Several items below, I posted a photograph of five former Crimsonâians who painted L-A-R-R-Y on their chests to show their support for Larry Summers at a Dunster House study break.
I’ve criticized the paper for the action, on the grounds that whether these people covered Summers or no, whether they are currently on the Crimson or not, it’s inappropriate for someone affiliated with the newspaper to engage in such a public display of affection. It has hurt the Crimson’s appearance of objectivity, I argued.
I still believe that. But one of the people in the photo has written a long rebuttal to this argument that is serious and worthy of being read. It’s in a comment below, but I’m going to post it here so it’s more visible. You all can make up your own mind.
[Meanwhile, Crimson folks, could you please correct those things about me in the Sam Teller interview? What’s good for the goose, eh?]
[Also, while I realize that not everyone took my joke about the chest-painting as “totally gay” in the sardonic spirit in which it was intended, I still think there’s something a little American Idol-ish about the act. But there you are.]
Being as you continue to trash on us, calling us an “embarrassment to the paper,” I feel like I need to respond to your comments.
First of all, it should be noted that we were all acting within the confines of our own dormitory, at a study break which had been planned out months ago. This was far from a public forum. But this is truly an aside from the points you are making; I simply wanted to point this out.
Second of all, none of us have to do with Summers coverage on the Crimson. I will break down our roles for you:
There are two photographers, one of which last contributed to the Crimson in 2003, and the other of which is a former executive editor. There is a sports beat reporter, mainly with a focus on soccer and lacrosse. He has not written any news stories. There is the business manager. The former business manager was certainly a member of the executive guard, but someone with no control over content. Finally, there is a former news executive editor. This is as close as you get with hitting home on your point. However, the news executive is not one who has covered Summers, or one who oversaw Summers coverage – an archive search turns up no references to Summers in the headline or lede of any articles. The total Summers coverage from these five individuals is in the form of two photographs: one mugshot, and one appearance at a study break dancing with freshmen, both in early 2005.
I should note that only executive guard members have any say over content that appears, and none of these executive influenced Summers coverage, nor have we given the appearance that we have.
None of us have, or have had any impact on Summers coverage throughout this ordeal, and as former editors, our actions do not reflect upon current coverage.
Those who must remain impartial on The Crimson are those who cover Summers, and those who control the content that he appears in. The Crimson, just like any other newspaper is clear about this; for example, The Crimson has written staff editorials supporting Summers. By definition, some members of the staff have taken a stance on the issue. We have made no effort not to weigh in on the topic as a staff â much like any major newspaper advocates for political candidates and political policies â but those who report on Summers do not participate.
Claiming that all Crimson staffers should remain mum on the issue is like stating no member of a magazine (former or current) should ever staff a political campaign, or join an organization on which the publication has reported. On the contrary, this restriction becomes quite silly unless is deals with only those reporters and editors who cover the topic. Do you think no one from the New York Times, George Magazine, or The New Republic, has ever advocated a cause or candidate discussed within its pages?
The Crimson currently covers all the varsity sports that take place on campus. Some Crimson editors are athletes. Does this bias the Crimson’s coverage of sports? Should the organization force these editors to choose either their team or The Crimson? No – so long as they do not cover their own sport.
The Crimson reports on Harvard football. Does this preclude all editors from cheering in the stands, or, gasp, painting their chests in support?
I think this is truly the point that is of concern. The Crimson, or any other publication, would be paralyzed if every one of its editors had to refrain from taking stances on any issue covered in the paper, or expressing any sorts of opinions relating to any aspect of the publicationâs coverage.
You also mention that perhaps we had a “booster-ish” attitude while we were contributing to the Crimson. Perhaps some of us did (I can only speak for myself), but any reporter might have any opinion on a given issue. Those who cover politics likely vote, and thus have an opinion strong enough to pull them to the polls; the important thing is that if they cover an issue, they cover it objectively and not publicly take a stance. Though we have publicly taken a stance, we did so after our tenure ended, and stayed away from Summers coverage during our time at the paper. The fact that we may have had an opinion, whether or not we covered Summers, is again irrelevant. We all have opinions about President Bush, but some still report on him.
The conflict of interest argument also cannot be applied retroactively – just because someone has an opinion now doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have covered an issue in the past. However, again, this is irrelevant, as none of us did cover Summers.
I think it’s important that I address these issues if they concern you, and if this represents the organization’s biggest flaw during all this coverage, I think it serves as a testament to the great reporting current editors have done so far.
I also think it is important that we try to maintain discourse while examining the issue – if you have a problem with coverage in the future, please say so, because I think it fosters productive discussion, but I personally think printing headlines such as “The Crimson Shows Its True Colors” and âBad Journalism,â while labeling us as an “embarrassment” and âtotally gay,â is at best inflammatory, and doesn’t serve to further these goals.