Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Behind the Scenes at Stanford’s Conservative Newspaper

It was the 2009 elections season, and the Stanford Review was upset. A candidate for Senate, who I will call Shirley Hu, popular among the school’s conservative circles, was not interested receiving the conservative paper’s endorsement. At the meeting, prominent Review leaders were unsure of how to title the following issue: “Shirley Hu: The Pat Buchanan of Our Times” or “Vote for Strong Conservative Credentials, vote Shirley Hu.” Ultimately a different title was adopted, but such move would have probably hurt Hu’s chances.

The Review is not the most popular student publication on a liberal campus, and its staff is pretty much banned from any event including liberal activists and community centers.
However, the paper enjoys surprisingly high readership, contains quality investigative content, and provides an alternative perspective to many campus and national issues.

Like many conservative newspapers on liberal campuses, the Stanford Review likes to criticize as many aspects of University life. Reading the latest issue’s Smoke Signals, which gives a thumbs up or down to both national and campus news, one does not particularly feel inspired: DOWN: State Pension, DOWN: Conservation, DOWN: Not Drama- Draw-ma, DOWN: Goldman Sachs, DOWN: Arizona. The Review prides itself in that if it has nothing nice to say, it will go ahead and say it anyway. Otherwise the newspaper might start looking rather empty.

One of the Review’s major steps regarding distribution this year was making sure no issues were placed close to recycling bins. Well known across campus was that the campus left would often throw stacks of Stanford Reviews right into recycling. However, these environmental progressives would never simply throw them away. I must admit I miss removing our issues from the recycling bins.

While an outspoken part of the campus does not like the paper, things have started to change. With the arrival of several Democrats to the staff, and with the number of controversial stories declining, the Review’s prestige is rapidly increasing. The paper is the second largest student publication on campus.

The only people who actually still consider the Review conservative are those who don’t like it: mostly juniors and seniors who refuse to accept that, even if hard to notice at Stanford, there is usually another side to the policies they are advocating.

Even regular, non-partisan people often approach the paper to receive coverage. Several weeks ago, an artist working on murals around the graduate residence Munger asked the Review to cover her work. Although happy to receive any type of requests, art is not something we tend to cover. However, the staff instead jokingly suggested looking at the financing of such murals, already thinking of some titles to go along with the article, which went somewhat along these lines: “University Squanders Thousands of Dollars on Murals.”

Some of the Review’s most successful stories this year actually came by looking at the financial situation of many campus groups.

An investigation into the ASSU’s shuttle service program demonstrated that the cost to the ASSU of transporting each student to nearby airports was around $50, well above the $30 charged by the much more convenient and timely private sector.
While students were only charged $12 for the ASSU shuttle, the ASSU money is ultimately the student’s money, so the program was fundamentally flawed.

The Review’s major breakthrough, however, came when it uncovered that past ASSU executives spent $13,000 on food and gas using ASSU discretionary funds. The story led to drastic changes in ASSU transparency and accountability, but most importantly, the people at the Daily had no other choice but to acknowledge the Review’s investigative strength in their upcoming issues.

Jean Paul Blanchard
Features Editors, Stanford Review

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