The much-publicized, controversial remarks by Professor Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. '53 have once again focused campus discussion on the issues of sensitivity and free speech. This newspaper has covered this issue nonstop on page one, and this week. The Crimson defended Mansfield's right to free speech in a staff editorial.
I intend to clarify here what may be obvious to most: that this newspaper's front page is a distinct entity from its editorial page, and, just as significantly, the staff of The Crimson has a diversity of opinions that is not always represented in staff editorials.
The issue is a critical one, particularly this week, as The Crimson has staked out an editorial position on Mansfield's comments that may disturb some of our readers.
Last spring, campus tensions flared when the head of the Harvard Foundation for Race Relations, Dr. S. Allen Counter, and this newspaper traded charges of insensitivity on our pages.
On page two of The Crimson of April 14, Counter and Natosha O. Reid '93, co-chair of the Foundation's Student Advisory Committee, criticized a four-part Crimson series on diversity for unfair coverage of the Foundation, and it went on to say a "Crimson group" of writers "active in Hillel" had written articles on Black-Jewish relations at Harvard and had a "racial agenda" in its coverage.
In the next day's issue, a staff editorial appeared on page two calling Counter insensitive to Jews and demanding an apology.
For weeks after that, we put the campus reaction to the Counter-Crimson exchange, and discussion of The Crimson's lack of minority representation on its staff, all over page one and page two.
But too many people have confused--and continue to confuse--the difference between the front page and the editorial page in remarking upon our news coverage of the Harvard community. Some, all too aware of the distinction, persist in condemning The Crimson as an institution for what they see to be the newspaper's stance on Harvard issues.
For example, when minority groups point up bias or insensitivity in The Crimson, they often find fault with articles on page one. But just as often, and perhaps more vehemently so, they take issue with staff editorials, and signed editorials, on page two.
I am always concerned about accusations of bias or insensitivity on page one, and we work hard to provide fair, objective coverage of the community.
We take a number of measures to best insure objectivity in our coverage. For example, we have a strict conflict-of-interest policy preventing reporters from writing signed editorials about issues and events they cover. Reporters also cannot write news articles about organizations in which they are involved, and editors are barred from editing stories where they may have such a conflict.
But while we make these distinctions on our news pages, all editors are invited to speak and vote on all issues during our weekly staff editorial meetings. We do strongly encourage reporters and editors alike to attend editorial meetings and voice their opinions; we are even more emphatic, however, that they put aside their views when it comes to writing and editing news stories.
At the same time, we realize we are not perfect, and we make mistakes. With this in mind, I welcome and indeed urge the community to take our news articles to task for incidences of unfairness or insensivity, no matter how subtle the case may be.
In shaping staff editorial policy, this newspaper has a mandate to assume intelligent, well-reasoned, opinionated positions on myriad issues. Anyone on the staff of The Crimson may attend editorial meetings and can pass staff editorials by a simple majority vote (unlike signed editorials, which are solely the opinion of the author).
Often, readers do register strong disagreement with a staff editorial. But some readers take that disagreement a step further, arguing that a paper with such a right wing/left wing/libertarian/socialist/just plain stupid staff editorial, is likely unfair in its coverage of news events related to that editorial--or, worse yet, that an attitude consistent with the editorial pervades the newsroom.
This newspaper demands objective coverage of events and issues from its reporters, and though as reporters and editors we may miss the mark from time to time, we are scrupulous in making sure our personal views--which, significantly, may very well differ with the staff view--stay off of page one. This newspaper also demands that its newsroom, like its editorial meeting room, be an open forum for discussion of ideas and opinions, and that its reporters and editors be respectful of and sensitive to the views of colleagues.
So when the community sees our staff editorial this week defending Mansfield from "intimidation" by students, and arguing that it is too much to demand an apology from him, I hope readers bear in mind the following: Although staff editorials do represent The Crimson as its institutional voice in the campus community, reporters and editors have a diverse range of views and understand their obligation to put those views aside and be objective when it comes to page one.