Harvard newspaper’s actions disturbing, unforgivable

Spinnaker

Harvard University’s student newspaper, the Crimson, published an advertisement Sept. 8 asking students to “provide, with proof, the name of one person killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.”

The man who submitted the ad, Bradley Smith, is a vehement denier of the Holocaust, and founder of Harvard’s “Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust,” according to the Crimson.

After receiving multiple indignant requests to remove the ad, the Crimson staff did so and published an apology in print and on their Web site Sept. 9, stating that, “The Crimson did not intend to run the advertisement and … its appearance was nothing more than a communication mistake.”

They apparently received the ad over the summer and decided against running it. Despite this wise decision, it was published anyways, causing damage across campus that no matter how many apologies they print, will never heal.

I don’t personally know anyone who died in the Holocaust, but I do know what it’s like to deal with the untimely and brutal death of a loved one. I feel for the family members who opened the paper that morning just to have an old wound ripped open once again.

“Have Bradley Smith contact me for many names. Hateful,” the user ‘Consele’ posted on the Crimson Web site’s comment section.

This beautifully terse comment was just one of many that expressed sincere outrage at not only the advertiser but also the Crimson staff for printing the ad.

When the topic of this column was brought up in the Spinnaker newsroom, it sparked a discussion among the Spinnaker’s student reporters. Where was this line in accepting advertisements, and exactly how blurry could it get? No one could agree.

This issue isn’t blurry but very clear to me. When choosing what does or doesn’t go into the paper, there is only common sense and a journalist’s dedication to his or her purpose.

What is my purpose? As not only a journalist but a writer, I turn to the words of a fictional character to answer this question.

“Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth,” said a character named V.

Therefore, anything placed in the paper, advertisement or otherwise, that deviates from our purpose as objective informers of the public is not only wrong, it’s infidelity, treachery and betrayal to the journalist’s oath.

I solemnly swear that I will report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s my job as a journalist to live by this.

The Holocaust definitely happened as supported by a mountain of overwhelming evidence, and it tore apart millions of lives. It affected decades and decades of generations following it, and the Crimson’s apology will never undo the fact that it — an organization founded on truth — published an ad that endorsed a lie.

I’ve been a Spinnaker staff member for over a year, and a writer for most of my life, so I understand the circumstances under which mistakes happen in the newsroom.

A mistake is an AP style error. A mistake is an incorrect title or major. A mistake is an overlooked sentence written in passive voice. A big mistake is an incorrect date or time. A big mistake is multiple misspelled headlines and cutlines on the front page. In the past year, the Spinnaker has been guilty of all these things.

Having experienced firsthand the frustration caused by these mistakes, I know not only as a journalist but as a humane individual that what the Crimson staff did could not be called a mistake.

Whether it was deliberate or not remains questionable, but if the Crimson staff runs their newspaper anything like the Spinnaker staff does, someone would have deliberately accepted that ad money, deliberately sent it to the editor who then deliberately placed it into layout where more than one pair of eyes on staff would have seen it before it was deliberately sent to the printer. Did no one stop in that entire process to ask, “Didn’t we vote against printing this?”

Apparently not, because the ad was printed anyways, creating not only a campus-wide but a nationwide outrage that forces the Crimson staff to experience with full force the true power of printed and distributed word.

I hope they got the message.