I was deeply concerned by Megan Vaz’s article in your opinion pages last week.
As noted in your joint statement with the public editor, elections for at least the last three years have been mired in some form of controversy, resulting in one or more editors quitting the paper. I appreciate your commitment to reforming the selection process for future classes of editors, much as members of my class attempted to do. Clearly what we tried was not enough. I urge you to think bigger.
At the risk of sounding anti-democratic, I believe the Yale Daily News should get rid its uniquely bad elections process.
I believe in free and fair elections, but organizing a newspaper via election is nonsensical. No professional outlet I know of holds elections for its top editor (let alone for nearly all positions).
Additionally, the teamwork and camaraderie necessary for running a newsroom are difficult to cultivate among a class of newly-elected rivals-turned-teammates. This is especially true when such deliberations are conducted in a day-long open forum, inviting blunt value judgements on character and basic competence. The focus of an election can quickly veer away from the skills and experience each candidate brings to the table and towards ad hominem attacks. Deliberations devolve into he-said, she-said debates with little relevance to a candidate’s ability to complete a job.
Simply put, there has to be a better way. To find it, look outward.
Your counterparts at the Harvard Crimson and the Brown Daily Herald close deliberations only to members of their outgoing boards, who would not be involved in running the paper with those they are evaluating. Candidates at the Columbia Daily Spectator undergo tests for editing, business sense and ethics plus an interview before deliberations, similarly among the outgoing class of editors behind closed doors. With a little more research, I am certain you can find a selection method at a college newspaper somewhere in the country that functions better than yours. At places like the News, it can be tempting to fall back onto traditions and how things have always been done. But recent events signal that time has come for bold action.
This is not to say that any of the processes I described are perfect; I suspect many of them have issues of their own. But none of your peers appear to be bleeding talent as fast and as publicly as the News has.
I also do not suggest that all of the News’ struggles — including its tenuous relationship to the student body — will be magically resolved through a new elections process. Your work on that front will be much harder.
But eliminating what has proven to be a terrible system would be a relatively simple step in the right direction. I wish you well in your efforts.
ISAAC YU is a former managing editor of the News. Reach him at email@example.com