EDITORIAL How The Tech works

Why (and how) do we print a paper twice weekly?

For many of our readers, The Tech might be something of an enigma. The paper we publish twice a week is readily and freely available on campus, of course, but rarely will our readers get a real sense of the process behind those issues just by reading them. Since The Tech is MIT’s only remaining newspaper, and because the community (and world) depends on our work to learn about MIT, we feel it is our obligation to explain what we do and why we do it.

All newspapers — from college publications to The New York Times — aspire to serve their readership with the interesting, important, and relevant truth. The idea of journalism is to sort right from wrong and fact from rumor, and to do it for the things that really matter. Readers look to newspapers to help them make decisions — who to vote for, what policy to support, where to spend money, and so on.

The Tech’s role at MIT is just that. Simply put, we seek to inform the MIT community.

But to do so is challenging. Not only must The Tech sort fact from fiction — on a campus where there is plenty of both — but we must also judge what is important enough to cover. Given a finite amount of reporters, editors, and time, not every story will make the cut. On top of that, our paper is a volunteer organization, and all of our volunteers also happen to be busy MIT students.

So how do Tech reporters and editors put together a story? When we decide something is worth writing about (a decision that is often influenced by reader feedback), reporters go out and ask questions. Most stories have at least two sides; we seek to talk to as many people as we need to in order to present our readers with all relevant perspectives. Those people are most often MIT students, faculty, and staff, but occasionally our reporting takes us beyond the campus borders.

Alongside editors, Tech reporters synthesize the facts they collect into a coherent story. Some of what we learn in the course of interviews turns out to be irrelevant to a story. Other things turn out to be more important than we’d originally thought, and we may go back for a second or third interview. The road from idea to article is rarely linear.

“Balance” or “bias” are always tricky things. How can we ensure that a reporter has not inadvertently missed an important perspective? Worse, what if The Tech feels pressure to cover some stories and ignore others because of motivators that have nothing to do with the content of the story itself?

It is impossible to completely, fully, without-a-doubt divest ourselves of sources of bias. However, The Tech has several measures in place to maximize objectivity.

First, and most importantly, our newspaper is a financially-independent organization. We do not accept money from MIT or student governments to operate. The Tech’s revenues come from advertising and donations. We are free to cover issues in the community without fear of financial retribution.

Second, we make every effort to assign reporters to stories in which they have no personal stake. It is important to us that our reporting not be influenced, even inadvertently, by a reporter’s personal feelings or interests. In addition, every article will see several rounds of editing before finally going to print.

Third, we maintain editorial separation between the news and opinion sections of our newspaper. News reporters do not also write opinion columns, or vice versa. Only in the opinion section (starting on page 4) will you find statements like “MIT should …” or “This policy is bad because ….” If the page is marked with the word “opinion” along the side, you are not reading objective reporting, you are reading someone’s personal commentary.

“Editorials” — which are labelled as such — represent the official opinion of the newspaper and are written by the Editorial Board. Editorials allow The Tech to take a stand on issues of local or national importance.

In addition to serving the community, The Tech also upholds a mission to educate our staff on matters of writing, photography, design, and journalism. To achieve our educational and journalistic missions, we want feedback from you. Community members are always welcome to engage with us through email (general@tech.mit.edu will reach our executive board) or telephone (617-253-1541), or by visiting our office on the fourth floor of the Student Center (W20-483).