Press Pass: The grueling process behind Daily Bruin’s yearly contest for editor-in-chief
(Warda Sahib/Daily Bruin)
April 4, 2019 4:49 p.m.
While the majority of students will be out enjoying some fun in the sun as we ring in the start of the spring quarter, Daily Bruin staffers will be cooped up in Ackerman Union for hours on end come Friday evening.
Every spring quarter, the Daily Bruin begins a transitional process in which the current editors hand off their positions to budding staffers eager to take over and steer the ship that is The Bruin’s windowless, underground newsroom. That turnover begins on Friday, with the editor-in-chief hearing.
Come Friday, all of the Daily Bruin’s paid staffers and a number of other interested and enthusiastic contributors will gather to select the paper’s next editor-in-chief. The process of choosing the new editor-in-chief can be a grueling one – especially for the Daily Bruin staff members who’ve chosen to dedicate their time and energy to applying for the position.
The application process actually begins in the winter – toward the end of winter quarter Daily Bruin staff members, usually editors or former editors who are interested in applying for the position, meet up with and interview each of the Daily Bruin’s 60 or so editors, in an attempt to learn more about how each section in the paper runs. This can be a particularly time-consuming process, as the interviews can last upwards of an hour, depending on how talkative a particular editor might be.
These interviews have to be completed by the first Monday of the quarter, as that’s when applications are due. Sometime during the stressful week in between turning in their applications and the hearing, applicants must take a three-hour test quizzing their knowledge of general Daily Bruin editorial policy, journalism ethics and other important factoids that will be key for the prospective editor-in-chief to know, such as the status of the Bruin’s financial stability and the names and roles of prominent figures in Westwood and UC politics.
The test is hard – recent applicants have tended to score just around 70%, give or take a couple points here and there. While it’s certainly good at gauging an applicant’s journalistic knowledge and skills, the hearing Friday is where things really start to heat up.
On Friday, the staff of The Bruin will hole themselves up in Ackerman Union and won’t come out until they’ve selected their next editor-in-chief – almost like selecting the Pope, but without the white smoke.
The hearings are notorious among Daily Bruin staff for their oftentimes excruciating length – even when there was only one applicant back in 2016, the hearing lasted a number of hours. Each applicant is allotted 20 minutes to give a speech, further detailing the main points made in their application and 40 minutes for a Q&A with the Daily Bruin staff.
During the Q&A, the staff members present generally ask the applicants questions to further clarify certain details in their applications, but occasionally send a couple of curveballs – last year, when I applied for the position, a particularly feisty audience member asked me what color my underwear was.
After the applicants have all given their speeches and endured the question and answer session, the staff members all deliberate and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each applicant. The deliberation lasts indefinitely – with the managing editor and digital managing editor leading the discussion, staff members will debate until the room starts to quiet down and everyone is ready to vote.
This is the part that can take the longest – as with any other organization, people love to hear themselves talk. Once the deliberation is over, the Daily Bruin staff will finally vote on their next editor-in-chief. Afterward, the paper’s upper management will count the votes and announce the winner of the vote to the entire staff in the Daily Bruin newsroom.
Once the Daily Bruin staff has made its endorsement, the next step is for the applicants to go through the UCLA Communications Board, which has the ultimate say over who becomes the next editor-in-chief. Historically though, the board has generally chosen the same applicant the staff selected.
It’s a long and oftentimes exhausting process – for all parties involved – but there’s a reason: the editor-in-chief is the face of the newspaper, and it’s important that the applicants are as prepared as possible beforehand. As tiring as it can be, it’s only a little glimpse of what’s in store for The Bruin’s next leader.