Give the cheese wheel a spin.
RoMa furniture
24 hours in Wawa
Barn raising
Opinions left unsaid
Water fountains
Van certification
Voice acting
Dogs of Forbes
Late meal reviews
Fashion Institute
Underground tunnels
Ultimate frisbee
Running club
Humans of Princeton
Intramural basketball
It’s Big Block of Cheese Day, today and every day.

Aaron Sorkin is on the record in favor of plagiarism, so I am going to plagiarize him without worrying about it too much.

“Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of the White House, had a two-ton block of cheese. It was there, for any and all who were hungry, it was there for the voiceless.” drones Leo McGarry in Season 2 of The West Wing, the 1999–2006 Sorkin TV show. In that episode, the staff of the White House have meetings with, in McGarry’s words, “those people representing organizations who have a difficult time getting our attention.”

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way first. Andrew Jackson was very, very bad. And of his 2,922-day presidency, the cheese was available to the people for exactly one of them.

Let’s also acknowledge that returning to The West Wing, more than 15 years after the show went off the air, is a classic Politics Kid choice. The show has its supporters and its detractors, but it is undeniably less relevant today than a wide variety of other cultural touchpoints.

Given the polarizing branding, why should we run this issue at all? The answer is that despite everything, the single idea of Big Block of Cheese Day is still more important than ever: who gets heard, and about what?

If you are a frequent reader of The Daily Princetonian, you know that Princeton students have strong opinions on a wide variety of topics: on geopolitics, on free speech, on mental health, on construction. You know where decisions are made: in Undergraduate Student Government (USG), and by a cadre of administrators with familiar names. You know what sports capture students’ attention and the most popular dance groups and orchestras. You’ve seen when there’s misconduct, when there’s tragedy, and when there’s achievement.

But I also hope that you’ve seen that Princeton students also care about the colors on the locks of their doors. I hope that you’ve seen that while some students are running for USG vice president, others are building a barn in the backyard of the architecture school. I hope that while you’ve read profiles of President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 and Conte’s Pizza and Bar and the men’s basketball team, you can also read profiles of an interesting student over brunch, of late meal, and of the Princeton Running Club. I hope you’ve also read about annoyances, joy, and the endless feeling of neutrality.

The latter should not feel unfamiliar. Every week, we’ve published stories that refocus on students’ daily lives. Yet those stories can sometimes get overshadowed by the sensational, the scandalous, the traditionally important. That’s why we take today, Big Block of Cheese Day, and devote our front page solely to the stories that might otherwise be undercovered or ignored.

Saving local and community journalism is an industry-wide effort, and naturally a core goal is, how do we make that journalism interesting? And while there are a lot of different answers to that question, it’s important to remember that focusing on the stories closest to the people that we cover does not mean we have to be uninteresting, or uncritical.

As part of this project, a team of 17 reporters staked out the Princeton Wawa in shifts for 24 hours. Over the course of the day, the members of our community were alive in their most normal, most human, most interesting forms.

As the clock struck midnight, one of the reporters, News contributor Meghana Veldhuis ’27 was inspired to write the following lines, “Surrounded by abundance, I am aware of all I have to be thankful for. These are truly special times we live in, in a truly special place. Our individual lives are as fleeting as the numbers they call on our tickets. But together we are part of something greater. Something that has the potential to take hold of the nation, like this Wawa took hold of the University students’ money.”

This Big Block of Cheese Day, let’s be thankful for the community that we get to cover. The Daily Princetonian, like any institution, should never delude itself into believing that it’s bigger than the people it serves.

Rohit Narayanan

December 8th, 2023

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