Dear Daily Bruin staff and members of the UCLA community,
I am a firm believer that journalists should be telling the news – not making it. And yet, here we are doing just that.
A considerable number of Daily Bruin staff members elected to strike upon learning that our publisher, the Associated Students UCLA Communications Board, decided to break with tradition and appoint to the position of 2019-2020 editor in chief a staffer who had not received the staff’s endorsement. The newsroom, in recent history, has had a culture of viewing the board’s final appointment as simply a rubber stamp on an internal endorsement process that staffers spend hours deliberating each Friday of the first week of spring quarter.
It is understandable why so many staffers felt obligated to take a stand when the norm was challenged. Many were outraged that a distant, dispassionate board of appointed people had the audacity to determine the next leader of this historic paper. A strike against publishing the paper seemed the only viable option to some.
I am relieved that this stand ultimately came to the resolution that The Bruin is better and stronger as a unified force. But this entire process has revealed to us that we have been working with a long broken system that only seemed reasonable to our predecessors because its results consistently favored them.
Many of us have come to understand the point that, in many professional organizations, the publisher selects the editor and the role the Communications Board plays is quite similar. Somewhere along our 100 years, the newsroom forgot this practice.
We’ve been working on fixing things, though.
Our staff is not divided on the issue of whether it should be the only one to choose an editor in chief by means of a process that many on the outside would find analogous to an Iowa caucus. We attempt every year to establish that our endorsement process is not a political one – but that doesn’t make us insusceptible to office politics.
The staff has collectively decided to rally behind the editor in chief candidate appointed by the Communications Board. Her qualifications and her work with The Bruin are indeed impressive. She is an editor in chief the entire staff can get behind.
But that does not discount the achievements of the two other candidates who applied for editor in chief. One almost single-handedly brought our newspaper into the modern age with her contributions to our social media platforms, while the other has helped shaped the way news coverage is done by the staff.
Journalism is the foundational unit of democracy. We know this to be true because many of our staff found this tenet compelling enough to strike against the Communications Board in the name of transparency. And it’s what is unifying us to reform the existing process to be more transparent. Our staff has spent tireless hours reading through and seeking amendments to the Communications Board’s policies and procedures so it can make decisions that more adequately support our interests.
We are lucky to operate such a long-standing, independent organization. The existence of a publishing board has provided us with countless opportunities that many student newspapers dream of – the ability to prioritize and fund our travel reporting projects and maintaining absolute independence from UCLA just to name a few. That’s not to say the board has always acted in our best interest, and indeed we feel an organizational obligation to hold it to the same standards that we do any other campus institution.
But the board has expressed support for the proposals we would like to see in next year’s editor in chief selection process. And in the months to follow, we intend to use it to ensure a better operating environment for our paper.
The Daily Bruin remains committed to the mission of reporting on the campus and community. There was never a question of whether certain members of the staff prioritized this aim more than others. The decision to strike or not is not one that should tear our paper apart – there are already plenty of external organizations that would love for nothing more than this conglomeration of students to splinter because we have held them accountable. But many of them need to be kept in check by our watchful eyes and ears, and we will continue to live out that journalistic tradition as long as we can.
Our struggle this past week was emotional and harrowing. But turning 100 comes with its growing pains – and we’re ready, as we always have been, to overcome them.
Daily Bruin Editor in chief