Fifteen Minutes sat down with IOP fellow and renowned journalist Farai Chideya ’90 for a cozy chat about radio, faux-hawks, and science fiction.
1. Fifteen Minutes: Welcome back to Harvard! What’s it like being back?
Farai Chideya: I love it! It’s great to experience Harvard life from a different perspective.... The people who end up at Harvard are incredibly passionate and sophisticated, but still kind of starting out their lives and careers, and it’s nice to have that energy.
2. FM: Which classes have you been auditing?
FC: I have not yet been to the bioethics class. That’s the number one class that I want to audit. There’s also a sociology class with William Julius Wilson and there is another class that I haven’t been to yet about how folk and myth has influenced contemporary fantasy writing, like J.K. Rowling.
3. FM: I know you’ve only been back briefly, but how would you say Harvard has changed since you were here?
FC: I think the level of undergraduate teaching is better. I think when I was here there was a lot of emphasis on having famous professors teach even if they didn’t really like teaching or didn’t relate well to undergrads.
4. FM: Last year you were Leader in Residence at the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies, teaching about media and policymaking. How was the transition to teaching?
FC: I loved it.... You get a lot of energy from interacting with students and you also then have to stay up on your game.
5. FM: You’ve had a whirlwind career in journalism, from hosting shows on NPR to being a political analyst and commentator. How did you first become involved in journalism?
FC: Well, it was here at Harvard. I was at The Independent, but really it was the Office of Career Services that told me about an internship at the Boston Bureau of Newsweek... I was able to get this internship at Newsweek, and later on I was hired by them.
6. FM: How do you see the future of broadcast radio in an internet age?
FC: First of all there will be a lot more programming that is online-only, but then I think terrestrial radio will be around for a while because of cars. There’s always going to be a huge audience for radio, as long as there are people in their vehicle who are bored!
7. FM: You’ve done so many different things in your career so far, but what have been some of your favorite roles?
FC: Well, writing is hard, but in some ways it’s my home base, and it’s what I always return to. I’ve written four books, and I’m working on starting some new book projects so, to me, writing—including short-form writing like magazine writing and blogging—is what I always return to.