Letter to the Editor

March 4, 2010, 12:17 a.m.

Last Friday, The Daily published a letter to the editor written by former Editor in Chief Charlie Hoffman ’73 MBA ’76 explaining a few of The Daily’s more dubious financial practices and generally endorsing The Daily’s requests for special fees. This endorsement comes as The Daily petitions for nearly $90,000 from the student body – a 53 percent increase over last year – and just one day after current Editor in Chief Kamil Dada published a column outlining The Daily’s elections coverage policies and explicitly stating that The Daily would not run op-eds that support a particular group’s special fee request.

Here’s part of what Dada had to say:

“However, some guidelines are needed. I do not wish to run any op-eds that relate to student groups declaring why they deserve special fees or should be on the ballot. Groups could fill our opinion page for weeks well outlasting election season with legitimate cases for why they deserve to be on the ballot and it isn’t The Daily’s role to promote or publicize these groups.”

Aside from the piece’s glaring inconsistencies with The Daily’s own election coverage policies, I would like to address the failures of Hoffman’s letter. The letter appears to be a much overdue, yet very limited response to an article that I wrote and published in The Review back in January. In that investigative article, I explored several of The Daily’s recent IRS Form 990s and found that The Daily has not always been perfectly honest with information surrounding their request for special fees (or as they call it, “a modest subscription fee”).

As Hoffman explains in his letter, since 1991 The Daily has operated a subsidiary non-profit organization known as The Friends of the Daily Foundation to provide monetary support for The Daily in tough financial years. While Hoffman, who has served as president of The Friends since its establishment, does address the history and function of The Friends, he makes no mention of the crux of my report – namely questions concerning a $260,000 cash exchange from The Daily to the Friends at a time when The Daily claimed poverty and successfully petitioned for nearly $50,000 in student funding.

Though Hoffman assures us that, “…The Friends is an open and transparent organization,” financial information concerning The Friends has not been made available to the student body. The Daily’s online special fees petition page merely mentions that such a foundation exists. The Friends and The Daily had combined assets totaling more than $1.5 million according to their most recent (2008) IRS filings.

I read The Daily frequently, I don’t want it to suffer financially, and I certainly don’t want funding issues to stifle Stanford’s student journalism. That said, I cannot support The Daily’s bid for special fees until the charges above are addressed. There can be no doubt that The Daily and newspapers throughout the country are faced with extraordinarily financially trying times. Silence, however, is not an acceptable answer to the allegations at hand.

Dada said it best: “The very nature of journalism means that clear, transparent and ethical rules must not only be set in place, but also strictly observed.” I could not agree more.

Tom Corrigan ‘11
Stanford Review

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