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Crimson Selects Zeller to Be New Reader Representative

By Amber L. Ramage

This week Crimson readers will be getting a new advocate in the form of recently-selected ombudsperson Shawn C. Zeller '97.

As ombudsperson, Zeller will respond to readers' comments and complaints, filling a post first initiated in 1994 and held by Crimson executives since that time, Crimson President Todd F. Braunstein '97 said.

Zeller appeared enthusiastic about his new position.

"I'm very interested in the press as a powerful tool in shaping people's views," Zeller said, adding that he hopes to function as an objective liaison between the community and The Crimson.

"He's a friendly person who seems willing to listen to both sides of an issue," Editorial Chair Sarah J. Schaffer '97 said. "He seems thoughtful and he reads The Crimson carefully on a regular basis."

Having a non-staff member as the ombudsperson is an important step for the paper, Braunstein said.

"An outside person will be able to look at the Crimson's policies more objectively," Braunstein said. "And he will be able to write a more credible column than would a member of the editorial board."

Since the ombudsperson will no longer be a staff executive, the reader representative will not be responsible for editing or proofreading stories, Braunstein said.

"We feel that this is a more appropriate relationship for this person to have," Braunstein added. "It should mean a lot more when Shawn makes a statement than when a Crimson exec[utive] does."

As a part of his new duties, Zeller will investigate readers' complaints and comments about the paper, and then address these concerns in a biweekly column, Braunstein said. Zeller's column debuts this Wednesday but will appear regularly every other Friday on the editorial page.

Braunstein said Zeller's columns will likely deal with accuracy issues, circulation complaints and content issues.

"I would invite all readers to give [Zeller] a call, if they have any complaints about any aspect of the Crimson's coverage," he said.

Readers can reach Zeller by calling The Crimson at 576-6565.

According to Braunstein, several weeks ago, The Crimson carried notices in the paper and posted notes on news groups advertising the ombudsperson position, to which the paper received 10 responses.

The Kirkland House resident was chosen largely because of his extensive journalism experience, which includes an internship at the Boston Phoenix and employment as a freelance writer for the Harvard Gazette, Braunstein said.

Zeller said that despite his interest in journalism, he did not join The Crimson staff because of a heavy commitment to crew during his first two years at Harvard.

"I have a lot of respect for The Crimson as a forum for undergraduate voices," Zeller said. "It's not a perfect vehicle, certainly, but my job is to make sure that it continues and improves."

Zeller said he hopes to examine how the press covers certain stories and to act as a mediator for disputes that may arise between the press and the student body.

"The Crimson is first a community newspaper," Zeller said. "And, therefore, it's first obligation is to the community--the Harvard community."

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