, and, yes, thought leadership to our readers.

We are part of a distinguished group who were responsible for keeping our fellow students informed and, after leaving our beloved Alma Mater, representing our people in newsrooms. We made the case that diversity absolutely impacts how news is shared. Here’s to another 100 years of Black excellence in journalism and student empowerment.

Monica Lewis (BA ’96) is assistant vice president of strategic communications at Howard University and a proud Bison mom.

This story appears in the Winter 2024 issue.
Article ID: 1966

Keep Reading

More In...