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Obituary: The Stanford Review

The following is a public plea for increased quality from a once-regular reader of the Review. This author feels that having a well-written, intellectually informed conservative newspaper on campus is extremely valuable, and that if the Review continues to decline in quality, Stanford will be the worse for it.

Campus was saddened Sunday night to learn of the demise of the formerly great Stanford Review, which entered total irrelevance recently after a long period of decline. It was 26.

Birthed in 1987 by PayPal founder and eventual Silicon Valley giant Peter Thiel, the Review grew up in a happily libertarian home, weaned on Capitalism and Freedom and Atlas Shrugged on tape. A startlingly precocious child, the Review spent its formative years leading the charge against increased faculty and student diversity, ultimately being forced to admit defeat with the advent of the 21st century.

Dark hints, however, emerged early in the tumultuous life of the paper, foreshadowing the outline of the long fall to follow. Childhood friends of the Review recall the paper’s difficulty working and playing well with other publications. “The Review sometimes seemed like it lived only to criticize other papers and entities on campus,” recalled one anonymous student. “Its content was basically written by finding something someone else had already said and saying the exact opposite, just to prove it could.”

Riding the annual wave of controversy created by student government elections, however, and under the guidance of a pantheon of hard-driving editors-in-chief, the Review eventually earned a position of relative campus prominence and respect. Providing a much-needed conservative counterpoint to everyday campus discourse and fostering pointed intellectual discussion on a biweekly basis, the Review showed every sign of having a bright future ahead – a bright future this writer, at least, welcomed with open arms.

Sometime over the last year, however, the paper began a dispiriting downward spiral from which it would never recover. Content level declined precipitously. The once-vibrant blog, Fiat Lux, ceased regular updating, occasionally jerking to life in fits and starts to offer sparse commentary on Stanford sporting events.

The Review’s website lapsed into a discouraging stasis. Its front page, as of its demise Sunday night, boasted keenly up-to-date coverage of Jordan Williamson’s performance at the Fiesta Bowl and a recap of Stanford Football’s matchup with USC in 2011. Its last five blog updates occurred on April 5th, March 6th, March 1st, February 14th, and January 28th. The most recently updated links appear to be advertisements: “Large and comfy bean bag sofas offered by The Soothing Company.” “A large selection of wall fireplaces offered by VentlessFireplacePros.com.” “Stanford students can buy Cheap Cell Phones and Makeup Brushes Products on DHgate.com.”

The final days of its fall were marked not by kind farewells and reminiscences but by discord and controversy. The end began auspiciously: A controversial opinions piece targeting SOCC was put up, taken down and put up again within hours, temporarily returning the Review to the mainstream of campus conversation and, for one glorious moment, providing the paper’s editors with something, anything, to talk about.

The revelation that a former columnist had plagiarized several articles nearly word-for-word, however, was the final straw for the Review. Thinking that a major news story was underway, the Daily ran breaking coverage of the plagiarism accusations, anticipating the start of a significant campus controversy.

None was forthcoming, because by this point, no one really cared much anymore. The Review’s last headline was a letter from its editor-in-chief emeritus apologizing for not checking his writer’s work. Tweets of the article: 0. Facebook shares: 0. Comments: 1.

Reports began to surface Monday morning, however, that reports of the Review’s death had been greatly exaggerated. Driven by a desire to lift the Review from the ashes of its irrelevance into the fires of a new rebirth, Stanford conservatives and libertarians banded together to improve the paper’s content, publish it more regularly, and craft a Review worthy of the intellectual caliber of the Stanford political right.

At least, one can always hope.

Bring back the Review! And email Miles at [email protected].

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