Editorial Board | Revive Stanford’s student publications

Imagine it’s a sunny day at Stanford in 2018. You wake up and check your phone to see the latest FoHo newsletter drop in your email inbox — a Stanford medical student poisoned their classmates with formaldehyde?! At breakfast, you might pick up a copy of the Stanford Politics magazine in a dining hall and read its latest response to The Stanford Daily’s Editorial Board’s response to Stanford Politics’ critique of The Daily. Not to mention the Stanford Sphere’s or the Stanford Review’s commentary on the inter-newspaper drama. 

Today, only The Daily and the Review remain, leaving gaping holes in Stanford’s previously multifarious news media ecosystem. What happened to these publications, and what implications does their loss have on our community?

Once upon a time …

The Fountain Hopper (or FoHo as it was more commonly known) was an irreverent student-run tabloid whose anonymous newsletters were delivered directly to thousands of subscribers’ inboxes. It was the first publication to break the Brock Turner story and delivered great continuing coverage on the case and its aftermath at Stanford. FoHo also gained national attention for revealing how Stanford students could access their admissions files. Sadly, over COVID, its scoops dwindled, and today FoHo’s website no longer exists. 

FoHo occupied a unique place in our campus media landscape; without a high bar for fact-checking and sourcing, it could turn around breaking news before any facts were confirmed. These included stories about alleged crimes on campus, alleged misconduct by Stanford administrators and faculty and anecdotes about parties and student mischief. Although we don’t condone FoHo’s methods of uncovering and disseminating information, which revolved around anonymous and often unverified tips, we mourn the loss of such a widely-read media outlet. 

FoHo’s demise coincided with the rise of the social media app Fizz, an anonymous discussion forum app at Stanford and many other college campuses where anyone with a university email can post campus commentary, memes and odd requests. 

At first glance, it may seem like FoHo has been replaced by Fizz with its bulletin board-like discourse. However, Fizz lacks several defining features that lent FoHo its particular strength as a media outlet. Fizz is a free-for-all where any user can post any content without accountability. Without editors or writers who have a vested interest in maintaining and building the reputation of a breaking-news newsletter, Fizz seems to more closely resemble a campus-wide game of “telephone,” which can sometimes become a breeding ground for misinformation. In contrast, FoHo curated, chose and developed on the stories of most interest to the Stanford community to create its digests. 

FoHo is not the only student-run media outlet at Stanford that has ceased to exist. Most prominent among the rest was Stanford Politics, which was an invaluable source of high-quality, impactful investigations that sadly petered out in 2021. Their coverage was broad and unique in focus, ranging from an investigation into sorority life on campus to commentary on the Lebanese government to think-pieces on American criminal justice reform. Stanford Politics pieces were thoughtful, well-sourced and held to high standards, fostering deep investigations into Stanford issues and providing a platform for political discourse ranging beyond Stanford’s campus.

There was also the Stanford Sphere, a lesser-read but still rigorous publication whose left-wing editorials balanced out the Stanford Review’s conservative slant. The Review remains active and is today’s most prominent student publication after The Stanford Daily. Founded in 1987 by Peter Thiel and Norman Book, the Review’s primary output is op-eds, although it dabbles in news coverage and satire. 

Although the Review does not have as long of a history as The Daily nor match its publishing volume, the two papers play a critical role in facilitating campus discourse. The coexistence of the Review’s and The Daily’s Opinions sections allows for more spacious commentary on campus events. For instance, the two outlets have offered unique critiques on Hoover’s institutional decisions and policies.

The Review also provides perspectives that lack on-campus representation, such as its commentary on last Spring’s Judge Duncan controversy, where students continually interrupted a guest speaker. While none of The Daily’s writers opined about the issue, we applaud the Review’s timely position when other campus publications were quieter. We believe that the Review injects an integral dose of contrarianism into predominantly-liberal campus discourse — one that challenges students to question their existing beliefs and examine issues through a new lens. While we often differ from the conclusions and rhetoric of the Review, the Review’s contribution to the ideological diversity of Stanford’s media system deserves our recognition.

Paradise lost

Before COVID, the diversity of student-run media outlets dedicated to discovering stories created a healthy symbiotic relationship in our campus news ecosystem. FoHo curated the juiciest stories by parsing through hundreds of tips from on-the-ground sources, which The Daily would often investigate and publish with accurate facts and verifiable sources. Stanford Politics published long-term investigative projects and political commentary that went beyond the Stanford bubble. The Review and the Stanford Sphere filled out the spectrum of ideas and beliefs on campus, prompting open discourse and debate. This range of styles and competition for eyes kept more Stanford community members more informed, and constantly pushed publications to a higher standard of timeliness, engagement and impact.

Without a range of options for all reading appetites, many Stanford students have simply turned to Fizz for their news and entertainment, where there is little to no authority, trusted sources, accountability, nor the ability to follow up on stories or make corrections in a uniform and transparent way. 

What now?

The Stanford Daily, the Stanford Review and even Fizz can only write, report, analyze and elicit so much. Our reach and perspectives are limited. New outlets, forming a more vibrant Stanford press environment, will provide more forums of empowerment for all to participate in campus conversations. We want to see more different publications independently going after the truth, so that as a community we obtain better facts faster and avoid bias. We want to read an array of well-developed, accountable opinions across the political spectrum. We want to see publications in conversation, holding each other accountable and achieving greater heights of student journalism through competition. Most of all, we want the whimsical, skeptical, curious spirit of Stanford to be enabled and elevated by our student-run publications, as they always have been. We look forward to seeing the ghosts of publications past resurrected – or replaced.

Originally posted 2023-11-13 09:04:34.