Guest Post: Working Behind the Desk at the Michigan Daily

by Sam Killian on August 12, 2015

The following essay was written by Stephanie Steinberg, editor of In the Name of Editorial Freedom, a University of Michigan Press publication that will be released in September. Stephanie and other contributors to the book will be appearing at a number of promotional events in the coming months. A list of those events appears at the end of this post.


If you’re a University of Michigan alum, you may have vivid memories of rallies in the Diag, concerts in Hill Auditorium or victories in the Big House. Odds are you sat in class debating the implications of Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade or affirmative action. You may even remember the Vietnam War protests or exactly where you were on campus when John F. Kennedy was shot or when the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11. But for the students who wrote and took photos for the Michigan Daily, the University’s student-run newspaper, their vantage point of current events and Michigan athletics looked a lot different.

A Daily press pass was a ticket to exclusive interviews with University administrators, football coaches, presidential candidates and celebrities passing through Ann Arbor. And a camera around the neck got students through police barricades, onto the Big House field and in restricted parts of campus buildings – the underground tunnels, research labs and rooftops, to name a few.

As Daily alum Jeremy Peters, now a political reporter for the New York Times, describes it, journalism is like a passport: “[It’s] a way to gain access to places and people that are beyond reach for most people.”

The Michigan Daily is no exception.

In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Michigan Daily, a few dozen distinguished alumni and rising journalists will take you behind the scenes of their stories and photos that hit campus newsstands each morning.

The majority didn’t major in journalism (perhaps because the University got rid of the Journalism Department in 1979), and the Daily was their first experience reporting in the field. Many admit they often fumbled through assignments – unsure whether they were asking the right questions or if they were standing in the right spot to snap a photo.  Yet in journalism, you learn by doing. And there’s no better place to learn than at a college newspaper like the Daily, where you have the freedom to take risks, make mistakes and be the voice for thousands of students each day.

The alumni who share their memories in “In the Name of Editorial Freedom: 125 Years at The Michigan Daily” are now working at the top media outlets in the country, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Detroit Free Press, Sports Illustrated, ESPN and more.

“It’s hard to imagine that I would be here today without those experiences,” writes Peters in his story about covering the 2000 presidential campaign for the Daily.

I, too, likely wouldn’t be an editor at U.S. News & World Report if I hadn’t spent a year as Daily editor-in-chief, orchestrating the news, sports, arts and editorial coverage produced by 150 students and sending the pages to press at 3 a.m. each morning.

I always found it amusing to pass students reading the Daily in Angell Hall or before class – having no idea what it took to get those words and headlines splashed across the front page.  But the anecdotes in this book offer a rare glimpse into the Daily newsroom and the stories behind the stories, which sometimes were more interesting than the stories themselves.


Meet editor Stephanie Steinberg and the journalists who contributed to “In the Name of Editorial Freedom: 125 Years at the Michigan Daily” at the following events:

Book Launch at The M-Den

Thursday, September 24

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

303 South State Street, Ann Arbor MI 48104



Book Talk and Signing at Busboys and Poets

Monday, October 5

6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

625 Monroe St. NE, Washington, D.C. 20017



Book Signing and Football Watch at Ivy and Coney

Saturday, October 10

3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

1537 7th St. NW, Washington D.C. 20004



D.C. Author Festival

Saturday, October 24

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

901 G St. NW, Washington D.C. 20001



JCC Book Fair Local Authors Talk

Sunday, November 8

10 a.m. to noon

Detroit Jewish Community Center

6600 West Maple Road, West Bloomfield, MI 48322



Book Signing and Football Watch at Diag Bar & Grill

Saturday, November 14

Starts 2 hours before kickoff

2856 North Southport Ave., Chicago IL 60657



Book Signing at Professor Thom’s

Saturday, December 5

4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

219 2nd Ave., New York, NY10003


Twitter: @DailyAlumniBook




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