Daily newspaper veteran Robert Kaplan discusses the role of journalism in a community

One of Robert Kaplan’s first assignments for The Tufts Daily has been an article about an invasive beetle which was wreaking havoc on the ash trees of Somerville in the fall of 2018. He remembers the story that sparked his interest in journalism.

“The thing I was interested in, which wasn’t addressed by the Somerville Tree Warden – yes, it’s a real job – was ‘what about the trees on the Tufts campus? “” he said.

Kaplan, now a senior, would hold positions such as executive editor, business director, podcast host and columnist at The Daily. But he got his start as a contributing writer in the news section during his freshman year at Tufts, writing about invasive beetles, among other topics.

“I thought that was a really fun thing to report,” said Kaplan. “I have to go to Somerville, meet people from Somerville. [I] went to City Hall, and that kind of pushed me to do some more serious reporting that connected things that were happening in Tufts’ host communities to our college community.

Kaplan rose through the ranks of the news section, covering student government, the Tufts Research Institutes, and Massachusetts state news, before becoming the section’s editor in the spring of his sophomore year.

It was intense but rewarding work, Kaplan said, especially when the students were sent home after the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Everything you do as a journalist has two parts,” said Kaplan. “There is the manifest function and the underlying motivation, and therefore [the pandemic] This is where I really started to question the difference between the two in a way that I don’t think we had done much at The Daily in quite a while.

Kaplan says the onset of the pandemic prompted him to reflect on the differences between “report to report” versus fulfilling the newspaper’s role as “the foundation of the virtue of active citizenship that is so dear to Tufts.” For the rest of this semester, he and the rest of the news section continued to report college and local news from afar, publishing digitally amid an unprecedented pandemic.

The following semester, Kaplan became the commercial director of the Dailya role he redesigned to meet the newspaper’s structural problems and financial needs at that time.

“I spent the whole summer doing a diagnosis, an internal research project on the Daily,” said Kaplan. “I involved 12 people from all over the [executive] and [managing] board, dove deep into all the issues with the Daily, we interviewed alumni and so on. And then it resulted in a 36-point memo being written that said, “Here are different issues that [the] Daily has, and how we can fix it.

In the end, Kaplan says his “reform program” was an overall success. By its tally, the paper has implemented 30 of its 36 recommendations, including reintroducing special issues, revamping ad sales, introducing the Daily newsletter and creating the Tufts Daily Alumni Council – all aspects of the Daily that young readers and writers might have assumed had always existed. .

“I think it really reshaped the Daily in a lot of ways,” said Kaplan. “And that’s probably the legacy I’m most proud of, even more than my experience as a [executive news Editor].”

Kaplan spoke of the difficulty of cultivating institutional memory in an organization like the Daily, where leadership and membership change completely every four years. Some of the changes he implemented were aimed at this challenge.

“The hope is to give a little more continuity over time so that we can actually accumulate knowledge [and] experience and, therefore, progress and improve as a paper”, said Kaplan.

After his time as commercial director, Kaplan pivoted to a low-stakes, more enjoyable role as host of The Rewind, a podcast from Tufts Daily.

“I was always told I had a good podcaster voice, … so it really appealed to my ego,” Kaplan noted.

This semester, Kaplan is teaching a course outside the Experimental college designed to help current members of The Daily’s Boards and Executives think critically about the work of publishing an independent student newspaper.

Kaplan, who will graduate this spring, said teaching the ExCollege course felt like a fitting end to her time at the Daily.

“[The course] facilitates discussions that guide board and executive members to coherent and articulate conclusions about their experiential learning as members of The Daily’s leadership in a way that is useful for The Daily, to improve The Daily over time… but also for themselves when they leave the classroom . Because it is a timeless skill,” he said.

Kaplan counts professional skills and lifelong friendships among the takeaways from the many positions he has held at the Daily.

“When you spend so much time devoting yourself to something you love, it’s only natural that you resonate with other people who do the same.” said Kaplan. “I am extremely grateful for the many friends I have from my daily experience.”

Comments are closed.