Harvard undergrads have an impulse to strike out on their own—to bypass that which is established and start organizations in
Harvard undergrads have an impulse to strike out on their own—to bypass
that which is established and start organizations in which they can be
their own bosses and go their own way. Why bother trying to find
something you like at the Activities Fair when you can just get your
own table to avoid working around someone else’s ideas?
Perhaps more than any other sector, Harvard’s media scene has
fallen victim to this lure of independence—and the new year’s crop of
upstart publications is proof that students would rather create
redundant projects than adjust to an existing niche.
Take The Analyst, for instance, a finance magazine published
by the Harvard Investment Association (HIA). Conceived by the HIA
leadership as a scholarly alternative to established business
publications like Venture Magazine and the Harvard Investment Magazine
(HIM), The Analyst targets undergrads who have already started
preparing for Wall Street.
Editor-in-Chief Frederick L. Bronstein ’06 says he wants most
of the magazine’s stories written by professors, PhD students, and
industry professionals rather than undergraduates. He says he wants The
Analyst to be an academic journal—a publication scholars can respect
and Harvard pre-professionals can enjoy.
Hence the technical, intensely academic articles about issues like the “twin deficits problem” and the valuation of the dollar.
But Bronstein and the other Analyst executives also want to
appeal to those who know very little about economics—and in order to
expand their readership, they also want to include a handful of
introductory articles, such as the first issue’s “On Picking Stocks.”
“Gov majors are doing I-banking, and they want to learn about
finance. Psychology majors are doing it because they want to get a
job,” says Greg Bybee ’07, the magazine’s director of business and
operations. “Everyone wants to be rich when they grow up.”
Perhaps he’s right, but if The Analyst dilutes its mission
with such a populist approach, it will forfeit its niche as Harvard
College’s academic finance journal. The magazine will lose its
identity, a rare commodity when you’re one of three business
publications on a relatively small college campus. Harvard Investment
Magazine, after all, which has been around since 2003, describes its
purpose in terms remarkably similar to The Analyst’s, promising to
blend “professional articles, interviews, and academic research to
offer a comprehensive array of commentary to the investment field,
making the magazine accessible to students, investors, and businesses.”
Is there really room for both? Did HIA really need to start a
new magazine? As it stands, The Analyst distributes to every dorm room
and panders to the uninformed with articles like “Employee Stock
Options 101.” But if they want to be taken seriously as an academically
rigorous publication, they need to stop trying to act like a general
interest newsstand glossy. In Harvard’s overgrown media landscape,
publications need to carve out their corners, and stay in their lanes.