The Tech’s Existential Crisis Is Your Existential Opportunity

This newspaper is undergoing an existential crisis. There are not enough staff members and not enough money for it to continue to exist. The money problem can be fixed with help from its 1,200 alumni. But they can’t come back and put out the paper and maintain the website. That requires student staff.

I hear you asking, “Why should I care? It’s just another club. Clubs cease to exist all the time.” The Tech is the only club at MIT specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. It is not a club. It is a news organization. Because I’m an old-timer, let’s call it a newspaper.

I’ll bet you care about MIT’s reputation and rankings, since they affect the value of your degree. There is no major university in America without a student newspaper. No more The Tech? That’s a distinction that will devalue your MIT degree.

Why does this matter? As Thomas Jefferson said, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” I would rather have The Tech without MIT than MIT without The Tech. Every public institution needs to be held accountable by a free and independent media.

 “What’s in it for me?” That depends. Is it enough that the paper is a fun, exciting, activity, different every week, which allows you to change the course of events at MIT?

Do you want to get ahead in science or engineering, corporate or academic? Who’s more likely to succeed: a person who writes sleep-inducing journal articles and memos, or a person whose time at the newspaper teaches them how to write pithy, informative and readable prose? Just ask your reviewers or your boss.

You can’t learn to write that well from a textbook. On-the-job training will take a few years off your career. Or you can get that training at The Tech.

But wait, there’s more. Do you like plays, movies or concerts? How about the chance to attend them for free and also to talk, one-on-one, with the actors and performers before or after you watch them?

Are you interested in sports? Do you want to share your opinions with others? The Tech. Do you wish your team’s accomplishments were more widely known? The Tech. I guarantee you newspaper photographers will take better pictures of you and your team in action than some person with an iPhone.

Are you interested in the story behind the story? Do you like to know what’s going on before everyone else does? Do you have questions about how your department, your school or the Institute are spending your tuition money? Do you want to know why that Independent Living Group or Dormitory was disciplined? A media credential opens virtually every door hiding those who know. You get answers direct from the source. And if they don’t let you in, you can tell the public and they can decide for themselves what official reticence means.

Heck, are you interested in weather? The Tech has room for a staff meteorologist.

“I could do all this on social media,” you say. Will anyone see it? Will anyone care? Will the administration take your call or change direction as a result of your story? Will you get free passes to arts events? I believe the answer is no.

Not to mention the fact that newspaper work looks good on graduate school applications (they like people who can write), especially for law school.

Paul E. Schindler, Jr. earned a B.S. in Management in 1974, after serving a term as editor in chief of The Tech. He can be found at www.schindler.org.