During the summer of 2021, The Stanford Daily conducted a listening tour dedicated to gauging its readership’s thoughts and perspectives on its reporting on Stanford and the surrounding community.
Our goal was to interview roughly 100 people in order to better understand what we are doing well, what we need to improve on and how we can better serve the Stanford community. In total, Daily staffers were able to interview 71 community members, ranging from students — including undergraduates, graduate students and co-terms — to alumni and staff. We received an additional 200 responses through a survey.
Based on these conversations and survey responses, The Daily’s Vol. 260 executive team and diversity, equity and inclusion co-chairs compiled ten takeaways that will inform our newsroom moving forward.
- Our readership is digital: Interviews and survey data alike show that our readership primarily accesses Daily content through our email digest and website. The implications are clear: Our digital presence needs to be a top priority for our staff. Already, this volume marks the first where The Daily has moved from printing daily to once a week, with the goal of focusing on producing content for the web. We’ve also created two new roles to further this work. Lana Tleimat ’23 is serving as the executive editor for digital, and Cameron Ehsan ’24 is our first audience engagement editor, responsible for keeping an eye on readership metrics. We’ll continue to make progress in this area through investing in training, technology, audience engagement, search engine optimization and more.
- Growing our multimedia offerings: Some community members said that they would love to see more multimedia content, including, as one interviewee put it, “formats and layouts that capture the creativity and essence of our community.” Interviewees suggested a range of projects, from incorporating audio recordings of events into articles to featuring more graphics. We recognize the importance of growth in this area, and to that end, this volume, we’ve financially invested in physical and digital equipment upgrades for our multimedia sections. This includes new cameras, a video editing computer and more: Investments that allow these sections to produce high quality work and reduce the barrier to entry for staff who do not have access to this equipment otherwise. Standout content from this volume includes a photo gallery of Stanford football’s nail-biting defeat of then-No. 3 Oregon, a video of professors reacting to mean course reviews and a podcast on imposter syndrome.
- Expanding coverage of graduate students, faculty and staff: Some community members stressed the importance of ensuring that The Daily’s coverage spans issues relevant not only to undergraduates but to graduate students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars. The Daily’s staff is overwhelmingly composed of undergraduate students, leading one interviewee to reflect that there is a lack of communication between undergraduates and graduate students on campus, which then leads to less coverage of graduate student priorities. This volume, the news section re-introduced having a graduate students desk, tasked with taking a deeper dive into the issues that affect the University’s nearly 10,000 graduate students. This feedback is also being taken into account by section editors in the pitching and sourcing stages of our writing process.
- Spotlights on community members: Some community members said that in addition to the profiles and Q&As The Daily publishes on high-profile students, faculty and alumni, they would like to read more spotlights of underrecognized members of the community. One interviewee said they hoped to see more content that focuses on the everyday life of a Stanford student, while others said that they would love to see more coverage of service workers, who are beloved by many students and community members. For such coverage, readers can follow and submit names to The Daily’s @humans_of_stanford account on Instagram, which was restarted this fall by Saloni Shah ’25, as well as keep an eye out for profiles on our website, such as Chloe Mendoza’s ’25 interview with a member of the Branner and Gerhard Casper dining staff.
- Digging deeper for student reactions: Some community members said they also want to see more in-depth coverage of students’ reactions to major campus decisions and world events, such as news managing editor Malaysia Atwater’s ’23 piece on Black students being disappointed but unsurprised by lack of immediate police action at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 or news desk editors Benjamin Zaidel ’24 and Tammer Bagdasarian ’24’s piece on student reactions to Stanford moving winter quarter 2021 online. Interviewees said they want to see these pieces being published more frequently and pushing further to capture the diverse perspectives of the campus community.
- Exploring issues from all sides: One concern some community members raised was that The Daily’s coverage unfairly focuses on certain perspectives, leaving readers with only one side of the story. The Daily aims to provide the Stanford community with fair, accurate and ethical journalism. We will continue to take this feedback into consideration as we work to produce coverage that tells authentic, diverse and layered stories of the many different individuals, perspectives and communities on campus.
- Interview etiquette: Some community members stressed the importance of training new writers to conduct interviews professionally. Sourcing and interviewing are key stages of the writing process that are integral to the success of the final piece. The Daily will continue to work on ensuring that staff are conducting interviews with empathy and fairness, including working with sources to set the rules of an interview and explaining unfamiliar terms. Additionally, as stated in our policies and standards, when an assertion is made by a source about a specific person or organization, they will be contacted and given a reasonable amount of time to respond before publication.
- Building institutional knowledge and long-term relationships with activists: Some community members voiced concerns that The Daily has published articles by writers who do not fully understand the social, political or administrative issue at hand, resulting in a surface-level or inaccurate final product. To address this, interviewees urged writers to build relationships with the communities and activists that they are covering, such as by designating a “point person” for each group or issue or by proactively meeting with stakeholders in certain coverage areas to ensure regular communication. This volume, the news section has continued implementation of its beat reporters initiative, where more experienced writers take on coverage of a specific area, such as Greek life or campus activism. Additionally, The Daily’s Equity Project is a section that is dedicated to community-oriented journalism and centering underrepresented voices.
- Coverage of marginalized and diverse groups: Some community members said they want to see more coverage of issues that pertain to community members of color, first-generation and/or low-income students, international students and other diverse communities on campus. The Daily believes it is crucial that everyone feels represented in our coverage, as everyone has stories that deserve to be told. We hope to amplify the voices and stories of those who have otherwise been left out of Daily coverage and to encourage diverse people to join and cover issues that they care about. In addition to the Equity Project, which was launched in Vol. 258, in Vol. 259 The Daily launched its inaugural diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) team, which works to ensure that our content is equitable and inclusive and that our staff represents the campus community and the world around us.
- Publicizing avenues to contribute to The Daily: One of the goals of The Daily’s leadership is to ensure that everyone in the Stanford community feels that they have a platform to share and express their perspectives through our publication. However, some community members said they were unsure of how to submit ideas and pieces to The Daily or join our staff. In the future, we hope to better publicize opportunities with The Daily, both internally and externally. Thanks to the work of newsroom development director Emma Talley ’23, this year The Daily set a recruitment record, evidence that our methods of outreach are becoming more effective. Staffers also distributed a one-page handout with information on how to contact The Daily to community members. You can join The Daily here and learn more about how tips, op-eds and other content can be submitted to The Daily here.
We thank everyone who contributed to our summer listening tour; we are immensely grateful for your willingness to help us grow. In addition to this public report, we’ll be distributing section-specific insights from the conversations and survey to our section editors. Though the tour itself may be over, our hope is that this outreach will not be an isolated event, but rather the start of an ongoing conversation between The Daily and the community that we serve. To that end, if you would like to continue this conversation, don’t hesitate to reach out, whether through sending in a tip, submitting an article or getting in touch via email.
Kate Selig, Vol. 260 Editor in Chief
Jeremy Rubin, Vol. 260 Executive Editor for Print
Lana Tleimat, Vol. 260 Executive Editor for Digital
Sarina Deb, Vol. 260 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Co-Chair
Jared Klegar, Vol. 260 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Co-Chair