After a 19-year career in the Harvard News Office, yesterday the University tapped Joe Wrinn as its new Director of News and Public Affairs.
But the move was more than a promotion for Wrinn, who currently runs the office and The Gazette, its award-winning house newspaper.
It is the most visible step taken to date in an ongoing plan to overhaul the face Harvard presents to the public--attempting to shake off an image that Harvard is rich and aloof to its Boston-area neighbors and the public in general.
The changes began three months ago with the selection of Paul S. Grogan, a seasoned operator in the world of Boston politics as well as veteran of urban non-profit work, as Harvard's vice president for government, community and public affairs.
Grogan, whose urban-politics background contrasts sharply with that of his predecessor, Washington insider James H. Rowe III '73, has presented the University with a new vision for public relations focused more on the local community.
The University, Grogan says, is plagued by a public image both "incorrect and unfavorable"--that it is so wealthy it can do whatever it wants whenever it wants; that it remains totally uninvolved in the local community.
As Grogan puts it, the problem is that "Harvard is a problem."
"It retards the kind of relationship we want with the community," Grogan says.
Creating that relationship will entail new personnel, new publications, new technology and a lot of time. And in the most tangible sign that a new public relations machine is being built, Harvard's public relations offices will require more money.
The News Office
But for those in the outside world who want to get a look at Harvard, the News Office's is often the only view they get.
It is there that The Gazette is headquartered, there that Harvard drafts its press releases and there that outsiders must direct all their questions of the University.
But, says Wrinn, the office can no longer keep up with all of its duties.
"We are simply not prepared right now to answer the volume of questions that come through the office," Wrinn says.
The Internet and the so-called 24-hour news cycle have led to a dramatic increase in media requests about Harvard.
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