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Knowing Your Paper: Editorials and Everything After

Column by Stacey E. Blau
Opinion Editor

Working for The Tech, I'm often confronted by people who have questions about the things we write and why we write them. It's easy for me to talk about the news stories we write, and I am more than happy to defend them.

Many times, however, I'll hear things about what we print on the opinion pages, and often the comments surprise me. "Why did The Tech write that column?" someone will ask. "I can't believe The Tech printed that letter" is another frequent gripe. These comments have come from lots of different people - everyone from administrators to so-called student leaders to people I live with in my dormitory.

If someone makes a comment accusing The Tech of doing something incorrigible in reference to columns or letters, I'll bristle a little bit. It's not because I can't deal with criticism; on the contrary, I very much like a good, if not violent, fight. The problem I have is that a large number of people don't ever seem to read the nice box we print on page 4 of every issue of The Tech: our opinion policy.

It's right there, and I'm always amazed at the fact that people who are willing to take the time to complain about what The Tech has printed don't bother to take the time to read about the stuff they are actually talking about. Indeed, it seems nearly bizarre that I am writing a column expounding on what is spelled out plainly in the opinion policy box - I even objected to the idea of writing such a piece about a year ago at this time, but that was long before I was editor in chief or opinion editor. Judging by the number of comments I've received since I made that case against the proposal, such an explanation seems like a necessity.

The only thing in the opinion section that represents the official view of The Tech is an editorial, which is clearly denoted as an editorial by the "Editorial" tag it appears with and the two-column layout and 10-point font it is printed in. The editorial has no one's name attached to it. It is the official view of The Tech, agreed to by a majority of the editorial board (whose members are listed in the opinion policy box).

Anything else on the opinion pages has a name attached to it and, not surprisingly, represents the views of the person to whom that name belongs - not the opinion of The Tech. That goes for dissents, columns, letters, and cartoons. We may edit these pieces, although we don't censor the views that the authors express in them. But the fact that we publish them does not mean that we agree with them. The views expressed in those pieces aren't The Tech's.

As we enter a new term and The Tech enters a new volume, I hope to see a lot of enthusiasm on these opinion pages. Three editorial comics on page 4 about Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich don't constitute to me an exciting opinion department. (Those political comics, by the way, are not drawn by members of The Tech; we get them from a news service, and their selection most often represents an arbitrary manifestation of the political leanings of the opinion editor and editor in chief).

We plan to have the opinion pages filled with editorials and some of our frequent writers' columns, but the pages also function as a way for people who are not part of The Tech to write about something at MIT they have an opinion on or to give us some feedback about something in The Tech. I encourage anyone who has something to say to write us a letter or a column or even to submit a comic. I could tell you the deadlines and other details about submitting something and why, no, you can't write an editorial for us, but I think maybe I should just let you read about all that in the opinion policy box back on page 4.

Stacey E. Blau is a junior at MIT majoring in mathematics with computer science. She looks forward to getting sleep as well as chance to do her work this term.