125 Stanford Stories

NO. 47

Journalism from hot type to virtual reality

The first staff of Stanford's campus daily, in 1893, with editor A.C. Trumbo fourth from top left. The paper was renamed the Stanford Daily in 1926.
Stanford University Archives
Ruth Taylor
Ruth Taylor braved World War I-era curfews and parietal rules to become the Daily's first female editor in chief in 1918.
Private collection
The Stanford "Daily Shack" on Lomita Drive some time before its demolition in 1963. Tools of the trade include typewriters, rotary phones and plenty of carbon paper.
Stanford University Archives
Armed with a warrant, Palo Alto police search the Daily newsroom April 12, 1971 for photographic evidence of a campus demonstration three days earlier. The Daily's lawsuit challenging the warrant's constitutionality went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Stanford Daily
daniel pearl
Daniel Pearl '85 was kidnapped and murdered while reporting in Pakistan for the Wall Street Journal. A annual internship for a Stanford student honors his legacy.
Daniel Pearl Foundation
2012 election
Journalism graduate students cover the 2012 election for the Peninsula Press and KQED News. Visiting lecturer R.B. Brenner, center, talks with student journalists, left, and visiting professor Joel Brinkley.
Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
Communication Professor Jay Hamilton directs Stanford's journalism program, which teaches students how to use 'big data' to tell stories with public policy impact.
Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News Service

Whatever the medium, Stanford journalists have told impactful stories for 125 years

Stanford’s tradition of journalistic accomplishment goes back to 1891, when students formed what may have been the first campus newspaper founded simultaneously with the university it covered. 

At first a monthly, it was superseded by the Daily Palo Alto in 1892. That paper assumed its current name, the Stanford Daily, in 1926. 

As the only afternoon daily for miles around, it gave student journalists a real-life practicum in getting the story.  They stayed up late to oversee their work’s transmogrification into hot Linotype and then into paper bundles that were delivered to hundreds of newsstands each morning. 

Today, Stanford students from across the curriculum tell 21st-century stories via computational reporting, virtual-reality apps, interactive graphics and a host of other digital tools, as well as in the print and online Daily itself, an independent nonprofit entity since 1973. 

They join a tradition of journalistic eminence that includes Ted Koppel, MA ’62, Rachel Maddow, ’94, and 2015 Commencement speaker Richard Engel, ’96. 

Whatever the medium, a constant theme in Stanford journalism is the drive to tell stories that hold institutions accountable.

Latest bearers of that legacy include former Knight Fellow Martha Mendoza and Mary Rajkumar, MA ’91, part of the Associated Press team that won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for a report that documented coerced labor in the U.S. seafood supply, and former Knight Fellow T. Christian Miller of ProPublica, who shared a 2016 Pulitzer in Explanatory Reporting for a series of stories about law enforcement’s failures in investigating reported rapes.

Formal instruction has complemented student practice almost from the start. By 1893, Daily writers could get credit for their published work as part of English 8, Advanced Composition

1910 saw the first Stanford course focused directly on journalism, an English class titled News Writing. Later enrollees included the Daily’s first female editor-in-chief, Ruth Taylor, whose peers voted her to the top spot in 1918 after World War I thinned Stanford’s male enrollment. 

A generation later, on a campus once again depleted by war, Editor in Chief Helen Dietz [Pickering], ’47, shocked many by reprinting in full Norman Cousins’ response to the atomic bomb, Modern Man Is Obsolete

In 1966, the awards now known as the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships began bringing outstanding midcareer journalists to Stanford for a year of reinvention and innovation. 

Press freedoms were tested amid campus unrest as the Daily sued over a police newsroom search for suspected photos of a 1971 campus demonstration. The paper’s suit claiming the warrants were unconstitutional went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

In 1985, alumnus Rowland “Reb” Rebele, ’51, and his wife, Patricia, established what is now the Rebele Digital and Print Journalism Internship Program to support aspiring Stanford journalists at community, regional and national news organizations. 

Today, Stanford students and affiliated practitioners draw from seven interdisciplinary Stanford centers working to turn unstructured data into structured stories, said James T. Hamilton, director of the Stanford Journalism Program in the Department of Communication. 

The latest such center, the Stanford Computational Journalism Lab, opened in 2015 to lower the cost of telling public-interest stories driven by computational data and to refine their narrative form. 

Upcoming innovations include a 2017 class, Virtual Reality Journalism in the Public Interest, taught by Lorey I. Lokey Visiting Professor Geri Migielicz.

Meanwhile, the Daniel Pearl Memorial Journalism Internship honors Daniel Pearl’85, who was kidnapped and murdered while reporting in Pakistan in 2002. It enables a Stanford student journalist to continue Pearl’s legacy of service by working in a foreign bureau of his paper, the Wall Street Journal

A Stanford Journalism 125th anniversary website tells more.