Want a Traffic Spike for Your Student Outlet? Write About Georgetown’s Secret Society

In late February, The Hoya at Georgetown University experienced a roughly 1,200 percent spike in website page views after revelations surfaced that the leading candidate for student government president at the Washington D.C. Catholic school was affiliated with a controversial secret society (hat tip to Romenesko and WP).

In a Hoya story that followed, the student confirmed his membership in the Second Society of Stewards (which I also see referenced as the Second Stewards Society), something he did not previously mention during his campaign.

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The best quote from the candidate, who was apparently favored to be SG president prior to all this secret business: “It’s a private association of mine, just like any of the other candidates might have other private associations.  Because it’s something that I keep private, I don’t think that I have to explain every single thing I’ve been a part of in my history.”  Soon after, he lost the election.

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What is the society, and why does it matter?  The Washington Post: “The all-male group, which doesn’t identify its members or detail its activities, has long been a source of rumor and controversy on the 104-acre campus, where some students harbor suspicions that group members are pushing a right-wing political agenda– charges the Stewards call absurd. . . . [T]he society– which is not an officially sanctioned student group and receives no university funds– zealously keeps secret its rituals, meeting places, constitution, official history, organizational structure, members’ names and finances. . . . A 2000 copy of its bylaws, obtained by the Post, reveals some cryptic officer titles: the Quaestor of the Treasury; the Keeper; the Dean of All the Years; the Master of the Ritual; and two Guardian Stewards– one of whom, the documents stipulate, ‘shall be a member of the Society of Jesus or [a] Roman Catholic priest.’”

The Hoya’s reporting on the SG presidential candidate’s society membership was spurred by postings on a blog called FreeGeorgetown.  Conjuring up the spirit of journalism’s most famous source, the nickname of the anonymous blogger behind FreeGeorgetown: “Steward Throat.”

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Normal daily page views for the Hoya, according to the Post: 2,500.  The day “Steward Throat” went public with his private info about the SG candidate: 32,000.  The paper’s subsequent story, posted Feb. 20th, remains the most popular piece on the site roughly a month later.

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