To the Editors of The Crimson:
On Friday night, September 26th, the Institute of Politics once again assembled an impressive panel of luminaries--this time to discuss the "Press, Power, and Policymaking." Although it was the first weekend since classes resumed, the event drew a large crowd. But to really understand what went on, one needed to have attended; the Crimson coverage (September 27) neglected the most significant issues surrounding the event.
Though the event was part of last weekend's celebration to open the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center on Press, Politics, and Public Policy, the panel discussion was also an intellectual event. The panelists raised several important questions, most of which Nordhaus ignored. For instance, the article focused on the $10 million fundraising campaign, Dean Graham Allison's pleasure that "Nowhere exists a center dedicated to expolring these powerful interactions [between government and the press]" and the new center's latest recruit. The article ignored most of the sharp and informative dialogue between Martin Linsky (author, journalist and politician) Al Hunt (Washington Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal) and Richard E. Neustadt (Littauer Professor of Public Administration). A high price for Harvard egocentrism!
Hunt responded with crispness and clarity to both Linsky and Neustadt's call for a new era of press management by policymakers. Linsky and Neustadt, in defending the concept of improved press management, offered curious suggestions to policymakers: 1) "frame the issues" for the journalist, 2) use the press merely to communicate with other departments (i.e. inter-office memoranda), and 3) consider the press a strategic instrument to implement policies. The spirit of these suggestions struck chords of discontent with Hunt. In fact, they clashed with several values which Hunt later defended: the autonomy of the press, the adversarial (not cooperative) relationship between journalists and policymakers, and the "willingness to print the news," in most cases, without regard for an article's impact on society.
Though I am not doing justice to any of the panelists' positions, and though I too congratulate the JFK School of Government on their effort "to foster improved understanding of the media's influence in the political process," I did not write this letter with either goal in mind. I did, however, want to remind The Crimson that as a student newspaper, unlike an administrative news bulletin, they must not only update students on University changes. They must also help in the examination of ideas and the promotion of analytic thought. Perhaps two articles would have been more appropriate; one to cover the opening of the Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy and one to report on the excellent debate by three experts on the media and government. The Crimson, once again, reinforced on dubious Harvard tradition--preoccupation with glitz and glitter rather than substance. Scott Easton '88