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$5 million donated to Journalism Institute

Published: January 26, 2007
Section: Front Page


Philanthropists and longtime Brandeis supporters Elaine and Gerald Schuster recently donated $5 million to the Universitys Institute for Investigative Journalism. Founded in September of 2004 in order to explore social and political problems and uncover corporate and government abuses of power, the newly-renamed Elaine and Gerald Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism is the nations first investigative reporting center based at a university.

“We are happy to support the urgent work of the institute, especially in this era when fewer media outlets will dedicate the resources needed to dig deeply and expose wrongdoing Brandeis is just the right place for this institute, Elaine Schuster told the Palm Beach Daily News.

The gift was received with much excitement by members of the Institute as well as the Brandeis Journalism Program.

Because of the Schusters visionary investment in our work, we will be able to continue our in-depth, non-partisan reporting on issues with broad public interest, such as pursuing often-overlooked stories about injustices to women, children, and families, and investigating a case of probable wrongful conviction, wrote the institutes founding director Florence Graves in an e-mail to The Hoot.

Director of the Journalism Program at Brandeis Professor Maura Farrelly explained that although the Institute is separate from the Journalism Program, the program will benefit from the Schusters donation.

Journalism is a tradeyou learn it best by doing it. Hopefully there will be a vast expansion of activities students can participatein, she said. The Institute is marvelous and this donation is just going to make it much, much better.

According to Graves, the Schustersgift will allow the Institute to maintain its infrastructure, publish articles about major public policy issues, and get many students involved in the institutes projects.

Within little over two years of existence, the Institute has already done impressive investigative work. For example, it collaborated with The Washington Post last April to investigate the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to check the safety of thousands of questionable Boeing airplane parts. The article led to follow-
up stories around the world as well as renewed FAA and Justice Department investigations. The Institute also houses the Justice Brandeis Innocence Project, which analyzes criminal cases to determine whether or not wrongful convictions have occurred.

Current projects include an article for Good Housekeeping about sexual harassment of teenagers on the job and another for the Columbia Journalism Review about media miscoverage of issues facing working mothers, according to Graves.

Graves also explained the importance of investigative reporting in the world today. The ongoing drive for higher media profits, which has been widely documented in books and the press, means that fewer resources are available for serious investigative journalism, she wrote. As a result, the Institute's nonprofit model for investigative reporting is desperately needed. An unfettered media is essential for a healthy democracy. What you don't know can hurt you when it becomes bad medicine, dangerous products, unsafe or unfair working conditions, abuses of government power, wrongful convictions, evaporated pensions, or skewed and harmful policies. Watchdog journalism helps keep American institutions more accountable to all.

University President Jehuda Reinharz agreed with Graves sentiments. The whole field of investigative journalism is not highly promoted. Lots of journalists simply transcribe what they hear or report only on current events, he said. Investigative journalism is in line with a liberal arts education because it forces students to investigate a story to its innermost parts and to explore and expose issues of injustice. The Institute for Investigative Journalism trains students in something that is very important for society.

Student involvement is a valued aspect of the Institute, and the recent
donation should give students more opportunities to participate in investigative projects.

First, the Institute's research will move farther and faster when students help dig, develop, pursue, reveal, and substantiate, wrote Graves, citing the work of several Brandeis students who helped her with the Boeing-FAA investigative story. Second, when students see for themselves how urgent it is to question and analyze the official version of any policy or practice-and are involved in the hands-on investigative work-they develop as individuals, as professionals, and as citizens.

Rachel Seiler 07, a Research Assistant at the Institute for Investigative Journalism, attested to the benefits journalism students receive from working with the Institute.

Working here at the Institute has been wonderful, exciting, and educational, she said. Students and mentors work together on investigative stories to correct injustice through rigorous, excellent journalism. I've seen up close how important journalism can be. It's a real honor and very eye-opening to be involved in work that has real-world impact.

Graves wrote, I am honored by the Schusters' confidence in what we've done so far, and inspired by their visionary generosity. All of us here feel privileged to be able to undertake the kind of journalistic investigations so desperately needed in these times.