How could anyone possibly make $5000 at the same time he goes to Harvard? Working 70 hours each week on the dorm crews is one way to do it, but each year at the Business School, groups of students caucus and fight for the HarBus News proprietorship instead. And most people who read the HarBus, even its own editors, think that this Business School weekly newspaper and the trash collected by the College dorm crews have a lot in common.
The present five proprietors complete their year of work in another month. Most of them are so fed up with the way the HarBus and its franchised publications are run, that they were willing to talk frankly about the defects of the paper itself and revealed the year-long dissension in their own ranks.
The publisher and general manager of the HarBus, Wil Stevens, did so little work on the paper that the other four proprietors agreed to fire him. When the paper's editor, Jeff Chokel, approached Stevens right before Christmas and asked him to resign, Stevens refused, pleaded that he would devote more time to the HarBus, and offered Chokel $500 of his profits, with the understanding that Chokel instead of Stevens would lay out and write headlines for the paper's final 12 issues.
Stevens is black, and Chokel, apparently realizing the political infeasibility of four whites firing the one black editor, accepted Stevens's money, kept $260 for himself, and for internal political reasons gave $80 to each of the three other proprietors: Sean Withro, the publications editor who puts out Careers in the MBA (the magazine which brings in about $13,000 of the overall $25,000 HarBus profit); Dick Loftin, the business manager; and Winston Duke, the advertising manager known at the College for his controversial views on women which were published in the Independent.
THE problem of personal antagonism is most acute between Wil Stevens and publications editor Sam Withro. Two weeks ago they almost began a physical fight with each other in the Kresge dining hall. When interviewed last week, Withro said Stevens was "an operator from the start. I personally really admired him for his operational ability to get people to do things but really resented it when he started operating on me and giving me all the goddamned work."
Stevens, the publisher and general manager, is supposed to be in charge of communications and internal organization, besides layout and headlines. Around the time Stevens was almost fired, he changed his phone number to an unlisted one and later refused to give the number to Withro. Today, three of the five proprietors do not have Stevens's phone number and although he lives on campus, Stevens is a very hard man to contact.
Stevens has to work least closely with the business and advertising managers but even they expressed their resentment at him. Dick Loftin, who gets a smaller profit share than any of the other four, is the business manager, a fancy term for bookkeeper. Referring to Stevens, Loftin said, "I don't know if he does any work at all, to tell you the truth." Winston Duke, the advertising manager, complained about Stevens and posed the rhetorical question, "Is it legitimate to give a fourth of the profits to a man who's just a fancy talker?"
THE HarBus has a long history of creating personal antagonisms. A year ago the editor and the publisher of the paper were roommates and after working together were no longer on speaking terms. Jim Baughman, the faculty member chairing the Publications Board which ultimately controls the HarBus, said. "In my experience with the HarBus it seems to breed interpersonal conflict."
For the past two proprietorships the newspaper has ended up a one-man operation. The angry editor and his roommate graduated last January because they had gone through a special summer session. The burden of putting out the HarBus finally fell on the number-three man, the publications editor Fred Wood. Wood, who had just finished preparing Careers in the MBA, landed with the job of editor-in-chief. (Before you feel too sorry for him, take a moment to calculate his profit share.)
So anyone who cared enough last year to find out anything about the HarBus and there were a few dozen people who did, realized that the HurBus should have been renamed Fred Wood because he and the HarBus were synonymous. This year, Jeff Chokel is in a similar position. Chokel said that as far as he is concerned, Stevens might as well have graduated because Chokel has had to assume the complete burden of finding copy and deciding how to arrange it in the HarBus.
Professor Baughman, the Publications Board chairman, complimented the last two proprietors, saying that Fred Wood and Jeff Chokel "have done more to get the news behind the news releases than any group before," with the exception of one editor who ran a series of illuminating letters between himself and the publisher of Look , when Look wrote an uncomplimentary article on the Business School a few years ago. In the past, Baughman said, the HurBus simply ran news releases verbatim. Unfortunately, today there is still much too much reporting straight from the administration viewpoint, using the administration's words and phrasing.
"In terms of investigative reporting, the HurBus is miserable and always has been," Baughman said. "Maybe somebody with more of a nose for news, with more of an instinct for the jugular vein, might make it a more elaborate paper." Baughman, who is wrapping up his two-year term as Publications Board chairman next month, was in a particularly good position to evaluate the newspaper and to give his comments on the record.
Chokel bemoans the fact that he has to spend almost all his time putting the paper together for the next week instead of getting out in the field and digging up big stories. "My most important contribution to this newspaper will be when I resign as an editor and become a reporter."
Nevertheless, it seems that Chokel is ambivalent about how much aggressive reporting he actually wants to do. Every Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. Chokel meets for briefings with the assistant dean for the MBA program, John Seiler. At these meetings there is a trade-off: Chokel gets a certain amount of petty power from Seiler in return for not shaking up the Business School in the HarBus.
Chokel said that at these meetings he often mentions a minor complaint students have, and Seiler guarantees to remedy the gripe immediately. For instance, when MBA candidates were not allowed to watch color TV in a lounge reserved for other candidates in a special program, Chokel hinted that the story might make an interesting article in the HurBus; within a week, MBA candidates were watching all the color TV they wanted.