The Harvard Crimson: A Look at the History and Impact of Harvard’s Student Newspaper

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

one of the gates in Harvard University

The Harvard Crimson: A Look at the History and Impact of Harvard’s Student Newspaper

For over 145 years, the Harvard Crimson has been a staple of campus life at Harvard University. As one of the oldest and most prestigious newspapers in the country, it has become a breeding ground for young, talented journalists as well as a prominent voice in student media. In this article, we take a look at the history and impact of The Harvard Crimson, from its early beginnings to its contemporary relevance

The Early Beginnings of The Harvard Crimson

The story of The Harvard Crimson begins in the late 19th century, at a time when student newspapers were still relatively rare. At that time, most college newspapers were run by faculty members, with students having little to no involvement in the process. It wasn’t until 1873 that a group of ambitious undergraduates decided to challenge the status quo.

Founding of the Harvard Crimson and First Publications

The founding of the Harvard Crimson was a significant moment in the history of American journalism. The paper was entirely student-run, with the first issue being published on January 24, 1873. The paper’s name was inspired by the color of the traditional Harvard school color, crimson. Early issues of the paper were modest in size and content, with the paper primarily serving as a means for students to share news and announcements with one another.

Despite its modest beginnings, the Crimson quickly became an important institution on campus. The paper’s founders had more ambitious plans for its future. They envisioned The Harvard Crimson as a platform for student activism and a way for the student body to hold the university accountable. This vision would become a reality over the coming years, as The Crimson grew in size and influence.

A building in Harvard University

As the paper grew, so did its influence on campus life. The Crimson became a means for students to voice their opinions on a wide range of issues, from academic policy to student life. The paper also served as a platform for students to share their experiences and stories, creating a sense of community among Harvard’s diverse student population.

The Role of The Crimson in Harvard’s Campus Life

From its earliest days, The Crimson had a significant impact on campus life at Harvard University. The paper’s coverage of campus events and news quickly became essential reading for students, faculty, and staff alike. The paper’s editorial board was not afraid to take controversial positions on issues, and this often led to lively debates on campus.

Over time, the Crimson became more than just a student newspaper. It became a cultural institution on campus, one that helped shape the intellectual and social life of Harvard University. The paper’s alumni have gone on to become some of the most prominent journalists, writers, and public figures in the country, a testament to the enduring legacy of The Crimson.

Today, the Harvard Crimson continues to be an essential part of campus life at Harvard University. The paper remains entirely student-run and is widely regarded as one of the most respected student newspapers in the country. Its coverage of campus events, student life, and national news continues to inform and engage the Harvard community and beyond.

The Evolution of The Harvard Crimson

Over the years, The Harvard Crimson has undergone many changes, both in its content and its format. These changes have allowed the paper to remain relevant, even as the world of journalism has evolved around it.

Expanding Coverage and Influence

In the early 20th century, The Crimson began to expand its coverage beyond just campus news. The paper began to cover national and international news, as well as sports and entertainment. This expansion helped The Crimson to reach a wider audience, and it soon became one of the most influential student newspapers in the country.

As the Crimson’s coverage expanded, so did its influence. The paper’s reporters were often the first to break important stories, and its editorials and opinion pieces were widely read and debated. The Crimson became a trusted source of news and analysis, both on campus and beyond.

The Shift to Digital Journalism

In the 21st century, The Crimson made a significant shift toward digital journalism. The paper’s website, which was launched in the late 1990s, quickly became one of the most popular college news sites on the web. Today, The Crimson continues to publish articles, videos, and podcasts online, allowing it to reach an even wider audience than ever before.

This shift to digital journalism has allowed The Crimson to experiment with new forms of storytelling and engage with readers in new ways. The paper’s website features interactive graphics, multimedia projects, and social media integration, all designed to keep readers engaged and informed.

Notable Alumni and Their Contributions to Media

Over the years, The Crimson has produced many notable alumni who have gone on to have successful careers in journalism and media. Some of these alumni include Franklin Foer, former editor of The New Republic; David Halberstam, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author; and Matt Taibbi, political writer, and author.

Harvard university building

These alumni have made significant contributions to the world of journalism and media. Franklin Foer, for example, is known for his investigative reporting and his work on the intersection of technology and politics.

David Halberstam was a trailblazer in the field of narrative nonfiction, and his books on topics ranging from the Vietnam War to the civil rights movement have become classics of the genre. And Matt Taibbi, with his sharp wit and incisive commentary, has become one of the most recognizable voices in political journalism today.

Overall, the Harvard Crimson has played an important role in the history of American journalism. From its early days as a campus newspaper to its current status as a leading digital news outlet, The Crimson has adapted and evolved to meet the changing needs of its readers and the media landscape as a whole.

The Impact of The Harvard Crimson on Student Journalism

The Harvard Crimson has played a significant role in shaping the world of student journalism. Since its early days, the paper has been dedicated to providing a forum for student voices and holding those in power accountable. This dedication to journalistic excellence has helped to inspire generations of young journalists and media professionals.

Setting the Standard for College Newspapers

As one of the oldest and most respected college newspapers in the country, The Crimson has established a high standard for student journalism. The Crimson’s commitment to journalistic integrity and its dedication to serving its readership have made it a model for other college newspapers to emulate.

The Crimson takes pride in its history of excellence, which has been recognized by numerous awards and accolades over the years. The paper’s staff members are held to a high standard of professionalism and are encouraged to pursue stories that are both relevant and impactful.

One of the ways The Crimson maintains its high standard is through its rigorous editorial process. Every article is reviewed by multiple editors, who provide feedback and guidance to ensure that the story is accurate, well-written, and engaging. This process not only helps to improve the quality of the paper but also provides valuable training for aspiring journalists.

Inspiring Future Journalists and Media Professionals

The Crimson has also had a significant impact on the careers of many young journalists and media professionals. For decades, The Crimson has provided a platform for young writers, editors, and photographers to hone their craft and develop their skills.

Many Crimson alumni have gone on to have successful careers in journalism and media, both in the United States and abroad. Some of the most notable alumni include Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, bestselling authors, and prominent media executives.

One of the reasons The Crimson has been so successful in inspiring future journalists is its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. The paper strives to represent a wide range of perspectives and experiences and encourages its staff members to push beyond their own comfort zones to tell stories that are both informative and thought-provoking.

Overall, the Harvard Crimson has left an indelible mark on the world of student journalism. Its dedication to excellence, commitment to serving its readership, and ability to inspire future generations of journalists have made it a true leader in the field.

Controversies and Challenges Faced by The Harvard Crimson

Despite its many successes, the Harvard Crimson has also faced its fair share of controversies and challenges over the years. These challenges have tested the paper’s commitment to journalistic ethics and its ability to navigate the complex relationship between student media and university administration.

Balancing Editorial Independence and University Relations

One of the most significant challenges facing The Crimson has been finding a balance between editorial independence and its relationship with the university. As a student-run newspaper, The Crimson depends on the university for resources and support. However, at times, this relationship has also put The Crimson in difficult positions, especially when covering sensitive or controversial stories involving the university.

Group of students talking in a room.

For example, in 2012, The Crimson faced criticism for its coverage of a cheating scandal at the university. Some accused the paper of being too soft on the university administration and not holding them accountable for their role in the scandal.

The Crimson responded to these criticisms by publishing a series of articles that provided an in-depth analysis of the scandal and its aftermath. The paper also held a public forum where students and faculty could voice their concerns and ask questions about the scandal and The Crimson’s coverage of it.

Addressing Criticisms and Ethical Concerns

The Crimson has also faced criticism from both inside and outside the Harvard community. Some have accused the paper of being too liberal or too conservative in its coverage of certain issues, while others have raised concerns about the paper’s adherence to principles of journalistic ethics.

In response to these criticisms, The Crimson has taken several steps to ensure that its coverage is fair, accurate, and impartial. The paper has established a code of ethics that all staff members must follow, and it has a public editor who is responsible for addressing concerns raised by readers. The Crimson also regularly holds workshops and training sessions for its staff members to ensure that they are up-to-date on the latest ethical standards and best practices in journalism.

Despite these efforts, The Crimson has still faced challenges in maintaining its reputation for journalistic integrity. In 2019, the paper faced criticism for its coverage of a protest against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on campus.

Some accused The Crimson of endangering the safety of protesters by contacting ICE for comment on the story. The paper responded to these criticisms by apologizing for its actions and pledging to do better in the future.

Overall, The Harvard Crimson has faced many challenges over the years, but it has remained committed to its mission of providing high-quality journalism to the Harvard community and beyond. Through its dedication to editorial independence, journalistic ethics, and transparency, The Crimson has established itself as one of the most respected student-run newspapers in the country.

The Legacy and Future of The Harvard Crimson

As we approach the 150th anniversary, The Harvard Crimson remains a relevant and important voice in the world of student journalism. Its commitment to journalistic integrity, its dedication to serving its readership, and its ability to adapt to a changing media landscape have allowed it to remain an influential force on Harvard’s campus and beyond.

Continuing to Shape Harvard’s Campus Culture

The Crimson’s impact on the Harvard community cannot be overstated. The paper has played a significant role in shaping campus culture, from the events students attend to the policies the university implements. Its commitment to journalistic excellence has helped to hold the university accountable and ensure that the student’s voice is heard.

For example, The Crimson has been instrumental in bringing attention to issues of diversity and inclusion on campus. In 2015, the paper published a series of articles highlighting the experiences of minority students at Harvard and calling for greater efforts to create a more inclusive campus. The articles sparked a campus-wide dialogue and led to concrete changes in university policies and practices.

One young smiling caucasian man, student in glasses sits on floor with laptop isolated on yellow studio background.

The Crimson has also been a powerful advocate for student rights. In 2018, the paper published an editorial criticizing the university’s handling of sexual harassment and assault cases. The editorial called for greater transparency and accountability from the university and helped to bring attention to an issue that had long been overlooked.

Adapting to the Changing Landscape of Journalism

Looking to the future, The Crimson faces new challenges as the world of journalism continues to evolve. However, the paper’s long history of innovation and adaptability suggests that it will continue to be a relevant and important voice in the world of student journalism for years to come.

One of the ways that The Crimson has adapted to the changing media landscape is by embracing digital platforms. The paper has a strong online presence, with a website that features breaking news, feature articles, and multimedia content. The Crimson also has a robust social media presence, with active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

In addition, The Crimson has expanded its coverage beyond the Harvard campus. The paper now covers regional and national news, as well as international stories that are of interest to its readership. This expansion has helped to broaden the paper’s reach and attract new readers.

Another way that The Crimson has adapted is by experimenting with new forms of storytelling. The paper has produced podcasts, videos, and interactive features that engage readers in new and innovative ways. For example, in 2019, The Crimson produced a podcast series called “Veritalk,” which explored the research being done by Harvard faculty members. The series was a hit with listeners and helped showcase the paper’s commitment to quality journalism.

Overall, the Harvard Crimson has a rich history and a bright future. Its commitment to journalistic excellence and its ability to adapt to a changing media landscape makes it a valuable voice in the world of student journalism and beyond.

Side view shot of students studying and writing together in a library

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