Letter to the editorial board: The Daily’s daily printing problem?

April 13, 2018, 4:45 a.m.

Yesterday, the Stanford Daily published an editorial in response to our recent article questioning its daily content and circulation. While simultaneously claiming to “welcome feedback,” the editorial dismissed certain features of our piece as “disturbing” and “problematic” and seemingly ignored or missed the article’s central message.

Firstly, we stand by our research and reporting as well as the claims we made based on such. The Stanford Daily is not unique among student newspapers in serving office buildings, labs and off-campus areas. In fact, nearly all of the student newspapers that we portrayed on a particular graphic that the editorial found misleading state on their websites that they, too, serve the communities local to their campuses. Our use of total enrollment to assess appropriate printing volume is admittedly not a perfect metric but rather “a rough approximation” and one that we continue to believe is fair.

Additionally, we never dispute the importance of covering “lesser-heard voices.” In fact, we encourage more news coverage of that significance. All we intend to suggest is that “delivering these community members news in a way that they find useful” may be better achieved with reduced print frequency. The Daily should not stop printing entirely, for that might indeed be a disservice to some of its loyal readers. Perhaps there are community members who do prefer the print edition. However, we believe the possibility of producing better news coverage is well worth sacrificing the sentimental value of having a full, five-day-per-week print schedule.

The editorial concludes, “we know that there is more than enough news at Stanford and in Palo Alto to fill six to eight pages of newsprint.” At the end of the day, on this, we simply disagree, but so does The Daily’s own editor-in-chief. Hannah Knowles told us: “There are definitely days where we need to fill a hole in the paper,” and that consequently, “last-minute articles that aren’t the level of research we would typically want for a lot of our content” find their way into the paper’s pages. This may not be the case every day, but it is certainly notable enough for the editor to have mentioned in an interview with us and noticeable enough for us to have initiated an investigation into the topic in the first place.

Finally, and most crucially, regarding The Daily’s claim that they “do not think [their paper] 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,” we believe the point of our article was missed. We say nothing to suggest the perspectives of undergrads should receive more attention in the paper’s content. Furthermore, acceptance of our proposal to reduce print would not “come at the cost” of covering important news but would, quite the opposite, come with the benefit of being able to better cover even more news that is important to the most silenced and marginalized members of our community. (Our sentence about the preferences of undergraduates is only meant to call attention to the fact that undergraduates make up the largest block of paying subscribers, and we therefore believe it is reasonable for that population to have a certain expectation of the quality of coverage and medium of delivery that they pay for.)

To reiterate, we’re not saying that we don’t want to see important coverage of local affairs; here at Stanford Politics we have worked hard to cover serious local issues like housing policy and affordability in Palo Alto and the greater Bay Area. Rather, the focus of our recent piece is on the overall quality of news content and the regularity of impact/investigative journalism (or lack thereof) at Stanford’s longest-standing and highest-funded student publication. Critically, the piece details how we believe, after thorough research and reporting, that the distribution of resources (time, energy, money, etc.), as it currently exists at The Daily, limits the paper’s potential.

The Daily has certainly produced good content, including their news coverage. And yes, The Daily has broken a number of stories this year and in years past. We commend the work their writers and editors do every day in the service of their readers. We should have done a better job of acknowledging this in our initial piece, and for that we do apologize. Nevertheless, the crux of our article’s argument — that The Daily can and should do better with respect to impact and investigative journalism and that cutting print could be a means to that end — remains valid. If there’s one sentence that sums it up best, it is this: “The Daily should strongly consider cutting a day — or more — of print in order to re-prioritize and make space for investigative journalism, breaking news and digital innovation.” Knowles and Daily COO Do-Hyoung Park told us that the paper’s leaders have considered such a decision before. We believe it would be in everyone’s best interest that they do as much again.


— Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna, editor of Stanford Politics, and Daniela Gonzalez & Lucas Rodriguez, authors of “Does The Daily Need to Print Daily?”


Editor’s note: The Daily’s editor-in-chief, Hannah Knowles, responds to this op-ed in a separate piece titled “Responding to an inaccuracy in Stanford Politics members’ editorial.”

The Daily is committed to publishing a diversity of op-eds and letters to the editor. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Email letters to the editor to eic ‘at’ stanforddaily.com and op-ed submissions to opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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