Rest in peace, Schuster Institute

Lamentably, after 14 years of investigative reporting at Brandeis, the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism closed its doors in December 2018.

According to an email from Provost Lisa Lynch announcing the closure, the Schuster Institute was the first investigative reporting center at a university when Florence Graves founded it in 2004. Due to the increasing difficulty of fundraising, the institute unfortunately ran out of funding and will no longer be operating.

The Schuster Institute leaves behind a long and impressive legacy in reporting on human rights and social justice. It has tackled issues such as human trafficking, border policies, government wrongdoing, environmental justice, international adoption fraud, sexual harassment and gender justice. The institute has been a pioneer in non-profit impact journalism, releasing its reporting through public broadcasts and magazines and discussing results on radio, television and social media. Its website is home to documents and source materials that readers and policymakers can use to further examine the issues.

Throughout its 14 years, the institute has helped exonerate wrongly convicted men, such as Angel Echavarria and George Perrot, through the work of the Justice Brandeis Law Project, which investigates probable wrongful convictions. Echavarria spent 21 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and Perrot 30 years after being wrongfully convicted for a rape.

“We see how systems can fail people, often unintentionally, and the criminal justice system is no exception,” Graves has said.

Lynch’s email notes that for the rest of this academic year, Graves—the Institute’s founder and director—will continue working with her student research assistants in the Law Project, in space thoughtfully provided by the Ethics Center at Brandeis.

Like most print media, journalism has fallen to the wayside under the shadow of TV broadcast and the endless expanse of online blogs. As a result, funding for journalistic non-profits and even profits for well-established newspapers have taken a nosedive. The closing of the Schuster Institute, if not a direct result of this decline in journalism and newspaper popularity, is a side effect of the growing apathy toward investigative journalism. When journalism is not seen as important to the public eye, those who have the money to fund it choose to lend it elsewhere.

As a community of journalists, we are deeply saddened by the Schuster Institute’s closure as many previous Hoot staff members and editors have worked there. We wish that more donors could have prioritized its important work and it could have been saved.

Thank you, Schuster Institute, for all your journalistic contributions. We know that your legacy will live on for years to come.

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