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Independently run PAW to transfer supervisory responsibility to council

Long a publication run independent of the University, the Princeton Alumni Weekly will transfer administrative responsibility for its publication to the University's Alumni Council this summer, raising concerns about the editorial freedom of the magazine.

The decision stemmed from concerns that as a separate organization, the magazine was unable to take full advantage of the University's financial and administrative resources, Vice President for Public Affairs Robert Durkee '69 said.

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A PAW review committee recommended the new structure for the magazine. Members of the PAW board of directors, University trustees, University administrators and the Alumni Council representatives sat on the committee.

"The more we looked at how it was working as a freestanding organization, the more we realized it wasn't worth all the effort necessary," Durkee said, adding that transferring administrative control of the magazine to the Alumni Council connects the publication more closely to the audience it is trying to serve.

Durkee said the new system will take financial pressure off alumni classes, which are currently responsible for furnishing 50 percent of the magazine's annual budget through class dues. Under the new structure, the PAW will be funded in equal parts by advertising revenue, income from alumni classes and the University, Durkee said.

Editorial freedom

Though the PAW no longer will be an independent publication, review committee chair and University trustee Brent Henry '69 said in a University statement that the change will not compromise the magazine's editorial independence.

Durkee echoed Henry's sentiment, noting that it "wouldn't serve anyone" for the PAW to become a public relations mouthpiece of the University. "No one wants to see the magazine lose any of its vitality," he said.

Newly hired PAW editor Jane Chapman Martin '89 said though she thinks the connection to the Alumni Council will be positive for the magazine, preserving editorial independence is a concern.

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"I feel fairly confident that our editorial freedom will not be compromised because of this change," said Martin, who will assume her post Feb. 1. "We're not going to become a softball magazine because of this."

However, media analyst Seth Ackerman of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a Washington, D.C. media-watch organization, questioned the University's assurances of continuing editorial freedom for the magazine.

"That's what's usually said" in situations like these, Ackerman noted, adding the way a media outlet covers its constituency is affected by who runs it. "In the end, the motive here isn't about journalism. The motive is about profit," he said.

Since 1991, the PAW has been operated by Princeton Alumni Publications, a corporation formed after the magazine left the auspices of the Princeton University Press.

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