Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Don't take "no" for an answer

One of my favorite memories of Larry dates back to January 1971 when we were producing the annual “joke issue.” We wanted him to put the front page of the ‘Prince’ on the press upside down. That would mean that, in the morning, sleepy undergrads would try to open the ‘Prince’ from the right, like a book, only to discover that this copy opened from the left. But only the front page. To read the rest of the paper, they would have to fumble around and turn it over again.

It was a compositor’s joke. But Larry said it was a stupid idea and insisted it wouldn’t work. Still, the paper was full of stupid ideas that day. President Robert Goheen ’40 had been kidnapped by ROTC students. Exams had been cancelled. Princeton was dropping out of the NCAA. The hockey coach was quitting to cut cane in Cuba.

That January in 1971, he was surrounded by a group of students who had worked him harder than most. After all, we had been blessed by more news in our brief tenure at Princeton than any other cohort of students — before or since. While we wrote for the ‘Prince,’ the university had gone co-ed, Whig Hall had burned, African-American students had taken over a building and, amid a wave of anti-war protests, the University had gone on strike. And those were just the highlights.

Now, as we seniors prepared to turn over the paper to juniors and get to work on our theses, we wanted to have a little fun. But Larry wasn’t done with us yet. He had one more lesson to teach.

Thirty-five years ago, as the cold January night wore on, the magic moment neared when Larry would load the forms onto the aging press that would produce one of our last editions.

“Larry, what about putting the front page in upside down?” We asked.

“Impossible. It won’t work,” he declared.

“Would you please give it a try?”

Without saying a word, he rotated the form 180 degrees and slipped it onto the press. Done.

With that, we learned one of the most important lessons of the DuPraz School of Journalism: Don’t take “no” for an answer.

— Greg Conderacci ’71, editor-in-chief emeritus


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