This commitment will affect a series of progressively wider concentric circles. In the innermost circle are Brandeis students, approximately 40 of whom will be mentored each year; for many, this will be their first experience in a professional setting. By working closely with professional journalists doing in-depth research, these young people - who are at an extremely impressionable stage of their social, emotional, intellectual, and political development - will learn firsthand about the importance of investigative reporting to a democracy; about a rigorous commitment to facts, integrity, and social justice; and about how major institutions can be corrupted or set right. One of these students, Hadar Sayfan, has already shared a byline with the Institute's director in an investigative article published in the Boston Globe; the article won an award.
The next circle will be the university's students at large. Thousands of Brandeis students have quickly become proud of the Schuster Institute's commitment to social justice in action. By reading the Schuster Institute's work and by attending its university-based events, these students are learning more each year about the serious social and political issues that the Institute investigates and about the power of journalism to effect social change.
Next, when the Institute publishes or broadcasts the results of its investigations, millions of people around the world hear or read about those articles, programs, or blog items. Those research efforts influence public policy in a progressive direction.
After decades of commitment to building a progressive public policy that helps the underserved in our communities, the Institute recognizes that an unfettered news media is essential for a healthy democracy. What you don't know can hurt you - when it becomes bad medicine, dangerous products, unsafe or unfair working conditions, wrongful convictions, evaporated pensions, or skewed and harmful policies. When the facts are pursued with ruthless thoroughness, watchdog journalism helps keep American institutions accountable to all.
Unfortunately, the ongoing drive for higher media profits means that fewer and fewer resources are available for serious investigative journalism. That's why the Institute is blazing this trail into what's being called 'the new non-profit journalism' - and has been followed by other philanthropists. The institute is the first independent reporting center based at a university, and was only the third such institute in the country. Brandeis University, with its longstanding dedication to social justice, human rights, and the pursuit of truth wherever that might lead, is the ideal host. By being housed within a university, the Institute is firmly placed within an academic tradition that honors freedom of inquiry - and that offers independence from the government influence and corporate control that too often undercut today's media. Through this Commitment to Action, Gerald and Elaine Schuster invest in the practical education of Brandeis students, many of whom will become national and international leaders in their fields, teaching them to be citizens who have a genuine effect on the wrongs they see every day.
Gerald and Elaine Schuster have devoted $5,000,000 to building the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. This non-profit reporting center in the public interest is staffed and led by longtime professional journalists with track records of significant accomplishments in public interest and watchdog journalism. Working here offers Brandeis students practical and hands-on ways to apply their broad commitment to social justice; immerses them in a professional research practicum that has real-world effects; shows them by example how to ferret out and expose wrongdoing, corruption, and injustice; and gives them crash courses in a variety of public issues and public interest topics.
The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism's founding director is Florence George Graves, a legendary investigative journalist who founded and ran Common Cause Magazine, and whose investigations have often led to congressional hearings and public policy changes. Working under her direction are other professional journalists, both on staff and pro bono, as well as pro bono attorneys and private investigators. All this supports and is supported by the student research assistant program in which students learn from and are mentored by professional journalists, while contributing to significant real world projects. Students are exposed to the inside workings of the Institute and its projects, giving them insights and experiences they might be unlikely to get even in internships outside of Brandeis.
The Schuster Institute is an independent reporting institute that aims at 'impact journalism,' reporting that can inform and influence policy discussions. It takes the results of its investigations public, via broadcasts, the web, and the mainstream and thought-leader publications that help set the public agenda. Since its founding, its work has appeared in such elite and mass media outlets as The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Columbia Journalism Review, and Good Housekeeping (US and international editions), and has been featured in various radio and TV talk shows, including The Diane Rehm Show, Talk of the Nation, and On the Media. Its original pieces have been redistributed by such outlets as The China Post, The San Jose Mercury News, ABC News online, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and The Standard (Hong Kong), and have been linked to or commented on by more than 150 blogs; and at major research institutions nationwide. By informing the public and policymakers about serious issues, the Institute then affects public policy.
MEASURE OF SUCCESS
- Increasing numbers of students involved in the Schuster Institute's mentoring program, research initiatives, lectures, and informal discussions.
- Gradually increasing numbers of professional staff for more in-depth investigations into more topics of social and political concern.
- Ongoing publication and broadcast of the results of the Schuster Institute's investigations, both in mass media and thought-leader outlets, with the aim of reaching both wider and more targeted audiences.
- Widespread public discussion of the facts and issues raised in these investigations (via blogs, news and talk shows, public lectures and forums, policy hearings, and so forth).
- Public policy changes that are informed by the facts, insights, and analyses revealed in these investigations.
Anticipated Launch: MAY 2007
The Schuster Institute's website summarizes and provides links to all its accomplishments to date, which include:
- 5/13/07, 'A practical present for mom,' The Boston Globe, E.J. Graff, Institute Senior Researcher. Practical ideas for public policy changes that would support working families.
- 6/07, 'Is Your Daughter Safe at Work?' Good Housekeeping, E.J. Graff. Groundbreaking investigation into sexual harassment of teens n their first after-school and summer jobs.
- 6/24/07, 'First Things First,' Boston Sunday Globe IDEAS section, Florence George Graves, Institute Founding Director, and Hadar Sayfan '07, Institute research assistant. Investigation of a new approach to ending chronic homelessness. Resulted in the appointment of a long-delayed homelessness commission. 2008 First Place Winner of the Cushing Niles Dolbeare Media Award.
- 6/18/07, Dick Lehr joined the Institute as its first 'visiting journalist-in-residence' for six months. Lehr, an award-winning investigative reporter, author, and journalism professor, acted as a consultant to the Institute's Justice Brandeis Innocence Project, and worked to complete The Fence, a book about police brutality in Boston and the 'blue wall of silence,' for HarperCollins.
- 6/28/07, Moms Who Work: Myth and Reality, Demos Institute, New York City. Standing-room-only crowd at this Schuster Institute-organized lunchtime forum on the realities faced by working mothers (and their families) in the U.S. today, moderated by E.J. Graff.
- 10/16/07, 'Working Mothers: Who's Opting Out?' The New School, New York City. Public forum organized and moderated by E.J. Graff.
- 10/30/07, 'Holding Power Accountable: The Government, the News Media, and Democracy,' Brandeis University. Inaugural Schuster Institute lecture by Watergate's John W. Dean.
- 1/21/08, 'Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and America's Standing in the World Today,' Martin Luther King Day lecture by Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. Co-sponsored by the Schuster Institute.
- 2/11/08, 'Free Bernie Baran,' screening of the rough cut of a documentary that tells the heartbreaking story of a gay man sent to prison after an unjust trial - and his fight to prove his innocence. Organized and moderated by the Schuster Institute's Innocence Project.
- 2/27/08, 'Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life,' with author and investigative journalist Ted Gup. Lecture followed by a meet-the-journalist supper for all Institute student research assistants and Brandeis Journalism Program minors.
- Spring 2008, Florence Graves, 'Watchdog Reporting: Exploring Its Myths,' Neiman Reports (Harvard University).
- April 2008, E.J. Graff, 'Do Women Count? When reporters pay attention to only half the population, what is the media's message?' Brandeis Reporter.
- June 2008, Dick Lehr, first draft of The Fence, a HarperCollins book about police brutality and the 'blue wall of silence' in the Boston law enforcement.