Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

I’ve recently been thinking more about my go-to sources of information about current affairs and policy, in part because I have a new job responsibility in which I have to compile interesting items related to data and higher education on a weekly basis. One of the great things about attending Heller has been discovering new sources of information and learning how to better use both popular press and more wonky, research-based sources to keep abreast of developments in the policy and non-profit spaces. I thought I’d share some of my favorites in this blog post.

One of my top recommended sources is probably already familiar to many prospective Heller students – the NY Times. I find that their coverage of national politics, the pandemic, and the economic recovery is some of the best out there, and they also are a resource to find examples of great data journalism. In courses at Heller in which I’ve had to do data visualizations, maps, or dashboards, I’ve turned to the NYT for inspiration on how to design an effective graphic. The Times is pay-walled, unfortunately, but you can get a subscription through Brandeis for free!

I’d be remiss not to recommend a publication co-founded by Heller Professor Robert Kuttner and former professor Robert Reich – The American Prospect. This is a great magazine with free online access to articles and blog posts. It’s a great source for in depth analysis of public policy developments and the legislative process in Washington, particularly if you are interested in issues related to the economy and workforce.

If you are looking for more local news, I find the Politico MA Playbook to be a great resource. I subscribe to their email list so that I get a brief update almost every day. Politico provides quick, succinct updates on legislative and policy happenings on Beacon Hill, and is great to follow if you are interested in Massachusetts or Boston politics.

An invaluable resource for MPP and other Heller students are think tanks which research domestic public policy issues. Some of the think tanks whose reports have been regularly assigned in my courses include EPI, Brookings, and Demos. While these offer more of a specific perspective, rather than objective news reporting or analysis, they also tend to produce reports with more extensive research and detail than what you would find in a journalistic source. While you have to be careful to balance these with more academic sources in papers, reports from these types of organizations can be great options for citations.

Last, but certainly not least, is less a particular source than a chaotic, unregulated mix of hot takes: Twitter. Still, despite the fact that many Twitter accounts possess no particular expertise in the topic area they post about (and although it can be a time waster and procrastination tool), Twitter is also heavily used by journalists, policy analysts and researchers, and academics. Some of my favorite sources for policy perspectives are NYT Opinion columnists Jamelle Bouie and Ezra Klein; economists Arindrajit Dube and Branko Milanovic; and the climate reporter Kate Aronoff.

Reading strong policy analysis in many forms, whether columns, reports, or tweets, is a big part of learning to write stronger policy analysis. The emphasis on writing has been one of my favorite parts of my Heller experience, and I appreciate the many recommendations I’ve gotten from faculty and classmates of smart commentators to follow (and imitate!)