The media, universities, and Higher Ed Cabinets: Or, why doesn’t Harvard buy the New York Times?

A potentially symbiotic relationship between the ‘quality’ media in the USA, and institutions of higher education, has been discussed from time to time in a variety of fora. Fiscal stress in the print media, for example, has led some to suggest that the well endowed (e.g., Harvard, with nearly $40 billion in interest generating capital) should rescue outlets like the New York Times, or actually facilitate the creation of a quality newspaper in Chicago (the Chicago Tribune is shockingly bad for a city of eight million). Instead, we see a significant component of the New York Times being sold off to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú last week, or the Washington Post dependent upon the profits being generated by Kaplan.

Yet quality newspapers play a critically important role in the higher education process, let along the broader socio-economic development process. Many professors (including myself) use newspaper articles in courses, and we require term-length newspaper subscriptions to complement more traditional readings. Newspapers are also important outlets for the circulation of knowledge that is produced in universities, and they help observers of the world of higher ed (including global higher ed) keep up on what is happening.

In this context, it is worth noting that the New York Times teamed up with the Chronicle of Higher Education today to host the USA’s:

first Higher Education Cabinet, comprising presidents, trustees and leaders from 76 colleges, universities and higher-education associations. The goal of the cabinet is to identify trends and direct discussions about the most pressing issues facing higher education today.

The first meeting of the cabinet will be held today at The New York Times Building. The welcome address will be given by Janet L. Robinson, president and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company, followed by remarks from Jeffrey Selingo, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Topics to be discussed at the cabinet meeting included e-learning, internationalization [“Internationalization” – How will you compete globally?], financing models, assessment and accountability.

“The New York Times is committed to fostering discussion about the changing landscape of higher education,” said Felice Nudelman, executive director, education, The New York Times. “We are delighted to be hosting the inaugural Chronicle of Higher Education/New York Times Higher Education Cabinet meeting and look forward to continued opportunities to facilitate creative and collective discussions about the key topics in higher education.”

Today’s ‘Cabinet meeting’ is apparently the first of many (to be held on an annual basis), and will be supplemented by quarterly online meetings “conducted via the EpsilenTM environment, an e-learning and meeting platform”, which is:

the result of six years of research and development within the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI.  Epsilen Products and Services are commercially available through BehNeem LLC, the holding company created in Indiana to commercialize, market and further develop the Epsilen Environment. The New York Times is an equity and strategic partner in the company.

The bringing together of institutions of higher education and the quality general and higher ed media cannot help but generate positive benefits. Yet, I cannot help but wonder if the leaders of the many well resourced universities participating in this scheme – people focused on generating maximum annual returns off of endowments, or selling their innovative learning technologies like Epsilen to the media (or to universities and colleges) – reflected much, if at all, about the structural problems facing media companies like the New York Times Company.

Autonomy of university foundation offices and administrators aside, imagine if just a few of these universities decided to pool parts of their endowments, and preserve if not enhance the quality media in the USA, a country desperately in need of better news and analysis. So, instead of Columbia’s Bollinger working for the Washington Post Company, imagine if the Washington Post worked for Bollinger, or the Chicago Tribune worked for Penn’s Guttman, or the New York Times worked for Harvard’s Gilpin Faust. Not ideal, perhaps, but better than watching these important media firms get ravaged by the forces of socio-economic and technological change. But, might this be expecting too much of inward looking universities in the era of the marketplace?

Kris Olds

One thought on “The media, universities, and Higher Ed Cabinets: Or, why doesn’t Harvard buy the New York Times?

  1. “Non-profit” Higher Educational Corporations like Harvard University or multi-billion dollar foundations like the Ford Foundation and George Soros’ Open Society Institute would not possess enough surplus capital to potentially start subsidizing U.S. newspapers if they were more fairly taxed at the same rate as openly “for-profit” business corporations.

    In addition, neither U.S. universities nor U.S. media conglomerates should be exempt from the U.S. anti-trust laws that “for-profit” U.S. business corporations are not supposed to be violating. If price-fixing by U.S. business corporations is considered illegal, then why isn’t price-fixing of tuition fee agreements that are made at meetings of Ivy League university presidents similar to the kind of meetings the above post describes not also considered a violation of U.S. anti-trust laws?

    U.S. newspapers like the Washington Post would end up being turned even more into either a publicity shield or public relations instrument of the universities whose special interests are represented on their parent company’s board of directors if they were subsidized by “non-profit” and “tax-exempt” institutions like Columbia University and Harvard University.

    The Columbia Journalism Review magazine (whose publisher in recent years was The Nation magazine’s long-time owning partner Victor Navasky) is owned by Columbia Univesity and also partially funded by a $500,000 grant from George Soros’ Open Society Institute; and, coincidentally, it rarely provides its readers with any critical reporting about either Columbia University or George Soros or any of the other foundations which help subsidize its operations.

    In addition, The Nation magazine stopped providing its readers with any critical reporting about Columbia University once Victor Navasky was given a professorship at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and was later named publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review.

    So the idea of concentrating control of U.S. newspapers into some kind of “university-corporate-media conglomerate-informational complex” is an undemocratic, anti-consumerist idea which would not benefit most U.S. working-class and middle-class readers and U.S. students.

    http://myfxadvice.com investment company</a ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s