Faculty Focus: The Shorenstein Center


DSC_0018 DSC_0007By Simon R. Bone

The Shorenstein Center which celebrated its 25th year in 2011 is not only one of the main research centers at the Harvard Kennedy School but also a world renowned focus for the intersection of media, politics and public policy both in theory and practice.

In addition to the Institute of Politics (founded in 1966), in 1980 plans were made to create a separate center for press, politics and public policy.  In 1985 Joan Shorenstein, a producer of the “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather” sadly passed away and her family donated $5,000,000 for the establishment of the Shorenstein Center in her name.

Over the last 27 years the Center has been the home for a wealth of famous names involved with press and policy and a huge source of research and publication. Launched In 1991 the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting is a world famous industry competition. The current director of the Center is Professor Alex S. Jones who won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 1987.

When interviewed Professor Jones highlighted three areas of focus for 2014. Firstly research which he believes is rigorous, scholarly and speaks to practitioners. Secondly “Teaching” and thirdly “Engagement” – both with industry and with others in the academic community.

He stressed that students were vital to the Shorenstein Center and part of its mission was to ensure it is as accessible and welcoming as possible. They hold a variety of events from brown bag lunches to forum debates. He added that they love feedback and suggestions for whom to invite to speak. As well as providing a place for students to study there are many opportunities for those at HKS including the Lynette Lithgow Internship and paid research assistant positions.

We asked Professor Jones about his thoughts on the future of political journalism. Whether advances in reporting technology dilutes or engages the genre?

He think it does both. “It’s a new frontier, a new way to do serious reporting”

He cite experiments such as “The Conversation” as examples that reporting is evolving not dying.

Does he think political journalism has had its heyday what with this age of shrinking budgets, celebrity obsession and free online blogs? Not at all he says. “News organizations are always looking for young smart people with ideas.” Even for Mid-Careers at HKS he says it’s never too late!

Finally when asked his opinion on the fictional political reporter Zoe Barnes, in “House of Cards”, Prof. Jones said it had actually generated a lot of new interest in the profession though perhaps these figures weren’t the best role models! Let us hope the Shorenstein Center has another 27 years of inspiring the best standards in public policy and the media!