To the Editor:
Both as a Brown alum and as a former managing editor of The Herald, it was with great disappointment that I read Monday’s letter to the editor written by Lindsay Gantz ’17.5 (“Letter: Hermano Fortes feature falls short,” Nov. 14). Gantz seemed to miss entirely a key part of The Herald’s mission, the point of the feature itself and what it means to be a member of the Brown community.
First, regarding The Herald, the publication’s mission statement includes the following: “As a teaching organization, we are committed to attracting and training a diverse staff, representative of the Brown student body, and helping them develop skills they will use for the rest of their lives.”
The best way to improve as a writer and reporter is to get reps, and Cal Barash-David ’19, by putting himself out there and writing for The Herald, is starting to do just that. I note that the piece was his third byline. I commend him for taking that first step and wish him luck as he continues to improve his craft, whether he seek a career in journalism or not. I would suggest to Gantz that The Herald’s teaching mission would not be served by insisting on printing only Pulitzer-level journalism. Certainly, the feature could have been reported more thoroughly or simply written at greater length. On the other hand, it is also possible that space limitations cut its length and required broad deletions. I am unaware of the factors behind the article’s publishing, and I assume Gantz is, as well. I would suggest to her considering all potential factors before rushing to criticize in the future.
Second, I believe that Gantz missed the point of the piece entirely. She does acknowledge that the feature was a “heart-warming, behind-the-scenes piece about a beloved” Facilities worker before tearing the article down. I am not sure why she insists that the feature had gone further or been executed more expertly. Its goals were not to document the working conditions of Facilities employees or their efforts in improving wages and working conditions. Rather, I guarantee that those in the Brown community who know him were thrilled to see Hermano Fortes getting the spotlight, as evidenced by the Brown Athletics Twitter account linking to the feature the day it ran. Sometimes, taking the time to highlight a member of the community is a great use of paper and ink in print and of bits and bytes on the web.
Having worked in the Department of Athletics myself, I took great interest in the article. I am certain that I never saw Fortes without the “snow-white smile” that the article describes. The description that Gantz incorrectly — and stunningly — dismisses as “a thoughtless picture that enforces racist and classist narratives” is rather quite apt, though certainly brief. Not every piece of journalism must be part of a social crusade, and not every description of a person of Hispanic descent as hard-working and having a great smile is “racist and classist.” Yes, the feature left much unexplored, but that doesn’t mean it was “published carelessly.”
Finally, I would ask Gantz to look inward and reconsider her writing of this letter. What makes Brown special is the supportive, collegial environment that gives students and staff alike a welcoming and safe space to learn, think and interact. Even if Gantz were correct in all aspects of her letter, its writing may not have been worthwhile or positive. We live in a time when one can hide behind an anonymous account and the keyboard of a computer to criticize anything under the sun. Commendably, Gantz did at least choose not to take that route. And indeed, as Barash-David and his fellow Herald staffers are learning, so too is Gantz learning how and when to express herself as a member of this Brown community. I wish her luck in that endeavor and would suggest that, in the future, she consider either more constructive ways to voice her criticism (perhaps saying that she wanted to know more about Fortes, rather than focusing her tone on the article’s “mediocre execution?”) or perhaps if it was worth expressing that criticism at all.
Christopher Hatfield ’06