October 19, 2005: From the Editor
This issue’s cover story — Marc Fisher ’80’s article about journalism in the blogging age — was born in Dodds Auditorium during Reunions weekend. It was there that Fisher, a columnist for The Washington Post, and other Princeton reporters took part in a panel discussion about the cloudy future of traditional, mainstream journalism. After all, it was a time when any serious reporter or editor might worry about long-term job security, thanks to publicized ethical lapses at high-profile publications, unrelenting criticism from readers and online Web pundits alike, and pressure from Washington on public broadcasting.
But despite their troubles, the mainstream reporters left the audience with an optimistic outlook. Just as American newspapers adapted after challenges from other media in the past, several suggested, the industry would come through this difficult time — stronger, again. “In the end, once our excitement over the flash, fun, and freedom of the Internet ebbs, the news will be, as ever, about groping for the truth and having the courage to use it to confront the powerful,” Fisher concludes.
In his story, Fisher writes about how newspapers have gingerly entered the chaotic world of online journalism themselves, hosting dialogues with writers and connecting with readers in different ways. As we prepare to revamp the PAW Web site, princeton.edu/paw, we also hope to wade deeper into those sometimes-rough waters. If you have ideas about how we might make the site more interactive and useful, please write to PAW Online editor Ray Ollwerther ’71 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You also will find here an expanded Perspective section, as we present three alumni essays written in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Two of the essays were written by former residents of New Orleans, Michael Pettit ’72 and Margaret Johnson ’05. Though these alumni spent their childhoods in the same city, they moved on — before the devastation — with strikingly different memories of their old home. Their essays explore not only their impressions of a single city, but what “home” really means.
In the third piece, journalist Dan Grech ’99 recounts a visit to Bayou La Batre in Alabama, a shrimping town that had its share of troubles even before Katrina struck and destroyed its industry and homes — but not, as Grech found, its people.
Mindy Patron ’91, head of the Princeton Alumni Association of New Orleans, said her group had tracked down more than 20 alumni from the city and surrounding area as of late September; some had moved to start new jobs or graduate programs elsewhere while others were preparing to move back home. “Standing in the middle of my street, brown debris baking in the sun in every direction, I didn’t see destruction, but the death of the neighborhood,” writes New Orleans alum Tom Andre ’98 about his first post-Katrina visit. “There was nothing at all to return to but empty structures that now house only memories.” Andre’s account is posted at princeton.edu/paw.