A community newspaper, which builds trust and stories that have yet to be told

Thinking about the role The Daily Princetonian should play on the Princeton campus, I thought about what it means to build trust – at the level of an individual, a group and an entire community.

At the end of March, a person made the courageous decision to contact me to tell his story. They were in anguish after being accused of violating the honor code, a process that left them powerless and alienated from the university they loved. Reaching out to a journalist was not an easy step for them. It was about divulging one of the most difficult times of their lives to someone they had never met. It was about reliving – during a Zoom interview with a stranger – a moment of trauma.

For me, the courage of this individual lit the flame. Almost eight months later, the “Prince” published their story. “Life After Accusation: Inside Princeton’s Honor Code,” at the time of its November 18 release, included interviews with eight students who had gone through the disciplinary process, three former or current student leaders from the honor committee, two faculty members. , two trustees, six peer representatives and four alumni. In the end, the story was over 5,000 words and was based on the work of two student photographers, a web designer, a print designer, a team of editors, no less than four editors and two reporters. But it all started with one person taking a leap of faith and trusting the “Prince”.

Working on this story and several others, I saw firsthand what it looks like when a community newspaper works every day to earn the trust of the community it serves.

Basically, the “Prince” is a community newspaper. It’s run by a group of students who live their lives alongside the readers they serve: we eat in the same dining halls and dining clubs, we sit in the same lecture halls, and we tune in to the same Zoom classes. , and we have been just as touched by the challenges of the past two years as any of our classmates. Like any good local newspaper, our journalists are members of the community whose role it is to tell the stories.

This is precisely what makes local and student journalism so vital: no one is better placed to elevate the stories of a community – and to do so with respect, integrity and empathy – than the people who make it up.

At ‘Prince’, we are guided by a sense of responsibility. As an independent news agency, we take it upon ourselves to hold accountable those in power on this campus. I truly believe – in part because I’ve seen it happen – that we have the ability to elevate the voices of this community that most need to be heard and to persevere in the face of challenges to create the difficult stories that must be told.

But we can only be and do all of this when we are trusted by the community we serve. And that starts with people’s trust.

This week — my first at work — two people trusted the “Prince”. On Monday we published the work of AJ Lonski ’23. The moving piece focused on his experiences with homophobia on the varsity wrestling team and his call for the University’s apparent commitment to inclusion to extend to its sports culture. On Wednesday, we published an anonymous student’s account of her experience seeking justice through Princeton’s sexual assault reporting system and her argument that Princeton let her down as a survivor.

By coming to tell us their stories, these two students showed unwavering courage and strength. And in turn, our team strived to approach their stories with decency and humanity; do justice to the stories and the individuals at the center of them; and be fearless in the work of serving our community.

The work we do as an organization is storytelling. Perhaps the most powerful impact of stories is that they can make us feel less alone. I saw this firsthand in the days after the Honor Code survey was released. Several students have contacted me privately to tell me that reading about the experiences of other students – especially first-generation low-income students – with the honor system, has left them less ashamed and less alone with their own experiences.

I am proud of the stories told and the conversations sparked by my predecessors and I know that every story we tell this year will only be made possible by the trust of our readers, our sources and our community. Among undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, staff, faculty, and community members, we can raise each other’s voices, learn from each other, and together, feel less alone.

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In the words of Jonathan Safran Foer ’99, novelist and former “Prince” writer, “I write because I want to end my loneliness.” The books, he says, “show us that conversations are possible from a distance.”

With my year at the helm of the “Prince”, my main goal is to foster conversations at a distance.

Marie-Rose Sheinerman is the 146th editor of the Daily Princetonian; this letter only represents his point of view. She can be contacted at [email protected]

About Debra D. Johnson

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