[We invite all men in the University to submit communications on subjects of timely interest.]
Criticism, if well-intentioned, although in fact it be mistaken, has always a value; but the shrewdest and most acute criticism if done in the spirit of muckraking is merely slander.
What is so intensely objectionable in the series of articles which appeared in the recent Monthly's "Case Against the CRIMSON" is not the isolated criticisms, many of which are sound, but the generally vindictive and vituperative attitude of the paper toward its sister sheet, the CRIMSON. If it is true that the CRIMSON prints less reading matter than the "Yale News," it is probable, though not yet evident, that reform here is needed. If it is true that the editors stifle criticisms, in the form of communications, here surely they are at fault. Yet in my four years' connection with the paper such was never its policy. And in fact it is absurd to suppose that the paper should do other than encourage communications, for which it is never itself responsible. Again, if it is true that the CRIMSON does not lend enough space to reports of lectures, to dramatic criticism and to other subjects of purely intellectual interest, the mistake is easily remedied. In defence of this last attack, however, it must be remembered that the CRIMSON very justifiably devotes most space to those topics which are of the greatest undergraduate interest. And if the undergraduates are more generally interested in athletic news than Noble lectures, it is rather the latter's tastes than the CRIMSON's allotment of space which needs correction. In other words, the mere fact that a subject is of especial intrinsic interest is not always enough to advertise it as much as a subject intrinsic interest is not always enough to advertise it as much as a subject infinitely more trivial, but one in which every undergraduate is primarily and directly interested. Lastly, if it is suggested that the CRIMSON editorials show little originality, that they are merely a barren condemnation of obvious defects; or an inspirited eulogy of patent perfections, why then I think all will agree that there is much room for improvement. But let it be remembered that CRIMSON editorials are daily and not monthly efforts. Let the Monthly editor who thinks he could do better work, take up his pen night after night for four successive months; and if he can turn out better average editorial work than the CRIMSON board then let him throw his stone,--and perhaps it will have more accuracy, if less weight than his last wordy assault.
But I purposely avoid a defence of the CRIMSON'S policies and methods. What is objectionable in the Monthly's attack is its wholesale and biased attitude of muckrake. For instance, we are told editorially that the "English of its stories ... is lax, incorrect, even worse than that of the average daily paper." Although the work is entirely done by untrained undergraduates it is fair to say that its print is clearer, its grammar purer, and its typographical mistakes fewer, than that of almost any daily paper in the country. Indeed through the whole series of Monthly articles we can- not at times help feeling that the writers mistake the object of the CRIMSON. It has not perhaps the Lampoon's originality, the critical ability of the Review of Reviews, the sensations of the American, or the bulk of the Congressional Digest. Its chief mission after all is to give daily news and along these lines alone is it fairly to be criticised.
We are told by H. T. Parker '90 that "the CRIMSON fails signally to fulfill its purpose and seems stodgily content with its failure." If this be so it might pertinently be asked why competition has never relieved it of its task. There are at present three literary magazines in the University. There is but one daily paper, with a far greater list of undergraduate subscribers than that of all the other publications combined.
We are told by the same author that the CRIMSON is often "scooped" by the Boston papers. The writer perhaps forgets that most CRIMSON news being official cannot be published until authenticated by the management of the various College athletic teams and other undergraduate departments. Mark Twain's death was scooped some decades before it occurred in various newspapers of the country. But it is questionable if such a policy would be appreciated if undertaken by the CRIMSON.
When H. T. Parker '90 finally attacks the paper for its use of "a preposterously large type," for ample paragraphing, and for "daily wasting inch after inch of space," we suppose he is under a delusion that blank spacing is one of the items of expense in editing a daily paper!
Lastly, as to the contribution by E. W. Westcott on communications. By a rather gross and apparent misstatement of fact he leads us to suppose that the CRIMSON wantonly holds back expressions of adverse criticism in order to serve its own ends. E. W. Westcott states it as a fact that the reason why the "editor-in-charge" refused to print a certain communication by H. J. Seligmann was because, on the editor's admission, "the CRIMSON wanted 'to get back at the writer in the Transcript and did not care for discussion of the general principle.'" That the president of the CRIMSON should make such an admission even though impelled by such a reason seems an absurdity. I was therefore not surprised to hear, on asking the president, that he had never made such a statement; and that he was not impelled by such a motive. His reason for refusing to accept Seligmann's communication was because, in his opinion, it was a refutation of a point not raised in another communication by G. E. J., and therefore hardly pertinent to the controversy. Moreover, E. W. Wescott and the editors of the Monthly, who are of course directly responsible for this inexcusably careless misstatement of facts never even took the trouble to interview the president about this grossly misreported conversation. This obviously slanderous criticism is unfortunately too characteristic of the Monthly's whole method of attack to require further notice.
But apart from this incident,--it has always been the policy of the CRIMSON to print those communications which represent the point of view of a large number of undergraduates. It neither necessarily endorses or condemns these expressions of opinion; so that it can neither gain or lose by their attitude. It is obvious to every thinking person that the editors may use their discretion in refusing communications. Its columns might otherwise be flooded with articles which might not have even the excuse of being readable "muckrake."
It will perhaps seem that this attempt to criticise the attitude of the Monthly in its jumbled and undigested potpourri of fact and fantasies has actually drifted into a narrow defence of CRIMSON standards. Such is not my object. The CRIMSON may fairly be criticised more than almost any undergraduate organization because its possibilities of good and evil are great. Let it not be forgotten, however, that it takes longer hours and more persistent hard work to get elected to its board than to win almost any other distinction in the College. Let it not be forgotten that although its standards may not be as high as they should, yet the standard is faithfully maintained on a not amateurish basis. The CRIMSON indeed gladly welcomes friendly criticism from editors and outsiders alike. But from a wholesale avalanche of reasonable and chimerical abuse it can perhaps defend itself best in the words of the dramatist:
"The praise and dispraise are to me alike;
One doth not stroke me or the other strike." GEORGE BIDDLE '08