The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Editorial: Reform Needed to Maintain Quest Quality

The quality of The Quest has fluctuated wildly in its near century of existence. In recent years, it has published everything from coloring contests to articles on Pet Parade titled “Pawsitive Reinforcement.” Quest Board elections too often deteriorate into popularity contests and do not guarantee a high quality Quest.

The method of choosing Quest Editors needs to move away from elections in order to establish institutional memory and to ensure that editors are chosen because they are qualified, and not because they are marginally more popular than their competition.

We propose that Quest Editors be chosen through a system of internal appointments, in which they follow the same ideals they do every week, transparency, objectivity, and fairness, in choosing new editors themselves. Editors will use a consensus-less-one voting system to appoint new members, a method that Appointments Committee currently uses to appoint student body positions. The appointment process will be observed by a Quest outsider to further ensure that the Quest Board does not become nepotistic. New editors may be appointed in the middle of a semester if the Quest Board loses editors.

The Quest Board will still be subject to recall by the student body if Reedies feel that editors are abusing their editorial control or otherwise failing to produce a Quest that balances journalistic integrity with Reed’s élan vital.

A set minimum number of Queditors will be established to guarantee both a diverse and large enough Quest Board to do the job. While some past Quest Boards have consisted of three or four editors, consistently publishing a Quest with timely investigative journalism, or journalism at all, requires a larger board. We started this semester with seven editors and have already lost one to a leave of absence. Every week is a struggle not just to fill The Quest, but to fill The Quest with good journalism. When the truly important story does strike–student arrests, student patrol officers, or Title IX investigations–it’s essential that The Quest is able to cover it skillfully, else the student body will be unable to make informed decisions.

We hope that our proposal will ensure that the The Quest is capable of reporting the challenges that face the student body.

Comments
6 Responses to “Editorial: Reform Needed to Maintain Quest Quality”
  1. Sam Spencer '10 says:

    Sounds like a good idea. Has there really never been a system of internal selections like the one proposed? I’m looking forward to hearing any counter arguments.

    • In the late ’30s the selection process moved from Editors being appointed by the student body government for each issue to an election for a semester-long term as assistant editor followed by a semester-long term as editor. They’ve been elected ever since. I believe it was in the late 80s when multiple people began running together as an entire board.

    • A Timeline of Quest Editor Selection Processes:

      1913 – 1921 One Quest editor is appointed by the student council.
      1921 – 1923 One Quest editor is elected by the student body.
      1923 – 1924 Three Quest editors with equal responsibility are elected by the student body.
      1924 – 1932 One Quest editor is elected by the student body.
      1932 – 1936 Quest editor is again appointed by the student council. In 1934 there are five different Quest editors in one year.
      1936 – 1939 Professor Robert MacGregor oversees production of the Quest.
      1939 – 1943 Election of one Quest editor by two-thirds majority of staff with approval of student council. This plan was devised by MacGregor and modeled the Harvard Crimson, for which MacGregor worked as an undergraduate.
      1943 – 1946 One Quest editor and one assistant editor is elected by the student body.
      [Here things get fuzzier.]
      1946 – 19?? One Quest assistant editor is elected by the student body and becomes editor the next semester.
      198? – 2012 Quest boards are elected by the student body.

  2. Ethan K. says:

    Briefly:

    The quality of the Quest has more to do with the available pool of talent, the (small) amount of time that Reedies will spend writing for the newspaper, and the lack of any formal journalism training than how the editors are selected. No matter way you slice it, you’re going to have amateur journalists with little time on their hands.

    Elections are important because the editors must be independent from the powers of Senate if they are to meaningfully critique that body and the Administration. Good luck writing honestly about the senator that appoints you.

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