‘He’s thinking about StudLife 24/7’: Matthew Friedman named Student Life editor-in-chief for 2021–2022
Junior Matthew Friedman was named the Student Life editor-in-chief for the 2021–2022 academic year, effective April 1. His appointment was announced by the Washington University Student Media Inc. board of directors at their annual gala held over Zoom, Feb. 12.
“I know that there will be lots of challenges to face in the year ahead, but I’m excited to see what we can do and I cannot wait to get to work,” Friedman said.
Friedman, a political science major hailing from New York, joined Student Life his freshman year as a staff writer for the sports section. The following year, he became a senior sports editor alongside senior Dorian DeBose.
“I’d say it was our best year as a section during my time at Wash. U.,” DeBose said. “We had so many reported pieces, we were so on top of things, and a lot of it was because you can’t not be with Matthew—it’s impossible to not have high quality reported pieces with Matthew at the helm, because that’s what he prioritizes.”
The scope of Friedman’s influence on the paper soon extended far beyond the sports section.
“Even though his job was within sports, he always took a lot of time to see if there were news articles that he could take, [ways] to learn more about news reporting or to just to be in the room when news editors were working through stories—he always had an interest in learning more about StudLife beyond the roles that he specifically had to take on,” managing editor junior Jayla Butler said.
For the past year, Friedman has served as Student Life’s associate editor, working closely with current editor-in-chief senior Emma Baker.
“What really stands out about Matthew’s work is that he excelled in what I asked that he do in managing the day-to-day and making sure his sections were supported and staying on track, but he was always consistently going above and beyond to push for more programming, more integration across different staffs and trying to motivate the paper and push it in new directions,” Baker said.
Baker added that Friedman had been particularly helpful in helping the paper navigate the shift to the digital space, and pointed out that the coming year will likely pose a similar challenge as the paper transitions back to in-person operations.
“I trust his guidance and his judgment, and I’m really excited to see how Student Life comes back into the office—what things we retain from a pre-COVID paper and what things that we started doing this year and in the end of last year that might be interesting to keep implementing once we get back to how we used to produce,” she said.
Moving forward, one of Friedman’s goals for Student Life is to increase the diversity of both staff and coverage.
“I want us to work on recruiting a staff that more accurately represents the people who are actually at Wash. U., and I want us to delve into deeper issues so that we can get a better understanding of what’s actually happening on campus,” Friedman said. “I think that it’d be cool to highlight the experiences of campus workers, for example, and to expand our coverage of what’s happening in communities around the University so that we do our part in understanding this community and expanding the Wash. U. bubble.”
Butler noted that the upcoming year would be instrumental for the paper’s efforts toward diversity and inclusion.
“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking through what StudLife could do better, what we already do well but could improve upon and things that we’ve never done that we need to start doing so that the student body can fully hold us accountable as they should,” Butler said. “Over the past year we’ve done a lot of observing what other clubs do at Wash. U., observing what other student newspapers do nationwide and learning more about where we fall short. And I think next year will definitely be a really key time for us to start implementing some of the ideas that we’ve had.”
In addition to expanding Student Life’s coverage areas, Friedman said he aims to incorporate a broader range of campus voices.
“I think that our forum section should be an engine for discourse on campus where, if there’s something happening, you’re going to see an opinion on it—you might not agree with it, but it’ll encourage you to think more deeply about it,” Friedman said. “And I would like to see it actually serve as a forum where people submit their ideas and engage with one another.”
Another one of Friedman’s goals is to continue to expand Student Life’s digital presence.
“We’ve had a really good podcast this year and there’s a budding staff working on multimedia endeavors, so I want to see more work in that vein,” he said.
Baker, Butler and DeBose all emphasized Friedman’s dedication not only to Student Life’s content but to the students who produce it.
“I think I’m most excited for the new staff and the editors that get to keep working with him,” Baker said. “He’s so enthusiastic about the paper and cares so deeply about not just our output but the people that make this paper happen.”
“He’s always the one who is the first to say, ‘Hey, I was talking to this person on senior staff or this person who is a staff writer and they’ve been having this problem—can we have a meeting to discuss what we can do to fix that?’” Butler said. “I think he’s thinking about StudLife, either consciously or subconsciously, 24/7. He’s always thinking about what could be better. He’s definitely someone who wants to move the paper forward, and I think we’ll see a lot of positive growth over the next year.”
“He’s like a little brother to me—he’s awesome, he’s great in every way, I love talking to him, he’s so witty, so insightful, such a great listener,” DeBose said. “I think this paper can only benefit from Matthew’s presence at the helm.”