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Where is The Tech heading?

Column/Thomas T. Huang

Where is The Tech heading?

Listen: The Tech is a mediocre college newspaper. On good days, we cover the Course VI overcrowding problem and the appointment of the new provost. On bad days, we smear the front page with six reporting errors and five stories on sexually explicit films. Our opinion pages are often one-sided.

Hit and miss.

But we have a heart. Is it a good heart or an evil heart? Many people complain. I hear this: "Those guys are incompetent. Those guys look for controversy."

No. Our heart is neither good nor evil. This heart wants to tell graduate and undergraduate students what is happening on campus. Peter Richardson retires from an illustrious career. The Office of the Dean for Student Affairs discusses the "quality of life" with students. Project Athena is finally underway.

But sometimes events hurt us. Students die, and we must describe their lives in black and white. Mary Hope and William McLaurin are dismissed. The Dean's Office places Alpha Delta Phi on probation. We feel it is important to report these stories, even if they are controversial. Questions are asked. Lessons are learned.

Imagine that: we must write stories which we know will make people hate us.

Where is The Tech heading? I hear that InFoCus predicts it will soon overtake The Tech as MIT's primary newspaper. I can't scoff at this. That publication is improving. But I think there is a difference between the two of us. InFoCus has not written painful stories.

In May, James H. Williams, Jr., professor of mechanical engineering, wrote: "I want to thank The Tech for saving me 65|c last Friday, May 11. With front page stories entitled "Class of '83 President Charged in Theft," "Tubes Concert Theft was called `Inside Job,' " and "LSC Will Show Adult Movie" and with the editorial entitled "Alcohol Problems Need Personal Solutions," who needs the National Enquirer?"

Yes. That is what we are. We often look like a circus newspaper. How do we stop this circus act?

First, The Tech owes its readers interesting stories which aren't necessarily controversial. We are beginning to write in-depth series on minorities, women, and Project Athena. We don't have the staff to cover national and international news. We have to focus on campus issues. If we help students understand the issues that concern minorities and women, maybe there will be less controversy in those areas in the future.

Second, we must continue to speak out on these issues. We will only speak out when we have done enough investigation into a story. We will not shirk if we meet controversy. At best, our editorials can spark debate in the MIT community.

The Tech should be a public forum. This forum has often been one-sided. Simson Garfinkel once wrote a column with some radical ideas about the Office for Minority Education. Everyone has a right to his own views. But we failed to run a column alongside it with opposing views.

We welcomed letters in response, but maybe that isn't enough. I won't let it happen again.

Third, even though we must be objective in our reporting, this does not mean we should be cold-blooded reporters. We are normal people. We should show reason and compassion.

We printed a story not long ago about Undergraduate Association members who sent The Tech's editorial board an obscene letter. The story was unreasonable. It was not important. We looked for dirt.

Instead, we should write about people because we care about what happens to them. Other times, we should refrain.

An MIT professor's daughter was brutally murdered not long ago. I saw the huge headlines in the Boston Herald. Is this where we are heading? I will not condone sensationalism at the expense of human beings. Just leave them in peace.

We should respect the people in our stories: it is what keeps them from being words on a page.

Where is The Tech heading? The term lies before us. Maybe we can regain some respect. Maybe not. We shall see.

Hey: let's go.

Copyright 1985 by The Tech. All rights reserved.
This story was published on Tuesday, February 5, 1985.
Volume 105, Number 1
The story was printed on page 4.

This article may be freely distributed electronically, provided it is distributed in its entirety and includes this notice, but may not be reprinted without the express written permission of The Tech. Write to archive@the-tech.mit.edu for additional details.