The advent of a new year in the turbulent aftermath of the last comes, at least, with a dose of certainty: 34th Street's annual transition of power is again complete. College junior Beatrice Forman will take command as editor-in-chief, overseeing the operations of the magazine and managing an executive board of three other senior editors. College junior Chelsey Zhu will supervise Street’s Features, Word on the Street, Ego, and Style sections as campus editor, College junior Mehek Boparai will direct Street’s Focus, Music, Arts, Film & TV, and special issues content, and assignments editor and College junior Karin Hananel will mentor and train the magazine’s team of staff writers.
Three editors will also assist Forman on an internal board within the magazine: College sophomore Caylen David as Street’s audience engagement editor, College junior Alice Heyeh as design editor, and College first year Jesse Zhang as multimedia editor. They will report directly to their respective department heads and indirectly to Forman.
Since she first joined the Street executive board as the inaugural culture editor a year ago, Forman has been crafting a specific vision that she plans to enact as editor-in-chief. “I want to continue growing Street into a magazine that trains the next crop of emerging journalists in person-first, justice-driven reporting,” Forman said. “This means pushing Street to become a publication that centers social justice and the marginalized communities that push for it on Penn’s campus in all that we do.”
Forman, a communications and political science double major from Peekskill, N.Y., will be Street’s first Latinx editor-in-chief. She will also fill the role of The Daily Pennsylvanian’s Diversity Committee Chair for a second term. Last year, she spearheaded the creation of the Daily Pennsylvanian Fellowship, which offers five $4,000 scholarships to BIPOC students at Penn so they can join the DP without worrying about financial constraints.
“I’m really excited to welcome our first class of fellows, help oversee the program, and see how it transforms our work,” Forman said. “The DP Fellowship is something I wish existed when I was a [first year] — it would’ve made me feel more confident in my sense of belonging at the DP and in my desire to become a journalist.”
After the murders by police of Breonna Taylor in March and George Floyd in May, the call for newsrooms to actively engage in appropriate anti-racist initiatives and examine traditional journalistic norms from a moral perspective grew in volume and urgency. Street responded by doubling down on summer coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement and concentrating these articles under a new tab, initially labeled #BLM, on 34st.com.
“We must commit to being anti-racist and understanding how impartiality — giving equal time to both sides of the issue — can isolate readers of color when that issue is a police killing or a hate crime,” Forman said.
By the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, Street’s #BLM tab was established permanently as a new section of the magazine and renamed Focus. During her time as culture editor, Forman played an instrumental role in the development and rollout of the new section, which occurred after her summer position at Philadelphia Magazine.
“I’ve been so lucky to intern at organizations that acknowledge how journalistic standards are changing,” Forman said. “It is not enough just to be impartial and report the facts, hoping readers take away the right thing.”
The Focus section will be supervised by culture editor Mehek Boparai, an English major and aspiring fiction author from Hanford, Calif. Boparai has been writing creative prose and poetry “forever” (in her words), and the long list of pieces she has authored for Street spans five of the magazine’s eight sections. As to her goals for the upcoming year, Boparai plans on using her extensive editorial experience to refine Street’s voice and brand in all of the content she touches.
“[I want] to make Street the crux of contemporary culture,” Boparai said. “[Street is] the perfect blend of narrative writing and informative journalism. Its lens is educational but also tasteful — and I aim to expand it across every piece.”
Boparai entered her first leadership position at the magazine as a Word on the Street co-editor in the spring of 2020, and then attained a second co-editorship in the fall at the helm of the Focus section. With no precedent, Boparai crafted the Focus brand, finding its permanent niche as the leading culture section within Street’s overall structure, content, and voice.
“I am looking forward to working with incredibly intelligent, talented women who each have such a vivid view on the world and a cohesive image of where Street is heading,” Boparai said. “I have cherished my time writing and editing across so many different sections, and Street is a wonderful place to call home at Penn.”
The other four sections of the magazine will be directed by campus editor Chelsey Zhu. During her two semesters leading Street Features as section editor, Zhu, an English major from Murfreesboro, Tenn., also contributed significantly to the section herself. While Features editor, Zhu singlehandedly wrote six Feature pieces covering topics such as systemic racism in health care and the experiences of Uyghur students in Pennsylvania.
Zhu’s first encounter with journalism was actually her starting role as an Ego beat reporter. She then moved on to contribute to Features as a writer before being chosen to lead the section. Zhu was also selected as one of four Street staffers to enroll in the first paid DP internship program last summer: As an education intern at Forbes, she both wrote and fact-checked articles — one of which, authored by Zhu alone, was viewed nearly 40,000 times.
Outside of Features, Zhu plans on working with the Style, Ego, and Word on the Street section editors to pursue longer and more in-depth stories than those that have traditionally characterized campus content outside of Features. She also hopes to foster a sense of camaraderie among every student working at the magazine.
“I want to make Street feel more like a community and have all staffers think of it as a place they can turn to for friendships, not just for creative freedom and journalism experience,” Zhu said.
Karin Hananel, the fourth member of Street’s executive board, hails from Philadelphia, Pa. and is majoring in international relations and French and Francophone studies. She started at Street as a first-year staff writer in the fall of 2018, quickly rising through the ranks to become a Style beat for two semesters before taking on the role of special issues editor for both semesters prior to being elected assignments editor.
“I joined Street after lots of convincing from my parents that I was a good writer,” Hananel said. “I had been too scared to write for my high school newspaper — it seemed too cutthroat. That means that all of my formal writing and journalism experience has been with Street.”
The role of the Street assignments editor is to organize a hiring and training process for new writers, who learn the ropes of the magazine in a low-pressure position by reporting to a senior editor who is expert in Street brand, voice, and style.
For the entirety of 2020, Hananel headed the development and execution of Street’s special issues — but only one (the Love Issue) had been scheduled for publication before Penn’s unprecedented closure in March. With few students to pick up paper magazines and faced with an uncertain future post-COVID, Street paused print production for the first time in its 52 years of existence. The magazine will return in its physical form under Forman, who is working closely with Street design editor Alice Heyeh to streamline production and redesign the magazine.
To Forman, Street has always been “an authority of taste” that recommends to the Penn community the newest TV shows to watch and the best matcha lattes on campus. She doesn’t plan on changing Street in that respect.
“Now, in a time where Penn is reckoning with a complicated past of gentrification and institutional racism, our readers are looking for new types of recommendations: what Penn leaders to hold accountable, what student [organizations] are activist, how to help West Philadelphians,” Forman said. “Street is the magazine that can do that.”
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