Before anything else, I have a confession to make: I never read nor wrote for the Harbus during my RC year.
Knowing this little fact, you can imagine how conflicted I was when I left Cotting House (the former office of the Harbus) late one night about a year ago. I had just been elected editor-in-chief by the board of directors and the thought that echoed in my mind was, “Can I actually do this? It’s a WEEKLY commitment!”
A week later, after I told my good friend Hanli Mangun about my new role in the paper, he corroborated my insecurity by saying, “Dude, what the hell are you getting yourself into?” When my section mate Adam Ireland found out, on the other hand, he challenged me and demanded, “Joey, you’ve got to fix the paper!” The problem was that there were no editors and writers left on the paper and the people I approached seemed unwilling to commit!
And so that’s where I was at the start of my tenure at the Harbus: filled with self-doubt, facing an expecting yet skeptical community, and alone.
Last April, I remember my BGIE professor- Aldo Musacchio- bumping into me as I was nervously walking up and down the corridors of Aldrich. He reached out his hand and said, “Congratulations, I hear you’re the new editor of the Harbus.”
Little did Aldo know that the reason why I was so jittery that morning was because I was waiting for the release of the paper surrounding on Ann Moore (Chairman & CEO, Time, Inc.) – where some ECs were unhappy with her selection as the class day speaker. The Harbus had never published anything as serious or controversial before. I was unsure how the community would react. One thing I felt strong about, though, was my belief that the paper was a forum where these types of issues should be surfaced and discussed. On that same day, almost simultaneously, I got a lot of feedback that both condemned the unfair and anonymous cover story and praised the courage it took to publish it. And that was just from the editors and board member of the Harbus!
Months later, when we finished putting together the Japan Trek issue, I turned to Marianne Bakula (Harbus Designer) and told her, “No one will see the paper the same way after this issue.” That Sunday night and may more afterwards, I often found myself unable to sleep. What kept me awake were not unfinished cases but the haunting question, “Did I make the right decision to publish?”
Of course, even before I got to the point of debating whether to publish something or not (incidentally, the most intriguing articles were usually the ones that never got published), an even more difficult task was often convincing people to write for the paper. On many occasions, I’ve heard and talked to students within the community who had provocative ideas and valid critiques they seemed passionate about. However, many times, when I asked these same people to write about it to spur a wider discussion within the community, they would often beg off. The typical reason they had was that they were either too busy or that they feared that other people may take offense at their point of view, no matter how respectful they laid it out.
During these moments, I wasn’t sure what disappointed me more: the fact that people perceive (whether rightly so or not) that elements within the HBS community are intolerant to their views or that there are HBS students who would rather do nothing about something they know is right out of fear. This came in striking contrast to my personal belief that the best intentions in the world will amount to nothing without the courage to act upon them. Time and again that seems to be the common denominator of people who have made a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
In the two years I’ve been at HBS, one of the people who has made a distinct impression on my life was my RC section chair- Tom Piper. One of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten came from Tom. He’d always tell my section (OH), “It is not the answers that really matter but the questions you ask.” That has been my guiding principle behind making the Harbus something I’d like to write for and read each week.
Whenever we were putting an edition of the paper together, I’d always asked myself if I’d want to pick up this issue if I saw it in the newsstand. That has always been the minimum hurdle. There have been times when I wasn’t sure if we reached this threshold, however, more often that not, I believe that we succeeded.
On that note, though I am always appreciative when people approach me or email their positive feedback, it is seeing an empty stack as early as Monday afternoon or Tuesday that truly makes the work that the paper does meaningful. That tells me that people are excited about the Harbus and finding it relevant in their lives. Just recently, in fact, the incoming editor of the Stanford Reporter reached out to me to learn more about how we do things at the Harbus. Apparently, some Stanford GSB students were impressed with what we’ve been able to accomplish this year.
Now that I’m at the proverbial end of my time here at the Harbus (and last issue), I will be remiss not to mention and thank the people who have been here since the beginning.
Jack Sallay- who worked in the publishing business before HBS and was exponentially more qualified than I in running the paper- was actually the first person to approach me when I became editor of the paper. Linda Dempah was also with us early on. Andrew Wylie emailed over summer even before his RC year began. Soon afterwards, Elana Green came onboard in early September. When election season was in full swing, Brian Dutt found his calling and joined. Jimmy Tran became part of the Harbus much later. Yet he has been one of the people I’ve relied on most these past few months.
Finally, I cannot thank Lauren Sullivan (General Manager), Lisa Tran (Ad Manager) and Marianne Bakula (Designer) enough for being there week in and week out. They are the unsung heroes who tirelessly labor behind the scenes. They’ve also patiently endured my unending obsession with making the paper “something I’d want to read.” I will surely miss their company.
When the first issue of the paper came out last April 2008, I clearly remember Rachel Markov (OH) coming up to me and pointing at my name in the masthead saying, “. our pride and joy.”
To all those who have cheered me on throughout this year, I hope that I’ve been able to earn the confidence you’ve had in me from the very start.