DOOR DROPPED: Townie Times

Anonymously subsidized paper creeps onto campus

Local elections came and went earlier this week, and chances are most Harvard students didn’t notice, let alone vote. We just don’t seem to want to engage with the Cambridge community, and one alum, identity unknown, has decided to fight the problem using Doordropped’s favorite weapon: the press. Namely, the covert paperboy (or girl!) has been buying up hundreds of copies of Cambridge Chronicle, a weekly community newspaper, and delivering them to all Harvard dorms.

The first time the paper appeared in our quarters, the stacks were accompanied by a short note promising students free copies until the end of the school year.

“Funding has been provided by a gift from an anonymous alumna,” the note read, “donated in memory of Harvard University Security Guard Stephen McCombe, for the purpose of deepening students’ awareness of their local communities.”

McCombe, a celebrated union leader, died earlier this year. The fact that the newspaper is being delivered in his name suggests that the donor is probably someone affiliated with campus labor activism, but sadly, Doordropped could not confirm his or her identity.

Deborah Eisner, the Chronicle’s managing editor, couldn’t be happier with the boost in distribution. Her circulation increases as a result, and at least in theory, people who have traditionally ignored the paper are starting to read it. It’s unclear whether that has actually happened—stacks of unread Chronicles abound—but that might change as students get used to seeing it.

While it’s hard to imagine many Harvard students will want to read about community issues like parking, senior services, and education, Eisner says she thinks the paper does offer a lot of relevant content. She points to its coverage of municipal politics, town-gown relations, and community arts—areas that campus publications like The Crimson and the Independent don’t always have the resources to cover.

In the meantime, the person behind the effort will remain invisible, watching from the sidelines as the experiment unfolds.