To the editors:
The Crimson is my morning newspaper, and I benefit daily from its fine reporting of news stories that concern the Harvard community. When I read the headline “Ex-Graduate Student Alleges Misconduct” and realized that the story concerned my department, one faculty member in particular, and a graduate student who has not been at Harvard since 2007, I was astonished. The story concerned the contents of an e-mail sent by the former graduate student to a large number of undergraduates. The numerous allegations in the e-mail and on the accompanying blog have no basis in fact.
What, then, was the story? Anyone with the slightest amount of technical sophistication can send e-mails to hundreds of undergraduates alleging misbehavior of members of our community. The Crimson staff has revealed that it will be that person’s soapbox and amplifier.
It is generally good journalism to consider a story publishable only if it has a reliable source and corroborative evidence. If the story makes allegations that could be harmful to individuals it must pass higher standards. This story met none of the commonly accepted criteria for a publishable news item. The e-mail and the student’s blog contain wild accusations, removed from reality. The source was not reliable, there was no corroborative evidence, and the allegations were harmful to an individual and to members of an academic department.
The Crimson writes for our Harvard community and should take care that its stories do not harm the community unless they pass the high standards of good journalism. This one did not. The Crimson should publicly apologize for its lapse of good judgment.
Claudia Goldin is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics in the Economics Department.