Editorial | The Harvard Crimson’s journalistic integrity is laudable
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 07:09
Essential to the integrity of a college newspaper is an honest relationship with readers about the quotes found in articles within that paper – especially those that come from school administrators.
On Tuesday, our neighbors at the Harvard Crimson published a letter to its readers admitting that, for several years, the paper has failed in this regard by allowing administrative sources to review and, in many cases, change their quotes before an article went to print.
This process of “quote review” was the result of what the Crimson’s letter to its readers called a “years-long agreement” with Harvard Public Affairs and Communications (HPAC). On Tuesday, the Crimson announced that they are banning their reporters from engaging in what they called an “anti-journalistic practice.” The Daily supports the Crimson’s decision and urges HPAC and the Harvard administration to cooperate with the Crimson’s pledge of honesty to its readers.
According to Tuesday’s letter, in past years, the Crimson had been pressured by the administration to remove quotes entirely, and in other cases “quotations [were] rejected outright or [were] rewritten to mean just the opposite of what the administrator said in the recorded interview.”
Though there are times when it is acceptable for sources to see and confirm a previously recorded quote to ensure accuracy and clarity, we find it unacceptable for a source to have the right to edit those quotes. Final editorial discretion should always belong to a paper’s editors, not its interviewed sources.
Like any college newspaper, the Crimson depends on its sources in the administration for information and counts on responses from the administration in the news stories that grace its pages. The Daily also values its relationship with Tufts’ administration, although it does not engage in a quote review practice.
Therefore, the motivations that drove the Crimson’s previous editors to practice “quote review” with the administration are understandable, if not condonable. But good reporting should always strive to be as unbiased as possible – and in order for a college paper to practice good, unbiased reporting, the relationship between that paper and the college’s administration must be honest.
At time of press, Harvard’s administration has not responded to the paper’s declaration, according to Crimson President E. Ben Samuels.
The Crimson’s decision is a brave one – its refusal to maintain this unhealthy relationship between press and administration could cost them valuable sources. We at the Daily applaud the Crimson for taking this step, and we hope HPAC and Harvard’s administration will also commend and support them for aspiring to maintain ethical journalistic practices.