The Chronicle of Higher Education is Going Global

bridges vol. 26, July 2010 / OpEds & Commentaries

By David L. Wheeler

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David L. Wheeler, managing editor for the Chronicle International.

About a year and a half ago, I was given the best assignment of my life: to seek out global opportunities for the publication I work for, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle, based in Washington, DC, was founded in 1966. While covering all aspects of university life, it has paid close attention to research, the financing and administration of science, and the use of technology on campuses. In June my international assignment reached one of its goals, with the launch of The Chronicle's Global Edition, at global.chronicle.com. It's a Web site that reports on the increasingly internationally interconnected world of higher education (readers can switch between the US edition and the global view, depending on their preferences). About 70 full-time editorial-staff members produce The Chronicle, which reaches about 325,000 readers in print and gets about 1.5 million unique visitors a month on its Web site.     

I started at The Chronicle 24 years ago, writing about biomedical research. I began working there just as the Human Genome Project and the fight of biomedical researchers against AIDS were also just beginning. As a science writer, I got to spend time in some of the best laboratories in the United States: at the California Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, and Harvard University, among many other institutions. Later I was one of the authors of a regular column called Notes from Academe, written with a day-in-the-life perspective that gave me the opportunity to describe the professional lives of a geologist, a brain surgeon, and a chimpanzee researcher, among others.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick – all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} I am describing my own career at The Chronicle because I am proud that it has invested in journalists such as myself, who go to university campuses to take a direct look at what is going on. But The Chronicle does not view itself as an advocate for the academic world: Plagiarism, conflicts of interest, and scientific fraud are considered topics worthy of investigation. For example, I used the US Freedom of Information Act to get a list of scientists who had been penalized by the National Institutes of Health.

After my science-writing career, I served at The Chronicle as international editor and began the climb up the management ladder. I was grateful to return to the international arena in 2008, when I was assigned to explore how The Chronicle could better serve an international audience.  I should emphasize that an interest in academic developments outside the United States is not new to The Chronicle: It has had an international-news section since 1979.  Chronicle reporters and correspondents covered the early years of China's opening up to the international academic world, the breakdown of apartheid at South African universities, and global trends such as the expansion of private universities.

But in recent years, as many writers have noted, the globalization of universities has intensified. The competition for top researchers and academic administrators has become truly international; universities are competing for reputation and rankings on a world stage; and millions of students are flowing each year across national borders. I have spent much of the past year traveling to places that are making major investments in higher education, in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and the Middle East.

As a result of my research and the work of many of my colleagues, The Chronicle has responded to the interests of international readers not just by creating a global view of its existing articles and commentary, but by regularly commissioning new articles on developments outside the United States, whether or not they have a direct connection to the United States.

The Chronicle's existing network of 10 international correspondents is being rapidly expanded, with the goal of having journalists in all the major regions of the world, journalists who are knowledgeable about the local culture and who speak the local languages. In addition, The Chronicle is seeking out freelance writers who specialize in science and technology and who can add to the sophistication of coverage in those areas internationally.

An important section of the publication, both in print and on the Web, is The Chronicle Review, which showcases some of the best thinking and writing on intellectual and scholarly issues and the arts, and gets inside major academic debates. In Review articles, the editors bring scholarly expertise to bear on current events and policy issues. I often describe the Review as the "brainy cousin" of the news section.

Both internationally and in the United States, The Chronicle uses blogs to help academic writers connect directly to their colleagues. At The Chronicle, blog posts are viewed as short, informal essays rather than just highly opinionated screeds. "Brainstorm" is The Chronicle Review's group blog on the life of the mind: ideas, culture, the arts, academic policy, and scholarly life. "ProfHacker" delivers tips, tutorials, and commentary on pedagogy, productivity, and technology in higher education. "ProfHacker" bloggers do not claim to be experts, but rather people who are working with (and sometimes suffering with) the same technologies that they write about.  In the Global Edition's new blog "WorldWise", such globe-trotting academic leaders as Nigel Thrift, vice chancellor of the University of Warwick, in England, monitor the internationalization of higher education and write about their own experiences of it.

In the Global Edition and other new ventures, The Chronicle hopes to combine traditional journalistic values - devotion to accuracy, balance, editorial independence -with digital innovation on the Web.

The best way to monitor The Chronicle's global offerings is to sign up for a free weekly newsletter at Chronicle.com/globalnewsletter . And I welcome your feedback and suggestions. You can reach me at David.Wheeler[at]Chronicle.com.

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The author, David L. Wheeler, is the international managing editor for The Chronicle of Higher Education. {/access}