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COLUMN

The Ombudsman

By John A. Hawkinson

Not having written for a while, I have some catching up to do. I’m sorry that some of these comments are dated.

On the whole, I think The Tech acquitted itself well in daily publication. It takes a lot of effort to print daily, and less time is available for each item published.

Issues 32 through 36

“Top Salaries at MIT” ran on Aug. 24. It sure looks to me like there’s a story there. Why does Technology Review’s publisher make more than $700,000? Enough data to whet the appetite, but no more?

“Can The Tech cover The Tech Effectively” was my headline on Aug. 25. Embarrassingly, after careful discussion in the text, I confused roman and italics. The headline should have read “Can The Tech cover The Tech Effectively?”. My screwup.

“Blaster Worm, Sobig Hit MIT Computers”: I felt this Aug. 26 article on the worm missed an important side of the story, namely the impact on the MIT infrastructure systems of network and e-mail. It covered well the issue of end-user systems that were compromised, but what about the delays and problems seen by other people because MIT’s infrastructure wasn’t up to the task?

“Will the Real Council Please Stand up?” was also published on Aug. 26. The Tech’s editorial board wrote on the class of 2004’s officer vacancies.

I continue to feel like something has gone wrong when news appears to break in an editorial, rather than in a news article. I don’t want to suggest that the editorial board should refuse to cover issues they think are important, simply because the news department doesn’t prioritize the same way...but the editorial board needs to do more research, and to not speculate. This responsibility is stronger when there is no prior news piece.

The thesis of their piece was that vacancies on the class council might result in problems for its career fair. This appears to be unlikely, according to both the news story published on Aug. 27 [“2004 Class Council Loses Two Officers”] and the letter (published the same day) from former Class of 2004 President Alvin M. Lin ’04 [“Career Fair in Good Shape”]; those resigning did not have a significant part to play in the career fair. Let’s see some research in editorials!

Labeling letters: On Aug. 28, because of a lack of space on page 4, a letter to the editor was printed on the opinion page (page 5), and labeled “Letter to the Editor.” So what? Well, actually, it’s common practice for long letters submitted to to The Tech to be published on the opinion page, but generally they are not marked as letters, and there’s no way for a reader to distinguish such a letter from a column. I want to strongly encourage the practice of labeling letters as such, when they are published in the opinion section. It costs nothing and is more honest.

“The Tech’s Guide to Student-Friendly Local Banks”: I was pleased by this coverage of banks. This was somewhat of a hot-button issue for me, back when I was just a reader; I complained about The Tech’s coverage of banks each year from 1999 through 2001. Finally, we have tabular presentation of information. The article seems objective. Good job!

Ombudsman Committee

In the “I must be doing something right, people complained!” department, on Aug. 23, apparently in response to concerns about my role in the organization, the executive board of The Tech created an informal committee to “explore the proper role(s) of The Tech’s Ombudsman,” and to report to the full managing board when we meet in late September. I’m not quaking in my boots or anything, but we’ll see what comes of this. So far, I’m not concerned about my freedom of expression being curtailed.

The Tech’s Ombudsman welcomes your feedback, to ombudsman@the-tech.mit.edu. His opinions are his own.