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MIT News Office

Directors of the News Office

John J. Rowlands 1925-1955
Francis E. Wylie 1955-1970
Robert M. Byers 1970-1985
Kenneth D. Campbell 1986-2003
Arthur L. Jones 2003-2005
Pamela Dumas Serfes 2005-2007, Interim Director; 2007-2009,  Director
Jason Pontin 2009-2010, Director of Media and Advisor to the President of MIT; 2010-2012, Advisor to the President
Nate Nickerson 2009, Editorial Director; 2010, Director of Communications; 2012, Associate V.P. for Communications; 2015, V.P. for Communications

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology News Office is the principal source of public information about MIT for local, national, and international news media. The information provided ranges from details on current stories to requests from the general public for research papers and information on a wide variety of topics.

On 20 February 1925 the MIT News Service was created to provide “dignified publicity” about the opportunities available at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. John J. Rowlands directed the office, which utilized press cutting services and was responsible for writing and distributing news releases. In 1953 the News Service began issuing a Calendar of Events. Rowlands retired in 1955 and the News Service became the Public Relations Office (PRO), with the stated goal of interpreting MIT activities to the public. That same year the PRO began producing the Observer, a four-page monthly publication for parents of students who resided in the United States and Canada. The Observer kept parents abreast of technical, athletic, and social events on campus.

In 1956 the office collaborated with other departments to record music and produce films. That same year the office assumed responsibility for the educational television programming of the Lowell Institute Cooperative Broadcast Council. The circulation of the Calendar of Events grew and the Observer was distributed to all members of the faculty. In 1957 the Family Guide to MIT and Tech Talk, an employee newsletter, were first produced. The PRO produced a film called A Bell for MIT and a television series called The Science Reporter for the local public television station, WGBH. In 1958 the office first published Reports on Research, a monthly newsletter of popular technical and scientific reports. In 1962 a newsletter called Bulletin for Research was produced at the request of the Industrial Liaison Program. In 1965 the Observer was discontinued.

In 1967 the PRO came under the direction of the vice president for academic administration, and the Calendar of Events was reorganized and renamed the Institute Calendar. In 1968 the PRO established a 35 mm slide library to maintain images of all aspects of life at MIT. That same year the television program The Science Reporter, was terminated. In 1969 the PRO began publishing the Institute Report, which provided information about academic affairs to the community. Also in 1969 the office issued the newsletter Impact on an experimental basis to provide information about social service activities at MIT, and made a film titled MIT: Progressions. Both the Institute Report and Impact were discontinued in the early 1970s.

In February 1971 MIT’s information activities were reorganized. The newly created Institute Information Services (IIS) was responsible for three units: the MIT News Office (formerly the Public Relations Office), the Publications Office, and Campus Information Services. That same year the Institute Calendar was absorbed by Tech Talk, and by 1972 Tech Talk had developed into a community-wide paper of general interest. In 1973 the MIT Observer was revived as a 24- to 36-page digest of news articles about MIT.

The role of the News Office in 1973 was to gather news about the Institute and its people and present it in an interesting, engaging format. The office served three principal audiences: the on-campus audience, alumni, and the general public, each of which had different information needs. It sought to provide the 15,000 people–students, faculty, staff, and employees–who lived or worked at MIT with regular access to news about events at the Institute. For alumni, alumnae, and others with a continuing interest in MIT, it provided less detailed information on a periodic basis. It also sought to provide the general news media and, through them, the public, with current information of importance about the Institute.

In 1975 the IIS (to which the New Office reported) reported to the Office of the President and Chancellor. In 1979 the publication MIT 79 was sent to parents in place of the MIT Observer. By 1980 the News Office reported to the Office of the Vice President in the Office of the President. By 1982 Report on Research was incorporated into the MIT Report and placed under the administration of the Industrial Liaison Program.

In 1985 the News Office reported to Campus Information Services, which was in turn responsible to the Office of the Vice President in the Office of the President and Secretary of the Corporation. In 1988 the office reported to Public Relations Services under the vice president, equal opportunities officer, and secretary of the Corporation. In 1990 the office issued an 18-page compact guide, MIT Educational Outreach Guide, which was maintained as a database in the office to provide an infrastructure for current and future public relation initiatives. A new monthly came out of the office in December 1991 called MIT Research Digest. The objective of the digest was to interest science reporters in undertaking in-depth articles. In 1992 responsibility for the Outreach Guide and database was transferred to the Council on Primary and Secondary Education. That same year Public Relations Services began reporting to the vice president and secretary of the Corporation. In January 1995, the office launched its first website on the World Wide Web.

As of 1999, the News Office was producing the MIT News web site, a compendium of Institute news and press clips updated daily, Tech Talk, the MIT Research Digest, and MIT in the News, a compilation of the year’s best news clips directed at the MIT community. In November 2007, the MIT Home Page team began reporting to the News Office. Also in 2007, the media relations staff was increased.

In January 2009, the 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 weekly print publication Tech Talk was replaced with daily online news coverage; a redesigned and expanded web site; and social media tools.  The MIT web site provides access to  campus news, MIT research developments, press releases and video. The office reports to the vice president for Institute affairs and secretary of the Corporation.

Prepared by the Institute Archives, MIT Libraries
Updated October 2010, August 2013, February 2015