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Letter from the Editorial Director

MIT News Office launches weekly digests

Dear Members of the MIT Community,

It’s my pleasure to send you a first from the MIT News Office: a weekly electronic digest of news from the Institute. I hope you’ll enjoy this and future installments. But before you dive in, a quick word of background:

In January of this year, the MIT News Office and MIT’s Technology Review came together at the request of the administration in order to improve the quality of their products while reducing costs to the Institute. The two offices, after all, were staffed with people who shared the common language of journalists. Over the winter and spring, the leadership of the two operations took a fresh look at what the News Office does and how it does it. By summer, after careful consultation with hundreds of members of the MIT community, we decided on two important editorial changes.

The first concerned the writing. No longer would each news article produced by the News Office serve simultaneously as a piece of news for the community and a press release for the media: Instead, we would draw a sharp distinction between kinds of writing based on intended audience. News pieces written in our office, we decided, ought to be every bit as balanced and probing as pieces you find in the New York Times: We have worked to keep stories from reading like hype and have asked our writers, whenever possible, to include non-MIT sources in their stories and to detail the next steps required to turn a research advance into a real-world application. We felt that press releases, on the other hand, ought to feel less like facsimiles of news stories and more like well-considered miniature toolkits for professional journalists wanting to cover a given story. We are still tweaking both our news stories and our press releases, but we’re off to a good start.

The second change concerned the medium by which the News Office delivers content. We determined that we would best serve the MIT Community — and the world at large — by ceasing the weekly print publication Tech Talk and replacing it with daily online news coverage. This decision was not made lightly: Many of us in the new News Office are veterans of print and have strong personal connections to that medium. But given that our resources are limited, a decision to continue print would amount to a decision to arrest or limit the use of the Web — and the more we explored all that the Web could do for our office, the more excited we became. We spent the summer conceiving a web site that would offer more and better news coverage, feature daily video, and democratize the creation of campus news by reaching out to scores of communications professionals spread across our campus. We aimed to build a site that would serve the MIT community while also inviting the outside world to read first-hand accounts of the Institute’s work. Our preliminary reports of traffic to our site prove the value of this approach: More than 60 percent of our readers come from outside the walls of MIT. We intend to build an international audience in the hundreds of thousands.

We launched the new site in mid-September: If you’re not a regular reader, please visit us soon at

But while we hope you’ll consider our web site the center of our operations and your central source of news and community at MIT, we know that the loss of a printed newspaper can be upsetting. For that reason, we have made the weekly digest printer-friendly: Simply click the link at the top right of the digest, and you’ll be taken to a list of our previous week’s stories. After selecting the stories you want to print, you can generate a single PDF that can then be printed on a home or office printer. With this first digest, the PDF will not include artwork related to the stories, but that problem should be remedied with future installments. Of course, the digest also works beautifully if you prefer to read our stories online: Just click on a given story, and you’ll be taken to the place where it appears on the News Office web site.

Please note that in addition to creating a weekly digest focused on campus news, we have also created a weekly digest focused on research advances at MIT; this will allow people outside our community to quickly see all MIT news of national and international importance. Both digests, however, will lead readers to the full lineup of the previous week’s stories: the difference is merely in which stories are highlighted. If you would like to receive the research-focused digest, you can sign up for it here. Also, you can opt out of either newsletter at any time by following the opt-out link at the bottom of a digest page.

We hope you enjoy the new weekly digests. Click here to let us know what you think.

Best regards,

Nate Nickerson

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