As he knows from an email I wrote him at the time, my initial reaction to Marc Fisher ’80’s first letter was that PAW has always read like a house organ and its editorial independence was no big deal. But then I had the enlightening experience of writing an article for the alumni magazine of a major research university. The editor came to me, knowing my interest in the subject matter and also my prickly independence as a journalist. The only constraint I felt while reporting and writing the article was the need to interview alumni, faculty, and staff, which was logical given the subject matter. I crafted an article that I believed would inform and interest the audience. The editor liked it.
But the bureaucrats couldn’t keep their hands off it. Even a faculty quote was censored. Although the resulting article wasn’t a complete embarrassment and did contain some good reporting, it taught me an important lesson. If an alumni magazine lacks official editorial independence, everything in it will be seen as speaking for the institution. The p.r. department — and wow, there were a lot of layers of p.r. people — and administration will demand that articles insult the intelligence of readers in order to avoid anything that smacks of controversy.
So, to Marc Fisher, you were wiser than I, and I am glad you worked out a reasonable arrangement. Thank you!