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Sunday, September 25, 2005

end the monopoly.

Welcome to Cambridge Common. In the ads that Chip and I (as well as others hopefully) have sent out, we call for an end to the monopoly on student opinion held by the Crimson. Let me explain.

The Crimson controls student opinion. If the news board doesn't cover something, it's as if it didn't happen (did you know there were over a hundred people in the yard last weekend for a rally for worker's rights?). When the Ed Board makes a decision, about Larry Summers, about the undergraduate council, about whether or not Senior Gift Plus was a worthy pursuit, it defines the campus debate. Why? Because there is no alternative media. The Independent, which is supposed to be our weekly dose of other perspectives, is notoriously under read. The Salient is, well, the conservative paper and so far as I can tell, the Perspective no longer exists. So, when the Crimson makes a decision- on whether or not to run a story or whether or not to endorse a cause- they're the only game in town.(more in expanded post)

Now, to be clear, Cambridge Common has no delusion that it will ever be able to hold the audience that the Crimson has. It's not only impossible, but it is in some ways a bad idea. Having a major newspaper with formal systems of comps and interviews and money and all that jazz is good. What's bad is when half a dozen people decide what the rest of us know and think. What Cambridge Common hopes to do is bug the crap out of them and encourages other people to do the same. A few hundred people read this site last spring before it had any major ambitions. If five hundred read it now, things will start to change: people will start blogs of their own, people will read the Crimson differently, the Crimson will occasionally have to suffer the embarrassment of being incredibly wrong, dishonest and/or stupid. That's why media monopolies are bad: because when the Crimson is wrong, no one is saying so.

And the Crimson is occasionally wrong, biased, dishonest and stupid. They have the dual problems of being disconnected from the politics they're trying to write about (because they rarely have time to do really intense reporting and fact-checking) as well as personally invested in the politics enough to have incredible biases and blind spots (as a result of friends, etc.). Add the fact that there is no building on campus that generates and regenerates the kind of mindless gossip that the Crimson does, and you've got yourself a problem.

For instance, did you know that more than anything, the Crimson Ed Board didn't endorse Senior Gift Plus because it didn't like Matt Mahan? Did you know that it did endorse Ian Nichols in large part because his roommate and best friend was a co-chair who held considerable sway and admitted as much explicitly? Did you know that coverage is increasingly driven by whatever the reporters find interesting because people are so busy and it's hard to motivate them to do real work? Did you know that the Crimson often misses large community events on campus (like ABHW's Celebration of Black Men last year) partially because there aren't that many black people in the building to begin with, so they didn't know it was even happening? Did you know that many staff editorials are essentially written by committee, and that often the last editor who gets their hands on it is able to bias the story in their direction, regardless of how the staff voted? Did you know that often the voting is incredibly contentious divided, but we usually only get one opinion (occassionally they run a dissent). Did you know that often times the Crimson is a major part of the story, i.e. manufacturing news/drama/controversy, but doesn’t write about themselves because they don’t have to. The list goes on, and we hope to document much of it here.

The Crimson is a fundamentally good newspaper. Some of the people I love the most in the world spend a majority of their time there and do great work. The staff of the Crimson works hard, they produce a lot of material in a short period of time, they mostly take their jobs very seriously and hold themselves to a high standard. But not always, and our community deserves to know when that is, why that is, who that is. We deserve more than one opinion and one concept of "news." So, read Cambridge Common. Start your own blog and link up. Comment here on what you think. We don't claim to be the solution, but you've got to start somewhere.

11 Comments:

At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! Someone had to say it.

 
At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Salient is a rag? If you disagree about something The Salient says then you can counter it with your own opinions and we might agree with you. But when you just open with an epithet like that, it really lowers the quality of debate.

 
At 8:45 PM, Blogger andrew golis said...

you're right. I'll change that, it's dogmatic and unfair.

 
At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"you're right. I'll change that, it's dogmatic and unfair."

Excellent :).

 
At 9:06 PM, Blogger kyledeb said...

This effort would be noble if it did not come about after the rejection of your column, friend. I don't see you writing this post with your piece coming up in the crimson, this or the next week. Just a truth I have to express.

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger andrew golis said...

That is somewhat true. I was not willing to risk the tremendous audience that the Crimson gave me, and it was a difficult calculation for me. I sometimes wonder if I should have been willing to sacrifice the audience (and the good I felt I was able to do for causes I believed in) for this greater structureal principle. In any event, I don't have to worry about it anymore, so hopefully the argument stands on its merits.

 
At 4:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It certainly looks like The Crimson covered the ABHW Tribute to Black Men both this year and last:
http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=507168
http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=358884

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger andrew golis said...

I apologize if I was mistaken on this. My memory was, and maybe someone can remind me if I was thinking of Celebration of Black Women or another event entirely, that the Crimson didn't cover the event and many were offended until the Crimson ran an article much later in the week. If I was wrong about that, many apologies.

 
At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perspective does exist. We put out 6 issues last year:

www.harvardperspective.com

 
At 1:35 PM, Blogger Randy said...

I'm just catching up on this post from the one month in post. It is IMLTHO [in my less than humble opinion] a good post. One minor nit. I did not know what ABHW was until I followed a link to the Crimson in a comment. If your assumptions about what your readers know are too narrow, it will discourage some possible new readers. You will not discourage me, however, I like your labor reporting :).

-r

 
At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So looking back at this "classic" post, exactly which of your characterizations of Crimson coverage haven't been out-and-out wrong?

 

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