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Keep it under the Bubble

In the shade of a blooming tree, a group of students sit in a circle upon green grass.
Princetonians under a tree
Jean Sin / The Daily Princetonian

The following is a column from the public editor. If you have questions or concerns regarding the paper’s coverage and standards or would like to see her cover a particular issue, please contact publiceditor[at]

I was featured on Daybreak, The Daily Princetonian’s daily podcast, last Wednesday, where I spoke about my recent column on marriage and feminism in elite female circles. The episode continued with coverage of local weather events as well as a short report on developments in America’s offshore wind energy infrastructure and the four Princeton graduate students selected to study related projects in New Jersey. The episode ended with a 60-second brief on an Israeli airstrike that killed seven humanitarian workers in Gaza the previous day. Why was a reporter for the ‘Prince’ discussing an international event that — while serious and impactful — did not involve the Princeton community?


As Princeton’s campus newspaper, the ‘Prince’ reports on matters that pertain to the Princeton community. The ‘Prince’ does not cover sports teams that don’t wear the orange and black — unless one of their members did — and it does not publish stories about campuses, counties, or cities that do not contain Princeton — unless a Princetonian is a major part of that news. Yet in the Podcast section, international events are regularly discussed without any direct connection to the Princeton community. 

It is not the role of a campus newspaper to attempt to drive campus conversation on a select set of world issues by simply amplifying the reporting of others. If the ‘Prince’ wants to cover issues beyond the Orange Bubble, it must make clear to its audience why these issues belong in the paper. Otherwise, its journalistic standards regarding its editorial scope must be called into question.

According to the Podcast section’s style guide, episodes of Daybreak include four sections: an interview with a ‘Prince’ writer highlighting their recent article, a report on local news, a story which relates to national news, and the international news segment. It tells staffers that “the stories we curate for Daybreak should always have some tie back into Princeton,” encouraging them to research any non-Princeton news in order to find a way in which a campus community may be impacted.

Head Podcast Editor Vitus Larrieu notes that Daybreak is an opportunity for the ‘Prince’ to curate a report of digestible news items that are relevant to a Princeton student’s life, whether there is a direct connection to Princeton or not.

“Daybreak serves as a start to our listeners morning, allowing them to get highlights of important coverage from our newsroom, as well as other stories that seek to give listeners a broader perspective, outside of the Orange Bubble,” he said. 

It should go without saying that there are many issues that take place in the wider world which impact on-campus lives and seeking to tell those stories is an admirable goal. However, the ‘Prince’ does not possess the expertise nor the authority to detail these events appropriately. Instead of disseminating information in an original way, with original reporting or storytelling that makes clear to Princetonians why the news is relevant to their lives, the short format of the podcast only allows for a host to share international news at a reduced and less nuanced level than has been reported elsewhere.


This blatantly violates the policy to which all other sections are held: content published in The Daily Princetonian must be in some way related to the lives, struggles, or experiences of Princetonians themselves. Such is the essence of a campus paper — not aiming to replace other media organizations, but striving to serve a small community through investigating relevant issues and highlighting thought-provoking ideas. The mission statement of the ‘Prince’ confirms these goals, declaring that its aim is “to not only offer a window into Princeton life, but also to share the perspectives of those involved in that collective life,” to tell “Princeton’s story,” and to “shine a light on all aspects of Princeton.” 

But the ‘Prince’ almost always fails to make an explicit tie back to circumstances at Princeton. Analyzing the international news segments on Daybreak, a connection to campus communities is made only 35 percent of the time. While this is an improvement from last semester, in which international news was never made explicitly relevant to students on-campus, this is still a problem: there has never been a week this semester in which Daybreak completely fulfilled the ‘Prince’ mission of publishing stories that are related in a direct and clear way to campus or the Princeton community.

Larrieu also noted that Daybreak is meant to provide listeners with the information they need to participate in informed conversations around campus.

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“By providing students with up-to-date information about national and world news events, we help Daybreak listeners understand the context of their day in the world and inspire the kinds of conversations that make Princeton so special,” he explained.

Yet, to accomplish these briefs, reporters simply become regurgitators: since the ‘Prince’ does not have the scale and resources to report on international conflicts, these Daybreak segments simply tell listeners the stories already published elsewhere and can struggle to paint the full picture.

For example, on Feb. 5, the Daybreak included a report that the United States had “launched a set of retaliatory strikes against targets in Iraq and Syria.” Though the episode noted the United States was responding to Americans killed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, it also noted that the attacks would continue in Yemen and focus on “Houthi-affiliated targets.” This brief report leaves out significant background information and many relevant details: failing to explain the complex relationship between Iran, the Houthis, and the Iraqi militia which claimed responsibility for the attack and ignoring the Israel-Gaza war and subsequent reactions around the Middle East, which is why the initial attack was conducted in the first place.

This is the danger of covering big stories in a brief format — difficulties and intricacies are flattened in order to make the story fit in its minute-long time frame, at the expense of giving comprehensive and truthful coverage. Furthermore, by choosing to cover one piece of international news per day, the ‘Prince’ also chooses not to cover hundreds of other newsworthy international items. This could perhaps be justified if Daybreak included an explanation as to how their international story was relevant to the lives of Princetonians. Except, of course, these connections are rarely made.

Listeners are left to wonder why the ‘Prince’ has picked this particular story to tell and are not given the tools to understand how it can help shape their day-to-day context at Princeton. Thus, the reporting is biased by its very existence: without a clear reason for picking stories, the ‘Prince’ determines which global problem is most pressing in an unexamined — and therefore unethical — way.

Small-scale newspapers should not and cannot seek to replace legacy media organizations: rather, they should focus their resources on the limited community they serve in order to serve it well. The ‘Prince’ is the paper of record at Princeton, and its mission is to uncover the news that matters to those involved in the Princeton community to help them lead better and more informed lives. When it tries to tell stories which do not fit into this scope nor the scope of its resources, it necessarily changes — and lowers — its journalistic standards.

Princeton has a diverse, wide, and influential community that is frequently relevant to, and more frequently affected by, news that takes place off-campus. But the desire to highlight these stories cannot come at the expense of the newspaper’s role in its community. If the ‘Prince’ wants to become not only the teller of Princeton’s stories, but the determinator of which other stories Princeton should be paying attention to, it must provide justification for the choices it makes. 

Abigail Rabieh is a junior in the history department from Cambridge, Mass. She is the public editor at the ‘Prince’ and writes to address issues of journalistic quality and ethics.