If you’re reading this, that means we couldn’t pull together an op-ed in time.
Don’t worry about it too much. Running out of op-eds isn’t a “scraping the bottom of the barrel” kind of situation; it’s more of a “leaky faucet slows to a drip.” It’ll fix itself in due time.
It’s not as if we don’t have op-eds — a glance at our (endearing) mess of an email inbox (quick plug: please submit your op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org) will reveal stacks upon stacks of recently shared Google docs, drafts that are more suggestion than text, and back-and-forth email chains. The issue is that the op-eds pipeline is a capricious mistress. Sometimes the piece you think is going to be three edits and a fact check turns into a weeks-long endeavor. Sometimes the pieces pour in faster than we can turn them around, and sometimes the op-eds inbox is a cartoon desert complete with awkwardly drifting tumbleweeds.
This year, we’re doing op-eds a little differently. That’s slightly because we’re doing staff editorials a little differently this year, letting discussions flow for longer and develop more of that classic editorial nuance, instead of rushing to get two topics down in an hour. There are three of us op-eds editors now (hi Eleanor and Jasmine), which is unprecedented. This offsets the fact that we occasionally have an empty “fifth slot” where a staff-ed would previously go, because op-eds, like glue, can plug all kinds of holes.
So we generally have the Crimson’s Editorial page under control — although some nights, we end up needing to publish a piece like this: easy to fact check, not super editing-intensive, and with a chronically online author who checks their email and resolves suggestions like a bad compulsion. But the fact that sometimes, we do have to do stuff like this, throws into question whether the Editorial publishing system is really as well-oiled as it seems.
Why do we, the Editorial Board of The Harvard Crimson, publish three pieces — generally one op-ed, one staff-ed, and one column — a day? We’ve been publishing daily for like a hundred years. I’ve heard from the voices of previous Editorial Chairs and implicit in the actions of our formidable Board of editors that we need to keep the paper running (or the “old sheet flying,” if you’re in our same Crimson club).
Does our paper run on haphazard filler editorial content? Are we just biding the time between the high seasons of stellar op-ed submissions with whatever dregs we can scramble up in the meantime? I would hope not; at the very least, that would reflect poorly on my ability to do my job.
But it is curious how we manage to keep this ship above the waves and churning out op-eds. We say we’re delivering quantity and quality both in our op-ed curation, thank you very much. If that’s true, what gives? Harvard students are incredibly opinionated, but they are also notoriously overextended. Who has the time or mental capacity to come up with an idea or perspective that’s never been published before, develop it into 650 to 850 words of thoughtful cogent writing, and undergo a grueling editing process with a potentially neurotic editor who keeps leaving comments about “dereferencing your vague pronouns” (like seriously, what’s up with them), all to effectively throw your opinion into a sea of 2,000 and counting pieces that maybe a grand total of one really close friend will ever read and text you about?
The Editorial Board, that’s who. Our internal writers are so strong, and I know because I’ve been keeping track of every single submission from them in a handy-dandy checkbox-filled spreadsheet. We are attending three hour-but-really-hour-and-a-half-long meetings a week, and submitting passionate op-eds on the issues we really care about, and overall keeping the opinion section spicy and full of hot takes.
When I turkey-shot for op-eds editor, it was because I wanted to read and polish all these sparkling thoughts hot off their writers’ minds that make up the collective voice of the Harvard community. And I am very grateful that this is something I get to do now, night after night. My utmost respect goes out to our internal writers with their hearts beating with narrative structure and their beliefs they would defend until their dying breath, toiling through four or more op-eds a semester. It’s a marvel to see the Editorial page come together every night, even if most of those nights just involve me hunched over my laptop making little changes to phrasing and word choice.
To the Harvard Crimson’s Editorial Board: I love you all a lot. But please address your edits with immense haste so we can get back to our scheduled op-ed programming tomorrow. We have to keep the paper running, after all.
Christina M. Xiao ’24, an Associate Editorial Editor, is a joint concentrator in Computer Science and Government in Eliot House.