Letter from the Editor in Chief: On The Daily’s role in community discourse

Opinion by Courtney Douglas
Jan. 13, 2019, 8:24 p.m.

In The Daily’s news section, our goal is to report rigorously, fairly and without bias on issues that matter to the communities we serve.

On Sunday evening, the Stanford College Republicans published portions of a platform, written by a staff member running for Editor in Chief, and claimed that The Daily, as a “Leftist” organization, “hate[s] the meaning of the American founding and seek[s] to utterly remake it.” The platform, originally circulated to our staff, outlined the candidate’s vision for the upcoming volume. The College Republicans emphasized some of its passages asserting that The Daily has a left-leaning bias.

In some ways, SCR’s publication of this platform is not a surprise: emulating the U.S. President and his attempts to undermine the credibility of mainstream reports, the group continually accuses The Daily of reporting bias, deeming our coverage “fake news.”

The incident provides an opportunity to be transparent about the meaning of a document like the one published by the College Republicans — and more crucially, to clarify The Daily’s role in the community.

Platforms express the views of a candidate, not of the paper. These internally-circulated documents do not articulate the views of The Daily as an institution. The candidates’ positions, as expressed in these documents, are debated and questioned by other staffers in later stages of the election process.

As is the norm at newspapers nationally, The Daily maintains a firm divide between its News and Opinions sections. This division exists in large part to avoid the politicization of our news reports.

The importance of this division — and The Daily’s commitment to it — is illustrated even by our coverage on topics SCR specifically attempts to critique.

Over the summer, after our news section first reported on the controversy, our Opinions section published some letters in support of Hamzeh Daoud ’20, an incoming Resident Assistant who stepped down from his position over a heated Facebook status (the College Republicans energized a campaign, imbued with paid advertisements and attorneys, to “fire” him). Today, SCR claimed that those pieces — entirely separate from our news coverage, and published in tandem with other pieces advocating his removal — renders our paper “leftist.” This only reveals that the group either misunderstands, or refuses to see, the news-editorial divide that ensures reporting free of bias.

Most importantly: The Daily is committed to balanced reporting, and to accounting for all sides of an issue before publication.

Defining objectivity — let alone achieving it — isn’t easy. In the course of our editing cycles, we frequently debate whether to include details, analyses or even adjectives that might vaguely insinuate that we are aligned with one side of an issue. Further, journalism, especially student journalism, is a human enterprise. As with all other papers, despite our best efforts, we occasionally slip out of the objectivity that our craft demands, or otherwise make mistakes. In these cases, we are transparent in our corrections and unrelenting in our quest to do better in our future coverage. We also leave room for dissent, welcoming Letter to the Editor submissions and additional comment for follow-up news reports.

Claiming that The Daily is a “biased Left-wing organization” is a false representation of our paper that undercuts our founding mission to preserve balance and report truthfully. In the face of such statements, we are proud of our unswerving, though continuously improving, efforts to get it right.



Courtney C. Douglas

Stanford Daily Editor in Chief, Vol. 254

Courtney Douglas studies English, Political Science, and Ethics in Society at Stanford. A proud member of the Class of 2020, she served as Editor-in-Chief of The Daily's 254th volume. Her favorite poem is "To Be of Use" by Marge Piercy, she has a tattoo on her left ankle, and she wants to be a press lawyer. Her favorite journalists are Hannah Knowles and Alexa Philippou. Send her recommendations for leave-in conditioner and gravesites of relevant literary figures at ccdouglas 'at' stanford.edu.

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