We need news in order to live, protect ourselves and form a community. Journalism is simply the mechanism through which societies produce news. That is why it is important to care about the news we receive and the journalism process that occurred to produce that content: to a certain extent, news influences the quality of our lives, our thoughts, and our culture.
As I noted in my welcome column at the start of the volume, any participatory democratic community benefits if its citizens engage in an interactive conversation with each other and examine how the media carries out its role in society.
Throughout my six months as editor in chief, I tried to engage the community and give them space in The Daily. This is an area I feel strongly about and so made it the overall focus of my volume. I solicited and published as many op-eds, guest columns and letters to the editor as possible. But that was not enough to give the community a voice. So, upon getting elected to office, I personally designed, programmed and launched a new version of our website. The previous iteration was slow and unreliable, which was often a source of frustration for the staff and community at large. Often the news was simply unavailable to those who wished to read it in an online format. The new site allows for far greater citizen participation. Readers can send in photos and videos, vote in our online polls and start a conversation by commenting on our articles. Consequently, the website increased community engagement and helped prepare The Daily for a digital future.
Indeed, apart from citizen interaction, one topic of discussion that came up repeatedly during my volume was the long-term sustainability of the newspaper industry. Advertising and overall revenues are down, while readership and faith in the printed media as a reliable, up-to-date source of information is declining. The industry is under attack as readers are increasingly moving to the Internet as their sole source of information. However, perhaps this means that the medium through which we receive news and information is evolving. This is certainly not the first time the system has gone through significant change. Indeed, it has happened every time there is a period of social, economic, or technological development. The birth of the telegraph in 1830s, the drop in prices of paper and the influx of immigrants in the 1880s was perhaps the first such wave. The invention of radio in the 1920s and the subsequent rise of the television was another wave. More recently, the invention of computers, the Internet and smartphones have allowed us to create and receive information at a rate that was impossible only a few decades ago. Perhaps then, this is simply the third wave of change.
We can look to these challenging times as an opportunity to overhaul our entire media and news delivery system and move toward formats and courses of action that will serve the informational needs of complex and diverse communities. Much more important than the medium through which the news is delivered, is quality of the news.
In this transitory phase, one of the most profound questions our democratic system must consider is whether an independent, printed press should survive. At Stanford, this depends on whether student reporters have the conviction to articulate what a printed newspaper is able to provide, and whether, as citizens, the rest of us continue to believe in its value.
The Daily has come a long way since the Stanford police rifled through the newspaper’s filing cabinet in the spring of 1971. The incident sparked a lawsuit over law enforcement’s right to search the newsroom that went all the way to the Supreme Court and led to the paper’s independence in 1973. Newly incorporated as a nonprofit corporation, The Daily went through a great deal of change and faced a number of difficulties in its first few years. With the increasing move to online-only content, The Daily is facing another perhaps as significant, but subtler, challenge that threatens to fundamentally change the way the organization is run. Where it will go from here is yet to be seen, but I hope that regardless of its medium, the organization will be continue its core mission of providing high quality, timely news to the community in an easily accessible manner.
Working for The Daily and serving you, the community, has truly been a privilege and a tremendously fulfilling experience through which I learned a great deal. I know that together, we made a number of strides this volume and am looking forward to the upcoming volume with tremendous eagerness. I sincerely hope you enjoyed our coverage and continue to interact with The Daily.
All the best,
President and Editor in Chief, Volume 237
The Stanford Daily Publishing Corporation