In 1977, the movie “All the President’s Men” won the Academy Award for Best Sound. There’s a reason for this. At the end of the film, after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein painstakingly uncover the Watergate scandal, footage of Richard Nixon’s second inauguration appears on a TV in The Washington Post newsroom. The movie pans toward Woodward and Bernstein clacking on typewriters.
While the inaugural 12-gun salute pounds in the background, the tapping of Woodward’s and Bernstein’s Olympia typewriters grows louder as the stories become more damning. The guns make a deep and solemn sound, a battle cry. The typewriters are fervent and persistent, yet meek against the guns’ methodical rhythm. The former represents obvious power. The latter represents journalism, another kind of power.
Steadily, headlines bringing Nixon’s presidency closer to its end appear on the screen. Finally, the salute ends and only the clicking of typewriters remains.
Woodward and Bernstein are some of the industry’s iconic figures. They represent all that journalism stands for as a vocation. They fought to tell the truth. They persisted. While what they reached was the very height of power — the leader of the free world — what they practiced was the same techniques you learn in journalism school and at your college newspaper. It’s this work that helps ensure fairness and justice every day.
The best journalism persists, even in spite of the drudgery and danger it might require. The best journalism is the kind where someone says, “Don’t publish that,” or “You shouldn’t be writing about that.”
The best journalism is the truth.
We live, right now, in a world where the President of the United States is telling the press not to write about particular topics. He has condoned violence against journalists, and he has persistently called evidence-based, thorough, and real journalism “fake.”
Despite the inhospitable environment in which we find ourselves, students who work for The Daily Princetonian seem to find the resolve to continue. Like Woodward and Bernstein, we aim to report on issues that are hard to discuss and discover, but essential to preserving Princeton’s hallowed halls.
We’re not the Post, but our community is your community and we seek to serve it with the best journalism we can offer. What we write in the ‘Prince’ does not necessarily shed light on the inner sanctum of the West Wing or the corner offices of Wall Street. Rather, we are an environment of learning and growth. We are working to educate and train our reporters, writers, photographers, designers, and copy editors to be prepared for all kinds of jobs after Princeton — including reporting jobs.
Most importantly, however, we want the members of our ‘Prince’ community to illustrate the humanity that journalism can uncover. This means inviting letters to the editor and op-eds from people we might not agree with. It means being innovative — while maintaining the highest standards of journalistic integrity and writing precision — about how we do our jobs.
We will seek to be transparent about how journalism works and how we report. We want our community to understand what we do, so we can keep improving.
We are not perfect, and we may make mistakes. Every day when we put the paper to bed and when we publish content on the website, it is our priority to ensure that mistakes don’t leave the newsroom. It’s a purpose we have been serving for 141 years straight — and we’re looking forward to continuing the tradition into the 142nd year.
That tradition includes inviting you to join us. Many of us ‘Prince’ folks didn’t know how newspapers worked before we matriculated, but one of our priorities is to make sure that everyone who wants to can have the opportunity to learn. The more heads together working to uncover truth, the better our journalism will be.
So, tell us what you’d like us to report on and tackle this year — and if you’d like, join us and help make it happen.
Marcia Brown is editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian. This letter represents the views of the editor-in-chief only; she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.