EASTERN Airlines has made a name for itself for its oppressive management and union-busting. In recent weeks, as the machinists' union strikes and pilots and flight attendants honor the picket, the company has run full-page and smaller ads in The Crimson urging students to take cut-rate shuttle flights. In essence, the ads tout strike-breaking.
Many readers of The Crimson, and most of the paper's editorial staff, oppose the company. We oppose buying cheap tickets at the expense of striking workers and crossing the picket lines to fly. In effect, we oppose everything the ad is trying to sell.
Nonetheless, after a heated three-hour debate, a two-thirds majority of the Crimson editorial board decided not to pull the Eastern ad.
The advertising policy of The Crimson is not its editorial policy. If it were, we would have been supporting the CIA, companies that do business in South Africa, union-busting management, firms notorious for insider trading scandals, armed forces recruitment and products used for "bondage". These groups have all advertised on our pages in recent years.
The Crimson, like all other newspapers, is faced with the dilemma of running ads from the very firms it attacks in its staff editorials. If The Crimson wanted to entirely disengage itself from the problems in our society, we would quit running ads.
But as it stands, any attempt to pull an ad in the name of our editorial stance is merely blinding ourselves to reality. This paper and any other depends on its advertising revenue to stay in print. More often than not our ads come from firms that contravene our sense of morality.
SO why not pull one ad--at least wash our hands of I percent of the problem we face? Because the selective barring of ads merely highlights our hypocrisy. At the same time Eastern Airlines is being struck, workers are picketing Shawmut Bank--a frequent Crimson advertiser--for its ties to a union-busting firm now hurting thousands of striking Appalachian coal miners. Are these workers any less oppressed than Eastern strikers and any less worthy of our political notice?
Are the workers in union-busting firms financed by the investment banks, which constantly advertise on our pages, any less oppressed? If we view our advertising policy as an extension of our editorial policy, we'd have to pull the lion's share of our ads. It would be utterly hypocritical to take action on some issues, and ignore others. We can't pretend to institutional morality by pulling one ad.
A newspaper's running an ad does not imply an endorsement. In its news pages, this paper does not endorse the remarks made by speakers or the statements issued by University officials we report on. The only endorsements made by this paper appear in staff editorials on this page.
The Crimson's business department is run separately from its newsgathering operation for a reason. Reporters are free to investigate stories, even if that scares off a substantial ad account. And conversely, advertisements are often run even though they contradict our editorial stance; for example, despite more than a decade of editorials in favor of Harvard's support staff union organizing, we have continued to publish the administration's ads in opposition to this drive.
THE Crimson staff is able to debate whether you see this ad in the paper simply because we own a press. Speech is not free--only some have access to a press. That is why this paper's responsibility to its readers must transcend the editors' sentiments on this issue.
Newspapers should not be in the business of restricting information. Readers need to be the ones to decide whether or not fly to Eastern; it would be patronizing for us, the editors, to attempt to shield you from the message this company chooses to disseminate.
Advertising speech is not "free"--ads cost money and not every group can afford them. In that respect, all newspapers are complicitous by allowing their space to be filled by those who can afford it.
Actually, the only reason we have the luxury of even debating pulling a few thousand dollar ad account is because we can afford to keep running the presses without it. The Crimson is financially secure because of its ad base and graduate donors--comprised of the very groups that boast the very union-busting and investment practices we editorialize against. Pulling the ad is tantamount to giving with one hand, while taking with the other.
In the end, we are giving you all the information--editorials, ads and news articles. As an editorial staff, we would advise you not to fly Eastern. As a newspaper, we'll run the company's ads--and leave it up to you to decide.