First Person - October 6, 1999

All the news that fits the Prince

A former editor of the Princetonian passes her blue correction pen to her successor

by Christine B. Whelan '99

As a little girl, I would wish upon a star that someday my prince would come. After a 14-hour day at The Daily Princetonian early in my term as editor-in-chief, I realized my wish had come true-but instead of a handsome knight in shining armor, I got the Prince, a daily college newspaper that demanded my love and attention.

I was the 122nd editor-in-chief of the Prince, the eighth woman to hold the job, and the only editor to install purple draperies in the newsroom. I'm certain I made my mark at the paper-in editorial content, layout, and newsroom antics-but for the most part, my experiences were typical: I am part of a long line of Princetonians who believed, at least for a year, that the Prince was the center of the universe.

There was no such thing as time off-I was leashed to the paper by pager-and I logged in about 50 hours per week at 48 University Place. After three years as a writer, I'd learned to schedule only morning classes, leaving my afternoons free for the paper, and relegated all my study-time to Friday and Saturday marathon library sessions. Of course, by senior year with a thesis looming, the Prince was my escape: As past editors warned me, putting out a newspaper becomes addictive.

An editor-in-chief is useless without dozens of dedicated writers, photographers, editors, and people to bring the money in. The student members of the 1999 Managing Board didn't know each other very well when they took over the paper in February, 1998, but we learned quickly how to work as a team. Daily editorial meetings were a way to gossip, in addition to planning the next day's paper. For some of us, the Colonial Club served as an extension of 48 U-Place. We'd sit at meals talking about the big stories to come-and woe to the non-Prince person who dared sit with us and change the topic.

The times I treasured most were the evening press sessions when news and sports staffers would crowd into the third-floor press room to write headlines and photo captions, edit copy, and lay out the paper until late in the evening. Here, among pieces of years-old popcorn ground into the brown industrial carpet, the Prince creative genius flourished. For each headline that appeared in the paper, a dozen off-color choices were suggested, enjoyed, and reluctantly rejected. At 10 p.m. on most evenings, we'd order free from the student-run Tiger Pizza because of a brilliant deal a past business manager cut: We print their ads, they feed us. Forget the "Freshman 15"-with this diet each night, I fought off the "Prince 20."

Amidst our feeding frenzy and headline-writing fun, Brian Smith- the production supervisor hired by the paper to add institutional memory to an ever-changing staff-would prod us to make deadline. In addition, Brian got to hear all my gossip. Many a night I'd sit next to him in the press room, update him on who's dating whom, and share details of my personal life. He'd smile, shake his head in amusement, and continue deftly clicking his mouse to lay out the paper. In the decade he's been at the Prince, Brian has become a friend to hundreds of students and a fixture in our memories. But most importantly, Brian lends the quiet, sound advice necessary to teach us how to make the most of our short time at the paper.

For louder, loving advice, there's Larry DuPraz, the Prince overlord and production supervisor emeritus, who has been with the paper for 52 years. "What is this crap?" Larry will ask as he enters the newsroom each afternoon, making editors cringe and writers quake. With the criticism also come stories of hot-lead printing presses, scandals from editorial boards past, and world-class pranks-he's been here through it all. And if you listen, you'll graduate from the Larry DuPraz School of Journalism, one of Princeton's most successful colleges.

The hardest part about serving as editor of the Prince was leaving. Last February, I handed the blue correction pen to Steve Fuzesi '00, and, according to tradition, I never set foot in 48 U-Place again.

Okay, that's a lie, but I did try my best to stay away. Old editors seldom go quietly: If I wasn't paying attention as I walked back from the Street, my inner autopilot would take me right back to 48 U-Place. And I've already alerted Steve that I'm coming back to check in once more before I move on-just to make sure.

Christine B. Whelan, who spent the summer working as reporter in the Washington Bureau of The Wall Street Journal, is a Sachs Scholar at Oxford University.


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