Dear Managing Board and Daily Staff,
Occasionally, the Daily makes decisions which are nearly impossible for anyone outside the organization to reasonably understand. As Public Editor, it is my charge to bring such instances to light and provide much-needed criticism to an organization which seems to have lost touch with the student population it exists to serve. This letter is meant to express my disappointment and frustration with a recent Managing Board decision with the interest of a relevant, thriving Daily in mind. I hope current members of the masthead take them to heart and that next year’s Managing Board will strive to be an organization which engages with contentious issues facing students rather than backing down when faced with controversy.
On April 26th, Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Bogus and the Managing Editors “resolved that it was inappropriate for the Daily to editorialize” on the issue of the April Open House students discussed in that same day’s News section. That article, titled “Students discuss campus race relations at AOH,” reported on the individuals at last weekend’s events wearing shirts which said “Ask me about white privilege at Tufts” or “Ask me about being a student of color at Tufts.” Students I spoke with expressed various opinions from support for the initiative’s attempt at transparency with pre-frosh to disgust and anger over sending the wrong message or damaging Tufts’ reputation. Either way, the events of AOH bring a discussion to the fore which is best kept out in the open, and whose contents challenge Tufts students to articulate arguments and define what this campus is about.
The problem was not the reporting on AOH. Rather, Tuesday’s “Letter from the Managing Board” was puzzling for some readers and infuriating for others. The decision identified that conversation within the Daily staff was so heated and intense that they decided simply to forgo any comment at all. In what appeared to be an earnest, good-faith effort by Editor-in-Chief Bogus to prevent the Daily Editorial Board from publishing a biased opinion unrepresentative of the entire Daily staff, it also seemed to spinelessly withdraw from the conversation. This raises the question of the point of Daily editorials on the whole, which tend to be written on far-fetched topics which have little relevance to Tufts students. It seems that if the Daily reserved editorials when its opinions actually mattered, each one would pack more punch. Instead, they just seem to be another tool to fill the stressful page quotas of a daily paper. Accordingly, the most important topics like this one are lost in a confused calculus of priorities.
The letter claimed that publishing no opinion was the best way to avoid upsetting any faction of its staff. It is here that I ask the Daily to reconsider its editorial policy, as I did at the beginning of the semester in a private meeting with the Managing Board. If the Daily truly has the interests of the student body at heart, it would provide space for both a majority and dissenting opinions from its staff who are themselves barred from publishing Op-Eds. We should demand open discussion and exchange of ideas. Letters-to-the-Editor contributors Charles Skold and Chris Snyder both have gotten it right on this point. Instead, the Daily determined that the answer to controversial speech was silence, far from the expectations of readers. When I suggested via email to the Daily that it use its final issue on Monday to address the AOH issue by offering a majority/dissent styled editorial, Bogus responded: “We don’t feel that Tuesday’s editorial decision offers anything that needs to be ‘fixed.’”
Unfortunately, it is exactly this type of institutional refusal to acknowledge mistakes which keeps the Daily from living up to its potential. In my term as Public Editor, I have published columns and worked behind the scenes to foster better interaction between media and its readers. The end goal has been to elevate campus community and discourse through great publications. From a reader’s perspective, it seems that our paper is stuck on defending the status quo and the administration’s decisions. From the editorial supporting NQR’s cancellation to its unwillingness to admit that it could have better informed readers about Matthis Chiroux, the Daily seems determined to save face rather than engage with students on how it can improve its relationship with them.
Strong institutions change to keep pace with new challenges and circumstances. Last week, the Daily showed its inability to evolve to meet the needs of its audience in addition to its unwillingness to promote open discussion and discourse. Without taking the time to address this gap between students and media, the all of Tufts media face a steep up-hill battle for relevance among undergraduates. I hope next year’s masthead is ready to face this challenge to make the Daily a centerpiece of Tufts life rather than stifled commentary. I believe that with the Daily’s leadership undergraduates will respond with increased discussion and dialogue. Yet as much as I wish for these changes to take place, it is up to next year’s students to make these changes. Here’s to hoping they, and you, will.
2010-2011 Public Editor
Jacob Kreimer is a senior majoring in Political Science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.