When asked, I’ve provided a number of explanations for my joining The Daily. I was looking for friends; I flirted with journalism pre-college but wanted to double down at Stanford; I was under the impression that engaging in extracurricular activities would make me attractive to employers (here, I was sorely mistaken; during the first job interview of my freshman year, I was asked if The Daily was some sort of new-age video project). If I’m being honest, however, my motive for completing the application was simple: Like most writers, I narcissistically believed my words were worth reading.
Since then, The Daily has asked me for more and more, and over time, I’ve lost sight of my initial reason for joining The Daily’s ranks. During my freshman year, I was promoted to desk editor and, later, to managing editor of Arts & Life. There, I served for upwards of a year before accepting the position of executive editor under the current editor-in-chief, Kylie Jue. As executive editor, I hardly write. Save for the occasional editorial, the vast majority of my efforts are focused on operation and management.
So these days, when asked why I continue to spend my waking hours tearing my hair out over this paper, my answer has evolved into something a shade more abstract: I believe in the preservation of the institution.
It’s no question that print journalism is in decline. On the national level, people are beyond disinterested in the current model of print journalism. With the rise of the internet and the democratization of the written word, most Americans, it seems, don’t believe their news should boast a price tag.
This is, of course, an oversimplification of the problem; there’s also significant competition from other forms of reportage. And yet, no broadcast, no blog matches the breadth and depth of a publication like The New York Times. But the difficulties persist nonetheless, and print institutions looking to stay afloat are now forced to constantly question their financial affairs.
At Stanford, The Daily is embroiled in a struggle of this ilk. With the rise of outlets like The Fountain Hopper, The Tab and Odyssey Online, our readership has dwindled to a mere fraction of its mid-century size. Most of my close friends have never read a word I’ve published. Most of my close friends could not, if held at gunpoint, name the paper’s four print sections or its online blog. It’s disheartening, and it’s facile to believe we should just give the people what they seem to desire (i.e. the termination of the paper).
Yet this too is an oversimplification. Just because the average Stanford student is rarely emboldened to pick up a copy of The Daily en route to class does not mean that the service The Daily provides is altogether unappreciated. Our lack of presence on campus may be unsettling, but The Daily remains a prominent and indispensable voice for the people.
Despite the dominant narrative of our diminishing clout, The Daily email continues to receive submissions of op-eds from students looking to speak out. When, for instance, the Band engages in a controversial halftime performance at the Rose Bowl, incendiary opinions (often from opposing sides) appear in our pages for days. Or, when the administration adopts an unpopular stance on the consumption of hard alcohol, resident staff, students and administration officials reach out to our reporters to set the record straight.
This, too, is important.
As journalists, we at The Daily are often the gatekeepers of information. If a Stanford student is looking for the hard “facts,” they needn’t look further than our front page. Sometimes rival publications best our reporters in the dissemination of the news, but alternative news sources like The Fountain Hopper often fail to meet significant journalistic standards, standards which render us credible and stable (if you’re looking to lodge a complaint, The FoHo doesn’t print corrections or run the names of accountable authors; it’s not even clear who is currently running the FoHo). These standards may appear outmoded, but, if you care about what is true, they could not be of more import.
The Daily isn’t always the most entertaining read; I’ll be the first to admit that. But, I fear for a reality devoid of the tradition we represent.
And that, dear reader, is why I write for The Daily.
Will Ferrer is the current executive editor for Volume 250 and is the director of The Stanford Daily Magazine. Will is double-majoring in English and film and media studies. Will started his career at The Daily as a film writer and has served as the film desk editor and the managing editor of Arts & Life. Contact Will at wferrer ‘at’ stanford.edu.
This piece is part of the Vol. 250 Editorial Board’s “Why The Daily matters” series. Read the rest of the editorials here.