On Monday, Stanford Politics published a story questioning The Daily’s print circulation — and our content. As a newspaper, we welcome feedback from our readers and are committed to responsiveness and transparency in keeping with our journalistic mission. However, we found several of the claims made by the article disturbing upon reflection — not because they disparaged our paper, but because they misled readers. Here, we respond to the claims we found most problematic.
The numbers presented to readers as proof of our printing excesses in comparison to other papers were deeply misleading. The bar graph titled “Copies printed per day at other college newspapers compared to total enrollment” calculated various college papers’ circulation count as a ratio of the total number of students, ostensibly to show that The Daily circulates well in excess of other papers and more than it ought. But this setup is inherently problematic.
Forty-five percent of The Daily’s print papers are distributed off-campus, and those that do stay on campus go to pretty much every office, lab and building there is, in addition to undergraduate student housing. This means that our true paper-per-student count is closer to half of the figure Stanford Politics derived on our behalf, and even that’s an overestimate.
The other college papers listed in that section are done the same disservice: With locales ranging from the suburban (The Daily) to the mid-sized city (The Daily Cal and The Daily Orange) to the largest city in the United States (The Columbia Daily Spectator), each student paper exists alongside different professional news players and likely experiences drastically different demand for their print product and coverage off-campus. We’d be wary of competing for coverage and circulation in the metro area if our local paper was The New York Times, too. Does each college paper in that bar chart print too much or too little for their clienteles? Stanford Politics does not investigate. Is calculating the total circulation-per-student ratio enough to prove their point? Probably not.
What we do know is that The Daily takes its coverage of grad students, postdocs and faculty, staff, as well as residents in Palo Alto and the Bay Area seriously. We are a paper “founded, written, and run primarily by undergraduates,” but we do not think we ought to be “grounded in the preferences and perspectives of undergraduate students” at the cost of covering news that is important to other, lesser-heard voices in our local community — and delivering these community members news in a way that they find useful. As Stanford Politics notes in its article, we maintain print in part “because graduate students, faculty, and people off-campus say they continue to value the print edition.”
In a recent Editorial Board piece responding to the University’s long-range planning white papers, we noted that many members of the Stanford community view themselves as “second-class citizens” whose concerns are just not sufficiently visible or valued. Surely seeking to engage this audience and to cover the issues that matter to them should be part of any newspaper’s mission.
This brings us to the article’s second claim: that The Daily’s content simply isn’t up to scratch because we are hamstrung by the demands of our daily print issue. We believe that our product speaks for itself.
Just Sunday night, we struggled to fit over 7,000 words of news stories alone into the print paper. Monday morning’s paper broke the news about an alleged rape case that raised concerns about Title IX jurisdiction over alumni; Tuesday’s included a critical look at groups that have sought and struggled to achieve community center status at Stanford as the second in a series of in-depth stories on community centers. Every story this week has been the product of thoughtful reporting.
Stanford Politics listed three stories that The Daily failed to break between 2015 and 2018. We feel those delays keenly because our goal is to uncover every local story that the public should know. But in this school year alone, The Daily has broken the news about a data breach that exposed sexual violence and student misconduct reports; delved into issues like rape kit availability and the upcoming Judge Persky recall vote; and produced magazine stories on long-standing but lesser-known issues such as the unique challenges faced by student-parents at Stanford. The “abominable” Grind has delivered personal reflections on mental health and the sexist connotations of the term “basic.” Opinions has facilitated campus conversations about racism at Stanford Law School, the invitation of controversial speakers and working conditions for dining hall workers. That’s just three out of the five core sections that comprise our daily paper.
Ultimately, we run a print product because a significant sector of our readers like the medium — and because we know that there is more than enough news at Stanford and in Palo Alto to fill six to eight pages of newsprint. We continue to strive for the most original, timely and thought-provoking pieces every single day.