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.