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COLUMN

Writing The Truth

Frank Dabek

It will be its aim to promote the interests of the students of the Institute, and maintain a friendly spirit among them, breaking down the ancient barriers of class and department. It will exercise a guardian care over the members of the school, protecting the Freshman, curbing the Sophomore, correcting the Junior, and supporting the Senior in his old age. It will open an avenue for the expression of public opinion, and will aim, in every possible way, to help the development of their young manhood and womanhood.

The Tech, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Nov. 16, 1881)

Over a century after The Tech’s first board of editors penned these forward looking lines, I find myself looking back at the work I’ve done in shaping the future those editors tried to envision.

Would Arthur W. Walker 1882 and the scores of men and women who have served as editor in chief before me approve of The Tech as it stands in its 120th volume? Would they excuse the editorial foibles of a group of apprentice journalists to appreciate a paper that still strives to inform, to promote student interests, and to air campus opinion? Or would my predecessors side with those on this campus who see The Tech as pushy, intrusive, and sensationalist?

In the last four years The Tech’s pages have been filled with painful, unflattering stories about the MIT community: deaths, protest, alcohol incidents, and controversy. But these pages only serve to mirror the painful reality of their times: MIT has bounced from controversy to controversy since the death of Scott S. Krueger ’01 three years ago.

The Tech has shown MIT at its worst because we have a duty to inform the community of all news, even news it would rather not hear. This paper is published by students and for students but must be ruled by a journalistic ethic that values the truth over popular opinion. We must print the truth even when our readership (and even our staff) would rather let silence reign. When I met Helen Thomas, the dean of the White House press corps, she distilled this ethos into its most basic form: “write the truth,” she told me.

We have demonstrated this dedication in covering stories like the death of Richard Guy ’99 despite the backlash from East Campus residents whose less than friendly response to the media was “press vultures go home.” In the same spirit, however, The Tech followed the Cambridge City Council elections which this year included Erik C. Snowberg ’99. We also covered the IFC’s rally to raise funds for leukemia. No one, including Tech reporters, can be expected to be unbiased, but by covering the good with the bad they demonstrate that they are fair. The Tech represents something every campus needs: a voice that speaks to students and faculty alike but is independent of both.

The Tech has come a long way in 120 years, but the potential of this paper is as great as it was in 1881. When I return to campus as a cardinal-clad alumnus I hope to pick up a newspaper that takes the time to explore non-breaking news issues in depth, promotes MIT’s sports and arts programs to the extent they deserve, incites students to become involved in the city and world around them, and, above all, remains unafraid to write the truth.