Wayne State joins the national conversation

January 4, 2018

With the decline of the newspaper industry, increasingly partisan cable news, and more and more people getting their news via social media, many aren’t sure what information they can trust.

In response, Wayne State faculty are helping provide a source for authoritative, informed content.

Last summer, WSU joined The Conversation, a not-for-profit media outlet for articles written by university faculty in collaboration with professional editors, as a supporting partner. The Conversation pairs content experts with writers who can help them convey information in layman’s terms.

“These articles raise the stature of our faculty and the university by positioning Wayne State as a source of expertise on the pressing issues of the day,” said Matt Lockwood, director of communications. 

The articles are 600 to 1,000 words of analysis of a current event supported by research or based on original research.

Once articles are published, they are free to read at and free for media outlets to share. The top re-publishers include such prominent media outlets as The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, CBS News and Time. Conversation articles are also distributed by the Associated Press. 

As a result, faculty members can write one article and have it shared by media outlets around the world.  

Since the summer, the university had a dozen articles published by The Conversation that were read more than 360,000 times around the world.

To date, Wayne State’s most read article has been, “The science of fright: Why we love to be scared,” written leading up to Halloween by Arash Javanbakht, assistant professor of psychiatry, and Linda Saab, assistant professor of psychiatry. The article has been read by 77,000 people — including 7,400 people in Spanish after El Pais (pictured), Spain’s largest paper, translated it.

Javanbakht, who has co-authored two more articles, says, “Working with The Conversation is easy, quick and fun. The editors are helpful, and the whole process is smooth and fast. It is a great opportunity to share our knowledge as professional scientists to hundreds of thousands of people out there, and educate the public."

Examples of other articles include, “Why Detroit exploded in the summer of 1967,” written by Jeffrey Horner, senior lecturer of Urban Studies, prior to the release of the movie Detroit, has been read by more than 57,000 people and was picked up by Newsweek.

A faculty trio in the School of Social Work, Poco Kernsmith, Megan Hicks, and Joanne Smith-Darden, teamed to write an article “Want to prevent sexual harassment and assault? Start by teaching kids,” in the wake of headline grabbing allegations. The article was picked up by The Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, Salon and 77 other outlets.

For a full list of articles written by Wayne State faculty and their analytics, visit this link.    

The Conversation was founded in 2011 by a former newspaper editor and the University of Melbourne in Australia. The U.S. version launched in 2014 with the support of several prominent foundations, including Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

If you are a faculty member and have an idea for a Conversation article, contact a member of the WSU PR team.