April 4, 2007: From the Editor

Bob Herbert

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert with high school students in last summer’s journalism program. (courtesy Princeton University Summer Journalism Program)

Lacking a journalism department, Princeton isn’t particularly well known for turning out reporters and editors. But don’t tell that to the legions of students who have honed their reporting skills at the Prince or the Nassau Weekly, or taken journalism classes with some of the world’s top reporters.

Both people profiled in this issue — ABC anchorman Charles Gibson ’65 and Professor Anthony Grafton — have connections to Princeton’s journalism tradition: Gibson, as the one-time news director of WPRB, and Grafton as the former head of the Council of the Humanities, which has nurtured up-and-coming writers for many years.

Few colleges can boast the faculty that regularly teach Princeton’s student journalists the craft. In addition to John McPhee ’53, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and a Ferris Professor of Journalism for more than three decades, the Humanities Council hosts many of the nation’s top journalists each year. This semester, students are studying investigative journalism with two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Walt Bogdanich, international news with former CNN and Hong Kong Standard reporter Rose Tang, and reporting on social issues with Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press. Those who hope to follow Gibson’s example are enrolled in “Journalism on the Screen” with producer Lisa Cohen. And The Boston Globe’s Mark Feeney is teaching the perennial offering “The Literature of Fact,” with a reading list that ranges from Michael Herr’s classic on the Vietnam War, Dispatches, to Nicholas Lemann’s The Big Test, about the SAT and the politics of the American meritocracy. Last year, the Humanities Council announced the appointment of Evan W. Thomas, assistant managing editor of Newsweek magazine, as the first Ferris Professor in Residence. His five-year term will begin in September.

The most competitive journalism program on campus isn’t for Princeton students at all. That’s the Summer Journalism Program, created by former Prince editors to mentor low-income, minority high school students. For this summer’s program — in which students will meet with professional journalists, learn about college admissions, and prepare their own newspaper — organizers received a record 877 applications for 20 spots. Co-founder and former Prince chairman Richard Just ’01 says, “Our acceptance rate is going to be, well, a lot lower than any college’s.” Organizers hope to find a donor so that the program can expand.

You can’t argue with success, and these young journalism students have lots of that. Students from the first program, held in 2002, are now at some of the country’s best colleges, including Princeton. Last summer, one student interned at CBS, another at The New Republic. And a student who attended last year’s program was featured in March in The New York Times because she won a Times scholarship. That’s Feruz Erizku — a member of Princeton’s Class of 2011.end of article

Marilyn H. Marks *86


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