President and Chief Operating Officer of BuzzFeed Jon Steinberg ‘99 was a former opinion columnist for the Daily Princetonian during his time at the University. On Tuesday, Steinberg will return to campus and deliver a lecture titled "How Social is the New Cable Network." Paying homage to Buzzfeed-style journalism, we decided to take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of his best (and most colorful) pieces from when he was a student:
In this advice column to freshman, Steinberg reflects on the time he got to drive in President Clinton's motorcade when he delivered the commencement address at Princeton in 1996. However, in the vehicle Steinberg was driving, he forgot to lift the parking brake so both secret service and reporters thought his car was burning. The lesson?
We believe it's that here at Princeton, we often boast of our high intellectual capabilities and skills concerning multivariable calculus, organic chemistry and other Einstein-esque academica. However, ask any astrophysics major and he will admit that at some point, he has struggled with calculating the sum of 2+2 without a calculator. Steinberg makes a valid point: we may attend the best college in America, but we often lack common sense. Nonetheless, our ditzy moment or “small bump on the road” proves that we are all human.
In an article that stirred some controversy, Steinberg reflects on his traumatic senior prom date for potential insights about the forthcoming Houseparties weekend. To protect the girl's identity, he refers to her as Melissa in the column and describes how she wore a white dress much to his dismay. Steinberg goes on to discuss how “women look good in black dresses only.” One thing leads to another, Melissa goes skinny dipping in the Hamptons, Steinberg "leaves her passed out on the sand" to make omelets with his friends and in the end, makes sure she gets home safely.
"Like a car that's a lemon, you just can't pick out those Houseparties dates from hell," he wrote.
Steinberg wrote this piece exactly one year after "Date Disaster Strikes Unexpectedly" to double down on his opinion of black dresses looking better on women than any other color. In the column, which was published before Houseparties weekend of 1998, he alludes to the controversy of Date Disaster and how he had to defend himself the prior year for making the claim.
In one of his more thought-provoking articles, Steinberg suggests that reading may be a thing of the past and that the next step for society is a device that directly inserts knowledge into the brain – think speed-reading on steroids. With said fictional device, a user could simply command "Read 'The Great Gatsby'" and boom, you have it uploaded. He writes, "In today's world, one could imagine slipping a CD-ROM into the back of his or her skull..."
The column clearly harkens back to the dot com boom and Steinberg seems to be buying into the hype (although he has made successful careers at both Google and Buzzfeed).
“Our focus should be less on doing well and more on doing good…” This line in itself is poetic but is arrived at in a rather unconventional way. Steinberg recounts a time he visited Coca Cola's Atlanta headquarters and finished the tour in a huge sampling room where he proceeded to gorge on Coke products and subsequently vomit into the company's welcoming fountain. The takeaway is that instead of sprinting to do everything (his example was chugging Coke to the point of illness) we should truly start to value our time at Princeton and have moments that we can look back on and be proud of.
Steinberg's Tuesday lecture is at 7:30p.m. in the Senate Chamber of Whig Clio.