When I first walked into The Stanford Daily, I knew I cared about what was going on in the world and enjoyed writing well enough. I had never written a news story before, but soon became versed in the time tested method of learning by doing — and by following the example of those that came before me.
In today’s political climate, it seems that “mainstream media” is perceived as both more threatened and threatening than ever. But when I step back from this and think about the big picture, I hold a lot of hope for the future of the media.
Some of my hope comes from what I observe in The Stanford Daily newsroom: the record-breaking applicant pool of 168 total students and the returning staffers eager to train new journalists; the enthusiastic tips and the concerned emails we regularly receive from the community; the innovative methods of presenting data stories and the exciting new technological platforms to present our content anew.
But part of my hope for the media also comes from thinking about the past. When a senior staffer first pitched the idea of taking all 32 pages of our magazine to reflect on the history of The Stanford Daily, I worried it would be self-indulgent. As a writer and then an editor — and as a generally reflective person with a healthy dose of self-skepticism — I have always wondered about what the impact of a college newspaper can be.
But as I listened to the senior staffer’s ideas for the themed magazine and really thought hard about stories of The Daily over the past 125 years, it became an easier sell. Why?
Questions of media independence and ethics have been tested again and again throughout The Daily’s history. Perhaps the media is under threat now, but this isn’t the first time and it likely won’t be the last. By examining our past — from expelled editors to Supreme Court cases — we can learn resiliency strategies for the future.
There are many factors determining a newspaper’s resiliency. Some of the factors are financial or on the business side, but I fully believe that the most important thing we can do is commit to continuously improving ourselves and our coverage. This means finding the corners of our community that we aren’t yet representing. Examining the ways we approach sensitive topics. Deepening our explorations of issues that matter but might not normally be a topic of conversation. Reviewing our ethical reporting standards on issues such as third-party verification and anonymity. Paying attention to our internal organizational culture and inclusivity practices.
While making this issue, I learned a lot about the history of The Stanford Daily and of the University as a whole. In the process, I felt energized and motivated, and I hope that you, our readers, will also enjoy both of these experiences. So read and learn, but also feel empowered to reach out. As our Editorial Board once wrote, accountability reporting happens best when the press is also accountable.
The communication of journalism, just like interpersonal communication, operates best as a two-way street. So send us an email, whether it’s a news tip or an op-ed or a potential correction. As an editor, I never “enjoy” receiving an email alerting us to a misstated source title or perhaps a more serious ethical issue with our coverage. This means that we have temporarily lapsed in our duty, and making mistakes doesn’t feel good. At the same time, however, I am honored and humbled and inspired by these emails because each one is a reminder that our community still cares.
I myself have had countless opportunities that would never have been possible were it not for The Daily. My freshman year I interviewed Oprah Winfrey, and my sophomore year I broke the story when John Boehner announced he wouldn’t support “Lucifer in the flesh” Ted Cruz in the presidential election. Events like these are part of what makes being at Stanford so special, but so are some of the more “ordinary” stories.
My sophomore year I worked as an embedded reporter at the weeklong Fossil Free Stanford sit-in outside the president’s office, and my junior year I spearheaded a series examining Stanford’s mental health resources. Working on stories like these impressed upon me just how much compassion for others is present on this campus. Without my work at The Daily, I wouldn’t have had these transformative experiences.
As The Stanford Daily turns 125 years old, and I am proud to be a part of such a long-standing institution. In just my four years here, I have seen how quickly and yet carefully the newsroom can change, and I look forward to seeing how it continues to grow.
— Ada Statler-Throckmorton, Editor-in-Chief, Vol. 252