By Mauricio Vazquez
Back in elementary school, Gabriel Debenedetti would race outside every morning to grab The New York Times. He started with the sports section, so he could discuss the previous night’s events with classmates. Soon, he started reading the other sections too. Eventually, that young reader would go on to cover politics for New York Magazine.
Though Debenedetti is busy covering national politics, he found time to return to Princeton University, from which he graduated in 2012, for a conversation with students from The Princeton Summer Journal. Debenedetti mostly writes articles that shed light on the less salacious and sensationalized side of politics. He aims to report on important political events across the country that might not be as widely covered.
Sure, other topics might generate more buzz, but he knows his job isn’t to write viral stories. Debenedetti writes to educate others. “There’s not really a world in which people will not continue to need the news, and to need to know what’s going on around them,” he said.
Megan Garber feels similarly. To Garber, a culture writer at The Atlantic and a Princeton alum from the class of 2002, staying informed is crucial to one’s sense of self. “How can anyone achieve their full potential if they don’t understand the world?” she asked. Like Debenedetti, Garber sees her role as a journalist as educating others on current events so they can navigate the world as informed and thoughtful individuals.
As a culture reporter, Garber covers a bit of everything. When asked about her latest story, she mentioned a review she was writing of the new romantic-comedy movie, Dog Days. This is something that many forget about journalism today: Though heavy political events dominate headlines, there are writers covering fun, lighter topics, and that’s just as important. Many people grow tired of reading about so much negativity every day, and sometimes a funny movie review adds some much needed levity.
It’s a strange time to be a journalist. In the current political climate, some Americans are skeptical of the media and like to discredit reporters. And the “fake news” phenomenon doesn’t make the job any easier. Though the incentives to go into journalism might seem slim, the hunger for credible and well-researched reporting is precisely why we need more journalists. So why are journalists like Debenedetti and Garber important? Because they speak the truth—something we desperately need.