New Crimson, New Concerns

Thumbs Up for Color, Content; Questions About Letters Policy

I woke up Monday morning to find that The Crimson had been transformed--I was looking at the wonderful world of the "Technicolor Dream Crimson." There was not just one color picture, but eight different ones, and scattered across the page were bright shades of red, yellow and green. In the bottom left corner, there was a message from The Crimson hoping that the color would brighten the day. It certainly did.

Unfortunately, if you missed Monday's happy rainbow of pictures, it's not expected to happen again anytime soon. The reason for the brilliant hues on the front page was actually the full-page color ad on the back from a recruiting firm. Since The Crimson's own presses don't support color printing, Monday's paper had to be printed at an outside location. Despite these technical difficulties, visions of color sometime in the future are in the minds of at least some Crimson staffers. If and when this happens, some future Reader Representative will have to analyze whether The Crimson will become too much like USA Today. For now, however, the paper is safely monochromatic.

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In the past few weeks, I and several other readers have noticed a change for the better in The Crimson's coverage. The Crimson has become more professional and more relevant to student life. The new design has made The Crimson look more like a national newspaper, and the reporting has even exceeded the standards set by the new layout. Crimson President Joshua J. Schanker '98 cites the paper's effort to reach out to student leaders and organizations as well as the efforts of staff and compers as the ingredients of this change. I urge all involved with The Crimson to keep up the good work.

I think that one of the key pieces of evidence for The Crimson's increased relevance on campus is that Crimson staff have noted an increase in letters to the editors. I think it is a good sign that readers of their new, free Crimson have been so engaged that they have written letters to express their opinions.


Last week, the writers of one such letter to the editors took issue with The Crimson's editing of their prose. Everyday on the Opinion Page, The Crimson publishes its policy on letters to the editors. "The Crimson editorial board reserves the right to edit letters for content and length," it states. However, it is the process, not the policy, of editing these letters which drew criticism.

On Oct. 2, David Lehn '99 and Adam Kovacevich '99 wrote a letter to the editors criticizing an article analyzing the schedule of Undergraduate Council President Lamelle D. Rawlins '99. Lehn and Kovacevich felt that the meaning of their letter had been changed in the editing process.

After speaking with Crimson editors who were responsible for the letter's publication, I determined that the letter had indeed been edited for content. However, the same editors assured me that this is a rare occurrence: though The Crimson often cuts the length of letters, editors try to change the wording of a letter as little as possible. In the above instance, phrases which were deemed by Crimson editors to be personal attacks and unjustified allegations against one particular individual were omitted from publication.

With The Crimson now receiving a greater number of letters to the editors than in past years, I caution those responsible for editing and publishing the letters to take extra care in ensuring both that the author's meaning is preserved and that bias does not creep into choices about what language to cut or retain. Choices about which letters to publish should ensure that the diversity of reader opinion on the Harvard campus is properly represented. The Crimson should continue to retain as much of a letter's own language as possible and exercise caution in those instances in which a letter must be edited for length. Editing for content should be extremely rare and should always be well-justified by the editors making such a decision.

It is encouraging to me that so many people have feedback on The Crimson's coverage. I urge all of you to continue reading The Crimson with a critical eye and to let me know what you see.

Noelle Eckley, who is not a Crimson editor, is The Crimson's Reader Representative. She can be reached via e-mail at