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Fridays from the Frontline: At Stanford GSB, Reimagining the News

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In this edition of Fridays from the Frontline, Stanford GSB student, Judd Olanoff, introduces his entrepreneurial project, Storyist. Read on for how an MBA class inspired his idea, and how the Stanford GSB program helped him bring it to life.

At Stanford GSB, Reimagining the News

By Judd Olanoff, Stanford MBA ’20

Judd Olanoff, Stanford MBA ’20

“How many of you read The New York Times? The Wall Street Journal?” NYT editor and GSB lecturer Glenn Kramon begins his “Winning Writing” class by asking students what news they read. Fewer than half raise their hands for each publication. For the students who don’t, I wonder: would the news be more palatable in another form?

For many business students – and other young people – I suspect the answer is yes. They avoid what they perceive as hype and tribalism, wishing for fair-minded context and explanation in their news, presented by people they trust. That’s why I started Storyist, a GSB project exploring new ways to tell stories.

Storyist will deliver features and news, presented by millennial and Gen Z “hosts.” Our pilot videos – featuring 12 MBA2s telling stories they’re passionate about – launch the week of June 1. Topics include the path to a U.S. digital currency, the modernization of political polling, and the rise of Afrobeats.  Follow @storyistmedia on Instagram to watch.

Our goal in this phase is to test formats and topics, and to collect feedback so we can improve. We seek to deliver:

  • Why does this story matter? How did we get here? We think understanding emerges from context, which has grown scarcer in the 24-hour news environment.
  • We don’t assume you know everything about a topic. It’s our aim for you to learn something.
  • Narrative storytelling. We want our audience to feel they’re listening to a friend (who’s passionate and knowledgeable about a topic) talking calmly and accessibly over coffee. Our hosts have personal connections to their topics, and ground stories in their experience.
  • We know you’re busy and your attention is valuable. Give us just five minutes.
  • Fresh topics. We pick topics that fall outside the 24-hour news cycle or could use more context and explanation.
  • Fairness and empathy. It’s more important than ever to listen to other perspectives – and even change our minds sometimes. Our goal is to be objective and politically neutral. But that’s impossible – even how we pick topics, and hosts, may have skewed progressive in this first phase. If you have ideas for what we should cover (particularly from a more conservative perspective), let us know. We take the ideals of impartiality and evenhandedness seriously.

Storyist wouldn’t be possible without the GSB. I’m grateful for all the ways the GSB made this happen:

  • My classmates are immensely talented and expert on a range of salient topics. This made it an easy decision for Storyist’s first 12 “hosts” to be GSBers.
  • The GSB is lucky to have Glenn Kramon (who oversees the NYT’s Pulitzer entries) as a lecturer. And I was lucky that he advised this project. His guidance was indispensable.
  • The GSB’s joint degree program with the Kennedy School gave me the chance to conduct research with Adam Moss, former editor of New York Magazine. That work inspires this project.
  • Pursuing your dreams is endemic to the GSB culture. You feel it in the curriculum. You see your classmates cultivating ideas that will evolve into companies of consequence. It’s a privilege to be exposed to that culture.
Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.