Research Areas of Focus

The Shorenstein Center aims to make an impact on a few distinct areas of focus, each of which are integral to maintaining a healthy information ecosystem and strong democracy. The six research projects outlined below cover a breadth of topics that are currently affecting the journalism industry, media distribution, trust in news, a fair and equitable society, and access to truth in our democratic societies. 

News Quality (Journalist’s Resource)

A well-informed citizenry is essential for a healthy democracy. But are today’s news sources providing the information, analysis, and context needed to help Americans make informed decisions? As newsrooms shrink, journalists struggle to build expertise in the wide variety of topics they often are called on to cover. Journalist’s Resource is a project of the Shorenstein Center aimed at bridging the gap between journalism and academia. Its primary goal is helping journalists improve their work by relying more often on scientific evidence and high-quality, peer-reviewed research.

Technology and Social Change

Led by Dr. Joan Donovan, the Technology and Social Change (TaSC) Research Project addresses threats to media ecosystems at a time when social media presents new risks to democratic processes. From hackers manipulating media just for fun, to foreign agents looking to polarize online conversations, to journalists coming under fire by politicians – social media presents both promise and peril for connected societies. TaSC offers a pathbreaking approach for studying the FATE of technology; Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics.

Digital Platforms & Democracy

A handful of large digital platforms dominate the public space online. Every day, these platforms make decisions on a range of issues that affect the public sphere—including misinformation, hate speech, and digital advertising. New thinking is required for approaches to regulation of digital platforms. The Digital Platforms & Democracy Project at the Shorenstein Center aims to address these issues through academic research and expert analysis.

News Sustainability & Business Models

The traditional business models for journalism have collapsed, and most of the current revenue models in the industry are unsustainable. Despite their digital growth, 80 to 90 percent of newspaper revenues still come from print—even after the steep decline of print advertising and circulation and almost 20 years of investment in digital media. As traditional newsrooms shrink and even disappear, the information landscape for Americans is bleak. To address this crisis, the Shorenstein Center produces original research on sustainable business models for the digital age, and works closely with legacy and emerging news organizations to put the theories into practice—creating a cycle of research, implementation, and learning.

Misinformation

The spread of mis- and disinformation online has had wide-reaching implications for politics and elections, public policy, national security, and societal cohesion. The Shorenstein Center has been a leading force in researching the roots and pathways for misinformation to spread online. Our current work in this space includes a new academic journal dedicated to misinformation research, The Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review (expected to launch Winter 2019/2020), as well as ongoing academic research lead by Dr. Matthew Baum.

Anti-Racism and Equity

The Initiative for Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability is a newly formed initiative at the Shorenstein Center that works at the intersection of community, academia, and policy to address intellectual and practical questions as they relate to anti-racism policy, practice, and institutional change.  IARA aims to analytically examine the current field of anti-racism with a lens on research and innovation, policy, dialogue, and community involvement.