Letter from the editor: When poor sportsmanship threatens a great rivalry

Opinion by Billy Gallagher
Oct. 22, 2012, 1:32 a.m.

This past Saturday, The Stanford Daily and The Daily Californian, the independent student newspapers of Stanford and UC-Berkeley, played each other in a flag football game called “The Ink Bowl.” The Daily Cal prevailed 21-7, reclaiming “The Knife,” a trophy that the two papers have traded back and forth for well over a decade.

Earlier in the week, a Daily alum shared stories with me of his battles in the 1990 Ink Bowl, making the game older than most of The Daily’s staff. The friendly rivalry has an incredible history that ties together two great college papers across generations.

After the game, some of our editors ate breakfast together and learned about each other’s organizations. This is how rivalries are meant to be. Predicated on mutual respect, they should be friendly competitions that, at the end of the day, are less important than the opportunities we have to collaborate and better serve our readers.

Unfortunately, the event was marred by poor sportsmanship by a small contingent of The Daily Cal’s staff, and the offenses make me worry about the state of this rivalry.

Last night, after losing the 115th Big Game, Alex Wolinsky posted a mean-spirited story titled “No Competition” on The Daily Cal’s copy blog, taking shots at The Stanford Daily’s copy editors. I’m all for good-natured ribbing, but this post, which The Daily Cal tweeted twice on Sunday, crossed a line both professionally and, in my opinion, personally.

It featured a picture of The Daily covered in red ink and three bullet points of “highlights” of The Daily’s copy errors. The Daily Cal has never shown us the red-ink-covered Daily. Rather than giving us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes (which we can’t verify as we’ve never seen the marked-up paper), they chose to publicly mock them, though one of the three “highlight” errors was an intentional joke by The Daily staff.

The piece is simply wrong. As the editor in chief, I am responsible for every word in the newspaper. Yet the piece doesn’t mention me. It doesn’t go after the heads of the paper, executive editor Brendan O’Byrne and me, the people responsible for the paper’s content.

Rather, it mocks our talented copy editors, whom I unfairly asked to copy edit six large newspapers during Stanford’s midterms week. These are not harmless words in jest. Any professional media organization would be lucky to have Charlotte, Matt, Jamie, Maddy or Neel as copy editors for summer internships or after graduation. And this Daily Cal piece is the fifth result on Google for search results like “Stanford Daily copy editor.” I remain unreservedly proud of their hard, professional work, and I am shocked that any person would find joy in mocking or attempting to shame them.

This post was a low point in a storied history, making a fantastic Cal newspaper appear small and petty. But this was not the worst sportsmanship shown this weekend.

Toward the end of the flag football game on Saturday, our sports editor was hit hard in the head and was down on the ground for a few minutes. He limped slowly off the field and was likely concussed.

Most of The Daily Cal’s staff showed concern, offering to help in any way they could. Unfortunately, someone took the opportunity to take a picture of our editor while he lay on the ground injured.

On Sunday evening, Daily Cal alum Gerald Nicdao tweeted the picture of our sports editor, clearly injured, with the caption, “@MikeSilver this is what happens when you mess with the Daily Cal (DC over Stanford Daily 21-7) #InkBowl #GoBears.” Silver is a Cal alum and NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Silver retweeted the picture to over 54,000 followers and replied, “represent (hope that guy wasn’t really hurt).”

He was lying on the ground. You’re a sports journalist, Mike — surely you know a player lying on the ground is never good news.

We must be better than this.

As independent student newspapers, we serve a vital role in our communities. Many of us will go on to be professional journalists, hopefully working together in newsrooms. I’m all for the spirit of competition, but only when both sides respect each other.

I hope that our long history of working together can take precedence over pettiness in what should be a friendly rivalry.

Billy Gallagher
President and editor in chief, Vol. CCXLII

Billy Gallagher is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has previously worked at The Daily as editor in chief, a managing editor of news, news desk editor, sports desk editor and staff development editor. He is a junior from Villanova, PA majoring in Economics. He is also a writer for TechCrunch.

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