First Contested Daily Texan Election in Four Years
Mar 20, 2024

First Contested Daily Texan Election in Four Years

Reporting Texas TV

AUSTIN, Texas – UT students had a decision to make this spring about the leadership of the student newspaper after years of having no say in the matter.

They elected McKenzie Henningsen as the Daily Texan editor-in-chief. Voting took place on Feb. 26 and 27 online via the Office of the Dean of Students official website.

The position is the only student manager position at Texas Student Media (TSM) that is elected by the student body and not appointed by the board of trustees who oversee the student publications. 

“The candidates have to appeal directly to the student body and make their pitch about why they would be a good person to represent student voices and student interests in that position,” said Frank Serpas, TSM’s assistant director for business and media operations.

In past years, the election outcome had a winner by default because only one candidate would run for the position. Serpas said interest in becoming the editor for the paper had been low in recent years

“You have to have done a certain amount of things at the Daily Texan to be eligible to be on the ballot, and so sometimes there’s only one person who maybe meets the criteria and also has an interest for the position,” Serpas said.

The board of trustees certified two candidates to appear on the ballot this year – Henningsen and Mihir Gokhale. Both have spent at least five semesters at the Texan in the opinion department, but they had different visions for the future of the paper.

Henningsen’s platform was to create diligent, fair and empathetic coverage at the Texan. 

“I hope to work alongside our Advocacy and Belonging board to produce workshops for our staff that focus on empathetic storytelling, reporting techniques, interviewing techniques, how we can source in a way that respects people and makes journalism feel less transactional than it is,” Henningsen said.

She said she plans to create networking opportunities for staffers by bringing in professionals to do workshops for the benefit of the staff. Henningsen also said she has plans to use the Texan as a news source for those beyond the university community.

Gokhale said his platform centered on emphasizing diverse perspectives, highlighting sensitive issues, open to all viewpoints and being an advocate for the student body. He said he feels like the newspaper had lost touch with the student body and wants to amend that connection.

“Part of my platform is recognizing that bringing awareness to the fact that the Texan has sometimes become an echo chamber, an isolated bubble, because we continue to select and cherry pick from a certain group of people rather than opening up the conversation to the wider community.” Gokhale said. 

Henningsen and Gokhale agreed that a contested election is important because it gives students autonomy over the paper rather than the university. 

“Primary function of the job is to hold the university accountable. So in electing us by the student body, rather than having us be appointed, we can do that fairly,” Henningsen said.

Gokhale said he was not sure what factors led to uncontested races before, but was happy students had the option this year to vote.

“It is important that multiple people do step up, try and present alternative visions, involve the community, because ultimately whoever can present their vision the best, whoever resonates with the student body, the best, deserves to be elected,” Gokhale said.

Henningsen will replace Lucero Ponce, who served as the 2023-2024 editor in chief.

Editor-in-chief Lucero Ponce works at the opinion desk in the Daily Texan newsroom in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 29, 2024. (Amberlyn Negron/Reporting Texas TV)