When I’ve asked most other journalism majors or aspiring reporters what inspired them to enter the world of journalism, the answers I get are normally something along the lines of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the real-life sleuth superheroes fighting for good in All the President’s Men.
But for me, it was Sally Albright — the bright-eyed, kind-hearted protagonist of When Harry Met Sally…, with a girl-next-door charm and an optimism contagious even to her cynical, sardonic counterpart Harry Burns. To most, she’s an odd choice for a journalistic hero. In fact, many who have seen the film might not even remember her as a journalist. In the movie, she spends far more time perfecting her dinner order than discussing the headlines of the day.
But, that’s the point.
I love Sally and her creator, the late, great — best, in my opinion — Nora Ephron, another figure whose journalistic background is often forgotten, simply because they are people first, journalists second. There is a humanity to their work and their being that we don’t see in the cynical, corruption-fighting journalist trope.
But, as much as I love Carl and Bob — and believe me when I say that every time I see All the President’s Men, I feel singlehandedly empowered to fight the world’s corruption through the power of the written word — very rarely at the Daily Trojan are we exposing presidential corruption (though, shameless plug, did you know the Daily Trojan got the first interview with former President Richard Nixon following his resignation? So, yes, sometimes we do get to live our inner Carl and Bob). Thus, as the managing editor of the Daily Trojan, my job is to inject a little Nora and Sally into our paper.
People remember people, not facts. That’s why I love Nora. I feel as if from reading her work and watching her movies, I knew her.
When I’m editing stories, I conduct the Nora test. Journalism is about exploring the depths of humanity. It’s about bringing humanity to the most inhumane situations.
That’s why I love being a managing editor. The section editors’ jobs are to get the logistics down. Is someone assigned to the story? Did they get the facts right? Do we have a photo? Is the story well-written? My job is to make it human.
Section editors make sure you know the story, I want to make sure you care.
Nora Ephron’s work breathes. It is flawed, it is honest, it is real. Her work is human and that’s what I strive for in the Daily Trojan. I want people to open the Daily Trojan and experience all shades of humanity — the good, the bad, the hopeful.
Nora holds not only a special place in my heart, but also in my experience at the Daily Trojan. I walked into the Daily Trojan newsroom on my first day as a freshman news editor. Everyone was so smart and accomplished, and I didn’t feel like I belonged. I didn’t know anyone and everyone else seemed to know each other.
Halfway into the first day, the girl at the desk next to mine — who was also new — and I bonded over how much we loved Nora Ephron. That desk neighbor is now my fellow managing editor Danni Wang. We spent every Sunday night for the next semester chatting about Nora’s work over late-night waffles. Not to overstate Nora’s impact on my life, but we have remained friends through the changes of editors-in-chief and through different positions we have held at the Daily Trojan. She is one of my closest confidantes at USC. I simply don’t know what college would be like without her and I cannot begin to fathom what Daily Trojan would be like without her.
And that in itself is the power of Nora. The humanity of her work brought us together in a time when we both felt alone and scared. The warmth that her work brought us projected itself into our relationships and ability to identify with others. This is what I want for the Daily Trojan. I want it to bring people together in the shared love of stories and build lifelong friendships.
Heck, not to put too much pressure on you, the reader, but I want you to discuss Daily Trojan stories with your best friend over waffles like me and Danni.
As Harry Burns said in When Harry Met Sally…, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible,” so hey, here’s a crazy idea, dear Daily Trojan reader. Let’s start the rest of our lives together now, in a mutual love of people, stories and, of course, the Daily Trojan.
Emma Peplow is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. She is also managing editor of the Daily Trojan.