By John A. Hawkinson
The Tech doesn’t get enough feedback for my taste: too few news tips to news@tt, letters to letters@tt, and e-mail to me (o@tt). Even when The Tech e-mailed hundreds of people and printed an apology on page 4, there were a grand total of zero letters. Hello?
Stay tuned for some hacking commentary. Recent news and photo coverage in The Tech has touched on roof and tunnel hacking multiple times (most recently the Sep. 16 front page photo of students on the small dome), generating substantial communication to the Ombudsman, and I’m still assembling and researching a response. What should The Tech’s role be?
The Boston Globe and Stata
Last week, Tuesday’s Tech reprinted a Globe story from last Thursday, which reported that “a June press release from a Stata Center supplier put the cost at $430 million” (“The Boston Globe On MIT’s Stata Center”); on Friday, we ran “Stata Budget Actually $283.5M, Not Globe’s $430M” by Beckett W. Sterner. Looking back, the question I ask is, “Shouldn’t The Tech have known the $430M number was suspect, and perhaps not run the Globe story?” Sterner was assigned the story on Sunday.
By Monday’s deadline for Tuesday’s issue, there was no compelling reason to be skeptical of the $430M figure. Sure, maybe questions like, “If this has been known since June, why are we only finding out now?” could have been asked.
Keith Winstein, news editor for Tuesday’s issue, talked to Sterner about the Globe story and decided to run it because he felt people at MIT would want to read it. In hindsight, it would be nice to see a bit more skepticism applied, but hindsight is like that.
Knowing what they knew on Monday, I think the decision to run the Globe story was fine; the story contained other interesting information beyond the erroneous dollar figure, and it also set the stage nicely for Friday’s story.
In response to my probing, Winstein finally moved his details on the RIAA lawsuit (copies of subpoenas, court motions by MIT and the RIAA, court orders, etc.) from his own Web site to The Tech’s site, at http://www-tech.mit .edu/Bulletins/RIAA/. Unfortunately, this still hasn’t been published in The Tech, despite repeated expressions of intent to do so. Apparently this issue will carry a note.
Recently I’ve been critical of The Tech’s editorial board. It looks to me like they are starting to do a much better job of organizing themselves, and giving themselves the time to do adequate research on topics they write about. I hope this bodes well.
Also, I’ve been thinking that the editorial board could use topic suggestions from readers. There’s not a great mechanism for that; I suggest e-mailing letters@tt (which reaches the opinion editors, who run the editorial board, and also reaches me) indicating your message is an editorial suggestion, not a letter for publication. You may also ask me (o@tt) to pass on suggestions anonymously.
Star Market not closing
Recently, The Tech heard a rumor that Star Market might be closing; news staff researched this and found it without merit, so no story ran. It might be nice if there was some mechanism for The Tech to be able to tell readers that there is no story, at least, when debunking rumors. I don’t know how to balance this low-priority work against stories of greater significance. Perhaps the news staff should tell people who submit tips that don’t pan out?
The Tech‘s Ombudsman welcomes your feedback, to firstname.lastname@example.org. His opinions are his own.