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Shorenstein Center Names Six New Fellows for Spring 2018

The Harvard Kennedy School.
The Harvard Kennedy School. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Alexandra A. Chaidez, Crimson Staff Writer

Six new fellows—including journalists and authors, a Columbia journalism professor, technology experts, and the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission—will join the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy in spring 2018.

The fellows will study the intersection of technology and public policy, as well as issues like climate change and the divide between rural and urban America. The Shorenstein Center will also welcome a writer-in-residence to work on a writing project studying race relations.

The Shorenstein Center announced the new fellows in a press release last week. The honorees include Elizabeth Arnold, a former NPR Political Correspondent covering global warming; Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at think tank New America; Genevieve Roth, founding partner of a social impact agency involving women’s empowerment and media; and Sarah Smarsh, freelance journalist and author focusing on socioeconomic issues.

The Shorenstein Center also named Thomas E. Wheeler, the former chair of the Federal Communications Commission from 2013 to 2017 under President Barack Obama, the Walter Shorenstein Media and Democracy Fellow.

Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian writer and fellow with the MIT Media Lab who introduced blogs to Iran in the early 2000s, was chosen for the Entrepreneurship Fellows program, an initiative specifically meant for technology entrepreneurs. Derakhshan’s will study the sociopolitical influence of social media, how to counter algorithms that prioritize “popular” information within representative democracies, and the future of the news industry.

W. Jelani Cobb, a journalism professor at Columbia University, historian, and staff writer for The New Yorker, will join the fellows as a writer-in-residence. While at Harvard, he will be working on his new book about the 2015 shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

Cobb said he thinks it is “crucial” for professionals to participate in scholarship at institutions like the Shorenstein Center.

“There are often so many things going on at once that it’s hard to sit back and focus and concentrate on a single project,” Cobb said. “I think that’s crucial because it winds up being in those times when you can actually think deeply about something that you can do really important work.”

Many of the fellows, including Wheeler and Derakhshan, have an extensive background in technology. Following a December decision by the FCC to eliminate net neutrality, and in light of increasing privacy concerns in the internet age, fellows will inspect the relationship between innovation and media and how to respond to such changes through policy.

Ghosh, a former Facebook employee focusing on privacy and public policy, will examine public service-oriented technology. As a fellow at the think tank New America, he founded an initiative that sought to bring technology experts into “public interest-focused work.” He said he hopes to continue this work while at the Shorenstein Center.

“Shorenstein is particularly amazing because it brings together innovation around academia, public policy, [and] journalism,” Ghosh said.

Wheeler said his work involving technology and policy will form the focal point of his fellowship, adding that he hopes to study the political and governmental challenges created by new technologies.

“The Shorenstein Center is the platinum standards in terms of researching and thinking about the relationship of media and society in this new technological environment and so it makes it the place to be,” Wheeler said.

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