Duke’s opinion page spotlights faculty expertise

The op-ed page has been a staple of newspapers for decades, home to syndicated columnists and guest contributors who share a broad array of expertise with a paper’s readers. Many colleges and universities have been successful in placing articles by their own academic experts in the op-ed pages of prominent newspapers. Duke University is one such institution. Duke’s office of news and communications regularly distributes faculty-authored articles monthly to 20 major newspapers across the U.S. and Canada.

Recently, Duke unveiled an op-ed page of its own online. The opinion section of Duke Today shines the spotlight on the campus’s essayists and essays.

Screenshot of Duke Today's opinion page - today.duke.edu/opinion
Screenshot of Duke Today's opinion page - today.duke.edu/opinion

Keith Lawrence, director of media relations for Duke’s office of news and communications, shared more insight about this initiative via a recent email exchange.

Higher Ed Marketing: Why did Duke decide to create this site? Briefly, what is your vision for the opinion section of Duke Today?

Keith Lawrence: Duke has an active service that distributes faculty op-ed articles to newspapers across North America. Dozens of our professors have worked with us to publish their articles in major papers through this service and other channels. More recently, a growing number of our professors have embraced social media, such as Facebook, blogs and Twitter. We launched this new site to capture in one place all of the incredibly rich content they’re producing – not only to highlight them personally, but also to advance Duke’s mission of “knowledge in service to society.”

HEM: Who is your main audience for this site and what results are you hoping for from that audience?

Lawrence: The audience is varied. We’re hoping faculty, staff and students will visit the site regularly, and we’re also promoting it to alumni, parents and others. Duke’s Office of Federal Relations will share pertinent content with government officials. As with Duke’s popular site on iTunes U, we hope this new opinion site will also find an audience with people who don’t have a personal connection to Duke but are interested in ideas and intellectual content they can’t find elsewhere.

HEM: Duke has built a strong presence on the nation’s op-ed pages over the years, thanks to your op-ed service. As traditional newspapers struggle with declining readership, what is the future of your op-ed service?

Lawrence: We believe op-ed pages at major newspapers will continue to play a vital role for the foreseeable future. Millions of people who care about the news still read these pages, which exert significant influence on policy makers and opinion leaders. We have no intention of scaling back on that front.

Simultaneously, we’re pursuing new channels, such as through social media, to reach people, especially younger audiences. This opinion site pulls together our older and newer approaches, combining the articles faculty have written for traditional op-ed pages with the opinions they’ve begun writing for blogs and other new forums.

HEM: Is there anything else you’d like readers of this blog to know about the site?

Like the rest of your audience for “Higher Ed Marketing,” we’re always looking for better ways to help our university tell its story. We hope your readers will take a minute to check out our site and share with us any thoughts or suggestions they have about it. We know we can learn from them. I can be reached at keith.lawrence@duke.edu.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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