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READER REPRESENTATIVE

By Noelle Eckley

Imagine this: you wake up in the morning and grab The Crimson from behind your door. The article that you were interviewed for yesterday is on the front page. Halfway through the article, you read your quotes, and in a rage, hurl The Crimson out the window: You've been misquoted!

Unfortunately, this is an all-too common occurrence. In a significant error last Thursday, April 10, for example, The Crimson incorrectly quoted Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 regarding the likelihood of a vote on Core reform. Though Lewis had said he did not think a vote could be taken on the Core at the next meeting, The Crimson inaccurately reported that Lewis did not think a vote was possible before the end of the year. This error was corrected in Friday's newspaper.

Though few people know about it, The Crimson's policy on inaccurate quotation is very clear. Suppose The Crimson writes an article about your concentration and quotes you as saying particularly critical--and somewhat nasty--about Professor X, who just so happens to be your thesis adviser.

What do you do? You send a letter to The Crimson, or to the Reader Representative. Your complaint is immediately reported to a senior editor, and the matter is investigated. When they figure out that they indeed misquoted you, the next day's paper will have a little box which reads something like, "The Crimson inaccurately quoted John Harvard '97 in yesterday's paper. The quote should have read, 'Professor X is a great lecturer and a wonderful and kind human being.'" This, however, is a small consolation since the entire department most likely read the article, and maybe only one or two people saw the correction.

The Crimson must prevent these incidents from happening in the first place. According to Managing Editor Valerie J. MacMillan '98, The Crimson works hard to impress upon new reporters the importance of taking quotations very seriously. At the first meeting for those comping The Crimson, writers are told the importance of being exact when they use quotation marks. But because many Crimson reporters are young and new to news writing, mistakes are sometimes inevitable.

According to MacMillan, though most complaints about being misquoted are often reasonable, others come from people who regret their words. For this reason, The Crimson investigates all claims of misquotation. Though Crimson reporters do not tape record interviews, except for those with senior administration officials, the reporter's notes will often reveal the error.

But suppose John Harvard had acted earlier--suppose, after being interviewed, he thought that the reporter may have misunderstood what he had said, or that he had been speaking too quickly. He could have called the reporter and asked him to read or e-mail his quotations back to him. Though The Crimson will not send someone the full text of a story to comment on before publication, a reporter will check a person's quotations if asked. "They should be 100 percent happy to do that," said MacMillan.

It is a difficult issue, to be sure. But if you think you've been misquoted, or think you might be misquoted, contact The Crimson. They'll try to help.

The Reader Representative, who is not a Crimson editor, may be reached by e-mail (eckley@fas.harvard.edu) or by leaving a telephone message at The Crimson (617 495-9666).

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