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Victims of Yellow Journalism

Andrew J. Kim

It's pretty obvious that the local and national media are out to lynch fraternities. It makes sense: bashing fraternities is the clearest path into the readers' and viewers' hearts right now. Of course, manipulation of the truth is nothing new to the media. Remember way back when old Hearst filled his newspaper pages with falsified stories to catch the attention of the public and sell more copies? I thought the media was past those dark days of blatant deception, but after reading a story in the Sept. 21 edition of the Boston Herald entitled "Crackdown hasn't quenched students' thirst to party," I realize that the media is still spinning the same old lies.

Let's review what happened the night of Saturday, Sept. 19 by first speculating what must have run though the mind of the Herald reporter: "Hmm, fraternity A on Beacon Street has a bunch of very nicely dressed people hanging out on its stoop. Guess that means that House A is having a wild, drunken fraternity party even though the people are obviously overdressed for such an event. Let's swing by House B right next door. Gee, they do have a party going on with audible swing' music coming from inside. I haven't bothered to check if there's any alcohol being served at this party, but I'll go ahead and assume it's a crazy fraternity party anyway since it's taking place at a frat house."

"Now I'll swing over to House C next door which is also having a party. I hear from my reliable source that there's alcohol at this party, but I won't bother to check if this party is an Interfraternity Council-registered bring-your-own-beer party hosted by an IFC alcohol-certified house. Ahh, no need to; just like House B, this must be another wild party. Oh wait, now I need a flashy picture to run in the paper with my carefully-researched article; let's see, I'll take a picture of House B and make up some catchy caption." This is the kind of false "journalism" that the Herald's reporter used for this story.

Now, let's go over what really happened that night. House A had a semi-formal dinner. The dinner and subsequent activities had concluded, so people were just hanging out on the stoop, most still dressed up from the formal. There was no party that night at House A, just a closed semi-formal dinner for the brothers and pledges, and their dates.

House B had a "swing" theme party that night that was advertised all over the MIT campus and was open to the MIT community and students from other colleges. This party served no alcohol.

House C had its annual "Message Party" the night in question. This party did serve alcohol, but it was a BYOB party that was properly registered with the IFC and sponsored by an IFC alcohol-certified house, which means that over half the members of the house have been properly trained under the IFC's Training for Intervention Procedures program amongst other requirements.

The photo that ran with the story shows the stoop of House A with the caption: "A crowd of college students gathers outside an MIT fraternity house Saturday night, waiting for the party inside to begin." The caption fails to notify the reading public that there was no party at House A. A smaller picture shows a crowd of people in front of House B. This caption reads, "College students party at an MIT fraternity house Saturday night. Many said alcoholic beverages were present." This is false considering House B had a completely dry party that night.

I guess the facts don't matter to the Herald as long as they can sell papers. The "article" in question is the most blatant example of sensationalistic "journalism" I've ever seen. The story seems more like fiction than anything else. When there's news, it's the responsibility of a "respected" member of the media to report the facts. This does not mean manufacturing some flashy story out of a non-incident.

The whole social scene at MIT fraternities has completely changed because of the tragedy that occurred a year ago. The night in question, Houses B and C held responsible, well-controlled parties so that students could have a good time on a Saturday night; House A had no party at all. If the Herald wasn't out to get fraternities, it should have run a story about how the social life at MIT has resurrected in a new, more responsible form.

Unfortunately, as long as the media are out to attack fraternities, this sort of truth will never be spread, and members of the media like the Boston Herald will continue to peddle papers with reckless tabloid-style "journalism" at the expense of fraternities.