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Reader Representative

By Tara H. Arden-smith

I've been intending to write this column for a while now. But things just haven't worked out.

It's a classic scenario here at 14 Plympton: There's never enough time, enough human resources, or enough space to print everything a Crimed might want to.

This applies to news articles, features, columns, editorials--even photos. There's only so much The Crimson can handle, so often things go uncovered or unsaid, not for lack of good intentions.

Things sometimes happen at The Crimson for no apparent reason--at least none that is readily apparent to a sometimes-confused reader.

Here's a personal example of what I mean:

Three weeks ago I wrote a column promising to report to readers every Friday on page 3.

The very next week, The Crimson printed extended coverage of the shootout in the Square, bumping one of the arts pages, which usually would run on Thursday, to Friday instead.

This meant that there was no room for the column on Friday. I, being a student before I am a Crimson staffer, was not available to prepare the column for Saturday.

There was no room on Monday's page 3.

So the column did not run, outwardly inexplicably, until the following Tuesday, four days after it had been promised.

At the bottom of that day's column I wrote a note to explain the delay. But in order the fit the column into the space allotted for it, that note had to be cut.

Other things in the column were also changed or deleted to make the column fit the space--without my involvement.

This isn't something I'm upset about, because it's just how The Crimson works.

To put out a paper every day it is necessary to change and cut and add and delete, and frankly it's not uncommon for writers to read their papers in the morning with as much curiosity as to the final outcome of a story as do their sources.

This sometimes means that writers may have inadvertently misled their sources about how a story will read.

[Sometimes, however, deception may, in fact, be intentional. And if this is the case, I hope you will direct your concerns to me or to another news executive.]

Every story that is printed in The Crimson goes through at least two layers of editing. One, which is usually the more severe, occurs with the reporter looking on.

But one, the proof edit, occurs late at night, at a time when reporters should have already headed home.

These edits are intended to screen only for technical or grammatical mistakes. But sometimes proofers find larger problems and sometimes the reporter cannot be reached to consult on changes.

This policy is troublesome in many ways, but The Crimson has Yet to create a better system of screening the next day's paper while still allowing itself to produce one each day.

Laying out pages can pose the same problems. A story can come to the editor or proofer in perfect printability and still be changed to fit the space available in the next day's paper

The Crimson tries to avoid this as much as possible, but when editors and proofers do cut, they try to cut what they consider to be least important.

Often there is disagreement on these choices. I don't think what we print and what we don't is generally reflective of an institutional bias, though this concern has been raised in the past.

Cutting one person's quote is not indicative of anyone's regard for that person's opinion. Considerations are based on whether it's possible to express the same idea in a more efficient way.

Similarly, covering or not covering certain events is as much reflective of the proportion of The Crimson's staff willing to write on a given day as it is indicative of The Crimson's opinion of the relative importance of certain events.

A student newspaper staffed with student reporters who all want and need to go to classes some days and sleep some nights can be an erratic and sometimes unpredictable production.

I would address these issues in greater depth, but it appears I've already run out of room

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