When the PAW staff decided to devote this issue — the magazine’s annual “theme” issue — to journalism, we didn’t think that so much of our content would focus on local journalism: what’s being lost as hometown newspapers are shuttered, and how news organizations are developing funding models that one day could fill the gaps. You’ll find various perspectives on the importance of strong local reporting in the following pages.
Here at PAW, our community is Princeton, and we strive to report on the University and its alumni fairly and fully. Nearly 20 years ago, when PAW became a department of Princeton, a then-new charter (http://bit.ly/PAW-charter) aimed to safeguard the magazine’s financial stability and editorial independence, allowing us to cover topics like student activism, campus speech, and Title IX as editors see fit and to print a wide range of letters.
On the financial side, PAW was expected to draw revenue from three sources: a University subsidy, advertising, and the undergraduate-alumni classes. But the classes, relying primarily on dues, have found it increasingly difficult to shoulder the burden.
As I write this, in early December, the University is reviewing the charter, particularly PAW’s funding structure and governance.
PAW’s board chair, Washington Post senior editor Marc Fisher ’80, provided the following statement: “Like all news publications seeking ways to cope with the shifting sands and uncertain finances of media consumption in the age of digital content and social media, PAW is exploring every avenue to remain vital to every Princeton graduate. But whether people read PAW in print or online, whether they comb through every Class Note or dip into our podcasts and videos or settle in with our profiles and features, the board and I are devoted to an unchanging mission: to be a fair, thorough, and independent source for news about Princeton and our fellow alumni.
“PAW’s job is to tell the stories of the campus and the people who make up Princeton with fearless reporting and revelatory writing, with voices that connect with alumni expressly because we are editorially independent and not a PR arm of the institution. For more than a century, alumni journalists have made PAW something unusual and cherished in the world of university magazines — a publication with intimate reporting on the college it covers, yet one that retains the distance necessary to find the deeper meaning in events and trends. PAW must change to meet readers where they are, but PAW also must hold dear to the core value of editorial independence that has made it a reliable, credible, and beloved symbol of Princeton’s search for meaning for generations of alumni.”