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Departing Editor Reflects On Term Full of Surprises

Column by David D. Hsu
Editor in Chief

I came to The Tech as a freshman almost three years ago. I joined because I enjoyed writing but didn't know if I had the time to write papers for classes. I had never worked on a newspaper before - I skipped my high school newspaper and the only journalism class. But, I thought, how hard could it be?

I had no idea. A high school English teacher once told our graduating class that the life ahead of you is "not going to be like anything anyone has told you about." And after a semester as editor in chief, I think that statement still rings true.

As a staff reporter and news editor, I had watched former editors in chief work. I knew the job required vast amounts of time, but I never was fully prepared to spend four nights a week editing in the office. Problem sets were often left incomplete (hey, it's only 15 percent anyway), and sleep was a rarity, not to mention my attendance at 10 a.m. classes on Tuesdays and Fridays.

And more than I had ever anticipated, The Tech managed to find itself in the news. A column blasting fraternities inflamed some, and for a few issues, the opinion section dominated the pages of The Tech. At times, it seemed like everything in the paper was a target. Even our comics and the use of our Los Angeles Times-Washington Post wire service became a point of contention when some charged that The Tech was racially insensitive.

Throughout those ordeals, few were shy about telling me how to do my job. I was amazed at how so many people at MIT could be versed in journalistic ethics and standards.

To my surprise, even with the criticism, I truly enjoyed my term as editor in chief. No, it's not because I'm masochistic but because I am proud to be part of an organization that aims to serve the community.

No, The Tech is not, and has never claimed to be, a well-oiled journalistic machine. Rather, we endeavor to be a good student newspaper. I always looked to assign stories that would appeal to the MIT community in some way. Coverage of activities like the International Fair and Spring Weekend sought to bring attention to student events. At the same time, other stories like the closing of the Fishbowl Athena cluster and the drive for a communication requirement provoked students to think a bit about issues outside the dreary academic routine.

When I talk of The Tech as a student newspaper, I like to emphasize "student" more than "newspaper." As an editor, I learned Associated Press style, the difference between an editorial and a column, and the titles of all the deans, but as a student, I gained more.

The Tech was a chance to talk and deal with people outside my living group and outside my major. Through working on news stories, I learned about what students on the east side of campus or across the river were doing. Our readers often express disparate views, but everyone is still an MIT student. As a student newspaper, The Tech has an audience that is well-defined and easier for me, as a student, to relate to. In a regular newspaper, those relationships are harder to come by. For this reason, I always think of The Tech as a student newspaper.

"Student" also refers to the make-up of The Tech staff. I was lucky to work with a wide range of personalities to put out the paper. I can't say the friendships formed at The Tech are like the ones in my dormitory. They aren't better or worse, just different when we're trying to publish 70 issues a year. We'll argue about everything from stories and photos to non-newspaper topics like The Beatles and da Bulls, and then after a few hours, we'll go print another issue. People understand that, despite classes and work, the show must go on, and I'm often pleasantly surprised that it still does.

And so, this Commencement issue marks my last issue as editor in chief. I hand over the editing reins to Jennifer Lane '98. I wish her luck and the unexpected, as I look forward to spending more time sleeping and having fun during the school year.