Democracy & Journalism

We know from history that watchdogs are essential to a strong, functioning democracy. John Gardner, former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, observed that as a government insider, he had seen that those with financial stakes in government policy knew how to get what they wanted, understanding just where and how to focus their considerable resources. "Everybody's organized but the people," he warned, when creating Common Cause. Gardner's words guided Common Cause Magazine, the award-winning investigative reporting journal created in the 1980s by the Schuster Institute's Founding Director, Florence George Graves.

Human Trafficking & Modern-Day Slavery

According to economist and sociologist Kevin Bales, more people are enslaved today—an estimated 27 million—than at any time in human history. They are forced to work without pay, under threat of violence, and unable to walk away. Historically, journalists have been—and continue to be—instrumental in exposing and illuminating the facts and evils of slavery. Reporters like William Lloyd Garrison and Ida B. Wells helped increase public awareness and outrage, educating policymakers and others in power, and ultimately prompting reforms in the United States. 

But slavery has not ended. Human beings are today enslaved all over the world—including in the United States. They are forced to work in agriculture, fishing, gravel pits, mines, restaurants, as domestic servants, and in brothels.

Unfortunately, members of the news media do not always report accurately or thoroughly on the contemporary realities, laws, practices, and perceptions of human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Sometimes editors see a few stories about slavery or trafficking and conclude “that story’s been done,” leaving no need for more. And in an increasingly constrained journalistic and economic landscape, few reporters can afford to invest the time and energy needed to responsibly cover human trafficking.

For these reasons, the Schuster Institute is shining a spotlight on the subject of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, dedicating an experienced journalist full time to covering the facts and nuances of today’s unconscionable trade in human beings.

Political & Social Justice Project

The Schuster Institute’s Political & Social Justice Project works in the tradition of Ida Tarbell, whose 1904 work exposed monopolistic and corrupt practices in the Standard Oil Company and led to long-lasting policy reforms. We investigate abuses of government, political, and corporate power, which often intersect, and which are being overlooked or inaccurately reported.

That’s important. The few news organizations that are still sending reporters to Washington, D.C. generally assign them to cover the daily machinations in Congress and the White House—not the agencies mandated to carry out the government’s business.

News organizations with enough resources to assign full-time reporters to an agency “beat” usually focus on only a handful of major agencies, such as the Pentagon, Department of Justice, Department of State, and Treasury. Those “beats” generally involve tracking major policy decisions, and rarely leave enough time for reporters to make connections between the policies and the influence-peddlers who stand to profit from those policies.

While there are many important stories to be told about how our federal government is—or is not—fulfilling its legal duties, few reporters are assigned to find them.

That is why the Schuster Institute’s Political & Social Justice Project hosts, both on staff and as fellows, dedicated reporters pursuing problems on issues as wide-ranging as veterans’ affairs, political asylum, housing, airplane manufacturing, public health, and modern slavery.


Eternal Harvest: 
The Legacy of American Bombs
in Laos
Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos

What most of us don't know about the Vietnam War is that the United States military, in its efforts to quash the Communist insurgency in the North and stop supply routes connecting North and South Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, dropped tens of millions of bombs on the people and landscape of neighboring Laos. Beginning in 1964American forces bombed Laos on average once every eight minutes for nine years.

“Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos" (ThingsAsian Press, December 1, 2013) is a new book by Schuster Institute Senior Fellows Karen Coates and Jerry Redfern dedicated to telling this story. In it, the bombing missions over Laos during the Vietnam War and their devastating effects are described through the experiences of Laotians and people on the ground there trying to clear the land of unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Are We Catching Terrorists? Or Creating Them?

The Terror Factory by Trevor Aaronson

Schuster Institute Senior Fellow Trevor Aaronson analyzed more than 500 federal terrorism prosecutions that took place over ten years and found reason to question whether U.S. law enforcement is actually creating the very enemy we fear. His book "The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War On Terrorism" is a result of this investigation.

Good Food Should Not Be A Luxury

The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan

Following a year of working on farms around the country, in large-scale food distribution warehouses, and fast-food restaurants, Schuster Institute Tracie McMillan wrote the New York Times bestselling book "The American Way of Eating." In it, McMillan looks beyond her own dinner plate to examine the national  priorities and policies that put the food on it.

Public Secrecy About Child Sexual Abuse

Hella Winston reports for The Jewish Week about public secrecy and child sex abuse in some ultra-Orthodox communities.

Investigative journalist and Schuster Institute Senior Fellow Hella Winston has been reporting on issues revolving around child sexual abuse in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities for four years. Her investigative articles have been published in The New York Jewish Week. Read Winston's reports>

Where Does the Money Go in Haiti's Reconstruction?

Haiti Grassroots Watch

Haiti Grassroots Watch
 leads the way in accountability reporting on reconstruction in Haiti. The Schuster Institute provides resources for those who want to investigate what's happening.

The VA Health-Care System's Dishonorable Conduct

Senior Fellow Jan Goodwin explains how the Veterans Administration lacks resources and initiative to care for female veterans. Read the article>

Political Asylum Seekers
in America

Senior Fellow Jan Goodwin reveals the shocking struggles some political asylum seekers to the U.S. experience once they arrive on American soil. Read the article>

Human Trafficking & Modern-Day Slavery

South Africa's New Slave Trade

A new beat covering human trafficking and modern-day slavery took Schuster Institute Senior Fellow to the World Cup in South Africa to report on the slave trade. Read the article>

Pandemic Flu & Infectious Disease Preparedness


Senior Fellow Madeline Drexler discusses the history and future of such epidemics as SARS, H1N1 influenza, and presents innovative approaches to global pandemic preparedness in her book "Emerging Epidemics: The Menace of New Infections"(Penguin, 2010).

The Boeing Parts Scandal

Boeing in The Post

The Schuster Institute played a key role in exposing alleged problems in aircraft manufacturing in a report by Founding Director Florence Graves and student Research Assistant Sara Kehaulani Goo published in The Washington Post. Read the article>


Homelessness: First Things First

The Schuster Institute awakened Beacon Hill to the issue of homelessness with the article "First Things First," written by Founding Director Florence Graves and Schuster Institute student Research Assistant Hadar Sayfan and published in the "Ideas" section of The Boston Globe. Read the article>