Student leadership has long been an integral part of the out-of-classroom experience at MIT. In this series, we hear from some of the students in leadership roles in the MIT community.
Jessica J. Pourian has served as the editor-in-chief for The Tech since February. A junior studying brain and cognitive sciences, Pourian joined the staff of The Tech shortly after stepping foot on campus as a freshman. She has worked as a news writer, an associate news editor, and a news editor prior to taking on her current role. She recently spoke with the Division of Student Life about the responsibility and future of MIT’s student paper of record.
Q. What’s your role in the production of The Tech?
A. As editor-in-chief, I’m not only responsible for editing the paper but also for managing everybody else. Every week, I attend as many meetings as possible for all the departments. I email editors beforehand asking what stories they’re going to have come in. I communicate with everyone from editors, to the MIT News Office, to the administration, depending on what needs to be done.
But the bulk of the work is in the actual production of the paper. Four nights a week, I’m in the Tech office at 6 p.m., and I leave generally anywhere between midnight to 3 a.m. (or 5 a.m. if it’s a particularly bad night, but that’s rare). I’m the last person who looks at the paper before it’s sent to print. All the articles go through the writer, the associate editor, and then the copyeditor before they come to me. I do look for small errors, but I mainly look at the cohesive picture of the paper, and if I see something wrong I send it back to the section editor.
The Tech has a lot of really great students working for it, so I think it’s a privilege to be there four nights a week. I’ve made some very good friends there and some of the people on The Tech are amazingly talented at what they do. I really appreciate working with them.
Q. As the student paper of record on campus, what sort of responsibility does The Tech have to the MIT community?
A. We mostly try to keep MIT aware of campus and local issues. We do run wire stories from The New York Times for world and nation issues, but largely we’re concerned with what’s going on with students and what initiatives the administration has started. We try to do a good job of highlighting what MIT is doing at home and around the world, so the community knows what’s going on.
Some of our stories, like our recent highlights of MITx and MIT 2030, are about things that students may not normally hear about. We try, as an organization, to bring these things to students’ attention as often as possible. We try to take responsibility to show students the rest of what’s going on, maybe outside of just their circle that they see at MIT everyday, and also to present objective facts in a logical fashion that are enjoyable to read and also very informative.
Recently, we’ve tried to more carefully consider the information we need to convey while being mindful of how our coverage impacts the community. One of the stories that was particularly tough to handle this past year was the recent student deaths. In general, we collect the administration's input on certain issues, which may or may not affect what we print. In the case of the student deaths, that input helped us make sure that the articles we printed about these very sensitive issues were respectful and in good taste, because it’s the kind of thing that, if you were to print carelessly, could be very offensive and hurt a lot of people.
This year we're also working on publishing more editorials on issues with a local and national impact. Over the past year, The Tech has worked to write more editorials, and that is a process I would like to continue. We’ve made an effort to engage students more, to have The Tech serve as a voice for students, and to give them some direction they might not have otherwise had.
Q. What’s in store for the future of The Tech this calendar year?
A. One of the things I’d like to see The Tech do more of is features on the student body itself. We’re in this really cool position where we are poised to ask questions not only from administrators but from students as well.
Some of the things that I’ve liked that The Tech has done in the past have been some of these student-wide surveys. Last year, we did a survey on politics of the MIT student body, and I thought that was very interesting. It gave a different perspective that you would not have been able to get anywhere else. For the next year, my goal is to do maybe two of those surveys, not only for us to have some interesting information, but to give The Tech and the MIT community a chance to look at itself. Since we’re in the position to ask really cool questions, I’d like us to sort of use that opportunity to learn more about the MIT community.
I'd also like to see more feedback from the MIT community, just in general. I really like it when people write us letters; I find it very helpful to get that sort of response. I’ve actually been pleased with this volume so far. We’ve received a lot of letters and response to opinion columns. It makes me happy to engage students with The Tech, because often I feel like we publish in a vacuum. My goals as editor-in-chief would be to not only increase feedback of The Tech, but also to get more people involved and engaged on campus.
The Tech is published twice weekly in print and online at tech.mit.edu.