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Save the PAW’s editorial independence

Alumni deserve a forum free from University oversight

<h5>Nassau Hall at night</h5>
<h6>Rebecca Cao / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Nassau Hall at night
Rebecca Cao / The Daily Princetonian

The Daily Princetonian’s coverage hasn't always thrilled every University constituent. From our February investigation of allegations against a professor to the many opinions on divestment, our coverage is often critical. That's part of our role. We cover events and people as they are, and we hold institutions of power to account. We’ve both criticized and praised as we seek to make our campus — and the world it impacts — a more equal and inclusive place. First and foremost, we are accountable to our readers and to the truth they deserve.

We can do this because we are financially independent from the University. Our financial independence grants us editorial independence, and it is through that freedom that we can pursue critical stories. The Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW), while not financially independent from the University, has operated with editorial independence for over a century. Now, it is in danger of losing that freedom. 

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In a July announcement, Marc Fisher ’80, chair of the PAW board, wrote that the University "proposes to take on the entire cost of producing and distributing the PAW, eliminating the burden on classes that until now have helped pay for the magazine" but "has not guaranteed the continued editorial independence of the magazine." The PAW features alumni opinions and notes, regardless of position.  The publication of alumni’s candid thoughts is threatened if the University begins to oversee editorial operations.

This is why editorial independence at the ‘Prince’, and likewise, at the PAW, is indispensable. To write openly and honestly about life at and after the University, alumni must be afforded an open and honest space — to be a “magazine by alumni for alumni.” While the PAW isn't publishing salacious exposés on University officials in each issue, and it isn't likely that Princeton will heavily censor every bit of the PAW press, it is an important precedent to maintain the PAW as a free-flowing forum. Recognizing the privileges we have in our independence, student journalists must join in fighting for the PAW's privilege as well.

As a final note, I want to emphasize: the University is not evil. On the contrary, many administrators and staff are some of the sincerest and kindest people I've met. The University, at its core, is composed of ordinary people, diligent in bettering our community and committed to helping students grow. We must humanize our campus leadership. However, the University must sustain itself and its image, and that can mean making decisions and announcements with public relations in mind — understandably, though perhaps not always excusably, so.

We can appreciate and even empathize with the position of the University, but we must also realize that our goals here do not align. It is this realization that allows the ‘Prince’ and the PAW alike to build trust with our readers. As truth-tellers, we cannot let go of the editorial independence that allows all truths to be told.

Emma Treadway is editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian. She can be reached at eic@dailyprincetonian.com.

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