Letter from the Editor

From ongoing research and new publications, to awards, events, and initiatives, there is no shortage of news on MIT’s campus. Between start-ups, student life, classes, and competitions, how should we judge what to report on, and what to leave aside?

It’s one thing to pledge to deliver the news impartially, “without fear or favor.” It’s an altogether different effort to figure out what stories are worth telling at all. How do you distinguish between the melody and the noise, and have we been successful at navigating this?

On occasion, The Tech is accused of not telling the right stories — missing the important ones, highlighting the trivial ones, reporting on impactful ones only after the window of opportunity for students to influence outcomes has passed.

I think that Tech writers have done incredible, original, reporting. I think they look for challenging stories and pose questions that are hard to answer. I also think that, on many occasions, we have lapsed in our coverage of stories which are meaningful, timely, and impactful to the student body.

We count as “newsworthy” that which is timely, meaningful, and of general interest. Yet making this judgment is fraught with several challenges.

First, judging what is meaningful or relevant is a subjective task. If we have a group of people who tend to think in similar ways, we will systematically underreport on some topics, and give excessive coverage to others, based on our collective interests and experiences. These errors are also likely to be self-perpetuating and to grow larger over time rather than lessening.

The solution, of course, is to bring together a group of people with different perspectives, passions, and pursuits. Going forward, we will make every effort to reach out to people who we think have interesting perspectives to share, but we are limited by what we don’t know, and more perniciously, by what we don’t know we don’t know — the unknown unknowns.

The other challenge is a consistent tension between that which is urgent and that which is important. Often, this tradeoff means that focusing in depth on one important story leads us to miss out on three urgent stories which crop up and demand attention, or the other way around.

In that vein, here’s a selection of this week’s unreported stories — the unanswered questions, the stories that go untold because of a lack of capacity, of manpower, or of time.

­— What has been the effect of the recent spate of mental health initiatives? When do they help or not help? Who does and does not find them useful?

— What does it look like at the interfaces between MIT’s research, the government, and industry? What are the trends and how are they changing?

— Do students feel more, or less, in control of their environment – be that classes, living arrangements, or anything else – than they have in the past?

These are some of the questions we’ll be working on answering. The challenges of shifting between the immediate and minute to the broad and long-term exhilarate us. If you are interested in answering these questions, or posing your own, join us. 

Katherine Nazemi

Editor in Chief