In Defense of the Crimson’s Article on HRC Elections

I’m not exactly known for my warm feelings towards the Harvard Crimson, but I’ll defend their decision to run an article about the allegations that are swirling around the recent Harvard Republican Club elections.
(Brief summary: One of the candidates for president of that club withdrew after he was accused by another candidate of forging an email to several club members enticing them to attend an exclusive McKinsey recruiting event at the same time the elections were to be held.)
First, some have worried that this article will make people look bad, or, as one commenter on the Crimson web site put it, quite possibly “ruin” someone’s life. But I’d say the fact that the subject of the allegations spoke on the record with the Crimson pretty well exonerates the paper of this charge.
More fundamentally, others have said that the Crimson just didn’t have the story; there was nothing to report. After all, we only have, as the article fastidiously reminds us, allegations. There is no cold hard proof against anyone, not yet at least.
So I guess one’s judgment of this objection depends on whether you think allegations of misconduct constitute a story or not. I think they do. The Crimson just reported what happened: a student withdrew from a race amid allegations, but denied the allegations. How is that not a story?
I think that the objectors have a skewed sense of what journalism is, quite possibly skewed by the type of journalism that the Crimson itself normally produces. The Crimson doesn’t normally do journalism at all, in my view. They do stenography. “Here’s what so-and-so said in the IOP forum last night.” “Here’s what Dean Such-and-Such said about the FAS budget.”
Okay, okay, I realize this stuff is journalism. But I think there’s a qualitative difference between this kind of journalism and the Republican Club story. The latter is a real story. It probably required a tip-off. It then probably required some snooping and questioning. And questioning with the purpose of finding out what actually happened, not just getting a usable quote. It required piecing together a bunch of different story-lines: what OCS said, what McKinsey said, what the candidates said, what the administration said and wouldn’t say.
It was interesting. Can’t the Crimson get any credit for being interesting when, finally, it actually was?
Look, it’s up to us as readers to withhold judgment until the story fully plays out, as we did with the Marc Hauser story as it unfolded this summer. It’s up to the Crimson to make sure we have the facts, and as best as I can tell, it has done just that.

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