Letter from the Editor: Our workshop for high schoolers

Opinion by Holden Foreman
May 29, 2020, 5:15 a.m.

Editor’s note: This is a response to Aidan McGloin’s letter here.

To our readers:

For years, The Daily has offered a summer program for high schoolers, not because The Daily needs high schoolers to work for it over the summer, but because there are high schoolers who are interested in learning about journalism from their peers in a college work environment.

I am so thankful to have spoken with other college journalists about their concerns with this year’s eight-week program, the newly renamed “Summer Journalism Workshop,” which I never should have labeled as a “Summer Internship Program.” The workshop is more than an internship, and its $1,990 fee is reasonable for those who can afford it. For those who cannot, we have been offering financial aid to match stated need (no documents required), and the money we make is supporting our mission as a publication amid challenges caused by the pandemic.

We have more work to do in branding our program’s content and advertising our program’s accessibility, and I am grateful for the feedback we have received regarding this.

In putting on our program for high schoolers, we are working for them, offering them not just edits and a platform for their work, but also mentorship and education in the field of journalism. It would be much less work for us to produce the content deemed necessary over the summer than it is to carefully train high schoolers and guide them through our publication process.

It is true that our program is not a selfless public service project. We charge a program fee for those who can reasonably afford it, and we offer scholarships to those who tell us they cannot. As with journalism programs put on by other organizations, including publications like The New York Times and universities like Columbia, we are offering an educational experience in return for financial contributions that help us pursue our mission.

We realize at The Daily that we are not New York Times reporters nor Columbia instructors. But we believe in our own expertise, and even in the unique perspective that we offer to high schoolers, as current college journalists leading a program specifically about college journalism.

That being said, it was wrong to market this year’s program as an internship, and I am thankful to those who raised concerns.

The Daily’s summer program began as an unpaid internship offering high schoolers the opportunity to contribute content to The Daily and visit our building on select dates to meet with editors. We added weekly on-site lessons to the program in 2016 and began charging participants a $350 program fee, most of which was not actually needed to cover program expenses. In 2017, that fee was increased to $500. Scholarships were offered to applicants with financial need.

Following these changes, we should have stopped referring to the program as an internship. Since a significant portion of the program is dedicated to work experience, with editors guiding participants through the processes of pitching and claiming ideas, producing content and seeing it through to publication, “internship” felt like an accurate descriptor.

However, the program had become something different: a workshop for high schoolers to learn through structured lessons and then go out into the world to refine their skills through work experience.

In light of this realization, spurred by helpful community feedback, we have changed the program name from “Summer Internship Program” to “Summer Journalism Workshop,” effective this year, and notified all accepted applicants — emphasizing that they will not be called interns — so that they are aware before committing to participate.

This year’s program, while remote, is much more expansive than those offered in previous years. Whereas weekly workshops at The Daily were the only supplements to day-to-day work for past cohorts, each week of this year’s eight-week program includes:

  • A primary group training session, presented in multiple sessions to foster smaller group sizes
  • At least one supplementary session, focused on a specific area of journalism (such as a one-time podcasting workshop by our podcasts editor)
  • A webinar and Q&A with a featured professional from the field 
  • A beat meeting between each group of 10 program participants and their two assigned desk editors, entirely separate from the group sessions to allow for longer, more in-depth experiences than in previous summers
  • A one-on-one session between each participant and their editor, in which they can check in on projects, discuss past lessons or discuss separate topics in journalism entirely

After leading last year’s summer program at a price of $500, I realized The Daily was selling itself short. The increase in price this year reflects our desire to — for the first time — compensate all program editors with hourly pay, and to compensate The Daily itself for our efforts, while also recognizing the changes above, which have been made to enhance the program’s role as an educational workshop.

Another flaw pointed out to us, however, was the potential for a $1,990 program fee to deter requests for aid. For those who can reasonably afford the fee, we raised it to better reflect the work we put into the program. For those who cannot afford the fee, we must do a better job emphasizing the accessibility of aid. We are happy to match financial aid to each applicant’s stated need (no documents required); we have awarded more than 15 need-based scholarships this year, most of them full scholarships; and we are more aggressively marketing these opportunities moving forward.

Our intent has never been to exclude anyone from our program on the basis of wealth, neither through the program fee nor the application. I do not believe college admissions officers are very impressed by bylines in The Stanford Daily, but we are weary of the possibility that some will join our program for their resumes, not out of genuine interest in journalism.  Applications help us screen would-be participants for genuine interest, but we also take into account the differing opportunities for past experience that different applicants may have had available to them.

We realize this year’s program and application process are being held amid a pandemic that has impacted different members of our community in different ways. We recognize the hardships this has caused for many potential participants, and we are offering extensive financial aid with this in mind. At the same time, there are many who are able to pay the fee without hardship, and collecting those fees aids The Daily itself in a time where advertising and donations are particularly difficult to source. 

The money earned by The Daily in providing this program to high schoolers is going toward a cause I believe in: supporting the Stanford community with quality journalism and supporting student journalists with the resources to thrive in their own college experiences.

There are so many different ways in which a publication can seek much-needed funding; ads, donations and subscriptions are just a few. But mentoring aspiring journalists, giving them an experience they value more than whatever fee was paid, is the most rewarding way I’ve found. 

— Holden Foreman ’21
Vol. 257 editor-in-chief

We are always looking for ways to make our program better. Please don’t hesitate to contact Holden with any questions or concerns.

Holden Foreman '21 was the Vol. 258-59 chief technology officer. Holden was president and editor-in-chief in Vol. 257, executive editor (vice president) in Vol. 256, managing editor of news in Vol. 254 and student business director in Vol. 255.

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