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Interview with the Editors-In-Chief Emeritus: The Year in Review

Harbus: So why did you guys decide to do this in the first place?

Selikowitz: I think we’re both passionate about journalism. I was an editor at my undergrad paper – very different from the Harbus in every way, but I still wanted to engage with that. The Harbus has a special role to play at HBS, both in terms of editorial voice and also in terms of the unique challenges it faces.

Harbus: What challenges do you mean?

Selikowitz: Editorially, the challenge is finding the right place and the right voice for the Harbus. On the one hand, our audience is HBS students and faculty, and on the other hand it’s the broader community online, including applicants and other news media. The challenge is finding the right content to engage both audiences.

Kleiner: I had some background in journalism in the distant past. First year at HBS I wrote a lot and used it as an opportunity to reach out and interview alums that interested me, and I realized that the opportunity existed to play a larger role. I really got excited about the business side of the Harbus and the challenges it faces – existing in the world of declining ad revenue, for example – and got interested in finding ways to monetize different audiences in interesting ways.

Harbus: Can you talk about your vision for what the Harbus should be?

Kleiner: Daniel and I had complimentary visions, but we split up the back-end work. We both agreed on what the Harbus should be – the key pillars. We felt that last year, oftentimes the quality of the content suffered due to the busy nature of people’s schedules, which made it so everything came in last minute. The EIC role in the past had been very duplicative – two people were just hounding writers to get content in on time. Splitting the roles (one on business and one on editorial) and reducing the frequency of the publishing allowed the content to be more thoughtful.

Harbus: How do you mean?

Kleiner: Here’s a specific example – before, both editors would always be copied on emails and they’d go unanswered. Either issues would fall through the cracks when one EIC would think the other had already answered, or people would wait for both to answer before moving on, and that just didn’t work well. Splitting the decision-making allowed each to give 100% focus to our respective roles.

Selikowitz: Both of us were able to manage a team separately, which was easier because they weren’t cross-managed.

Harbus: What kind of big decision did you consult each other on?

Kleiner: Well the Jody Kantor article for sure. It played such a big role in the HBS community and therefore was a big job for the Harbus. On the editorial side, we had a lot of students wanting to publish responses to that article and we wanted to make sure that the right message came out. On the business side, it wasn’t a question of monetizing or making revenue off the issue, but it was a chance to get our name and brand out there and get people to visit our website that we had just relaunched. We also worked on actually getting Jody Kantor to campus to actually talk about the articles.

Selikowitz: The Kantor article came out right at the beginning of our tenure, which was challenging. It was an event that was beyond our control, but on the other hand, we were able to play a role in how students reacted to that and provide some sort of direct communication between students and the outside world.

Harbus: What are some experiences you had at the Harbus that are going to stick with you?

Kleiner: Both of us had the opportunity to make a lot of hiring decisions – we expanded our staff significantly this year. We not only got students to join but also partners and non-affiliated individuals. We created new roles and built the descriptions for those roles and actually got to go out and hire for them. That was one of the reasons we decided to do this in the first place.

Selikowitz: What’s going to stick with me is the fact that the office is haunted by ghosts who change Diane Chang’s name on the masthead to Drake Chang, no matter how many times we change it. We’d change it, go home, and when we came back in the next day it would be changed right back, no matter what we did.

Kleiner: I think it would also leave crumbs of Stonehearth Pizza behind. It was apparently a gluten-
sensitive ghost.

Selikowitz: How very HBS of it. Also, something else that’s gonna stick with me is the contents of the fridge in the Harbus office, because when I come back in 50 years they will still be there, untouched. Some of the items have actually gained sentience – I think there’s some cottage cheese in there that has some interesting thing to say about Nader.

Kleiner: Another perk we’ve got in the offices – we’ve got great scented dry erase markers. When you haven’t used them very often, the smell is still very potent. Fresh off the factory line – cherry is my favorite, but the coconut is also quite nice. It’s a sort of yellow?

Selikowitz: I would say we did some of our best and worst thinking under the influence of those markers.

Harbus: So dry erase fumes are the key to editorial vision. Got it. So, how many final exams would you say you’ve sacrificed to work for the Harbus?

Selikowitz: Zero

Kleiner: Yeah, zero sounds right.

Harbus: How many classes have you skipped to ensure you made deadlines?

Selikowitz: To ensure I made deadlines? Zero

Kleiner: Zero.

Harbus: So what exactly is all this garbage about “being devoted to the Harbus” that you keep spouting?

Selikowitz: Well, throughout each of our finals we were thinking about the Harbus.

Kleiner: All of Dan’s finals have a masthead thanking his contributors.

Selikowitz: I consulted a panel of writers for each one.

Harbus: So Dan, it seems like you’ve surrounded yourself with a certain type of writer. How would you describe it, and why?

Selikowitz: In previous years, the tone of the Harbus has been very “news-y”. Our goal this year was to on the one hand get a lot more relevant content (about startups on campus, what entrepreneurs are doing, that sort of thing), but also to make it a little bit lighter. We tried to find students who have a distinctive voice on campus, and had them write something that students would actually read.

Kleiner: Students, but also even faculty members like Kevin Scherer when we could get them.

Harbus: Alex, can you talk about some of the business decisions you made?

Kleiner: Expanding the staff was probably the biggest one. The expansion was consistent with our view that we wanted to create more defined roles for people so there wasn’t as much role overlap as in the past. Also, we are the only top business school newspaper that still exists – this reflects the fact that people don’t come to business school to be journalists. It used to be easier to get people on staff when the newspaper had a lot of revenue to manage and was a bigger enterprise, but we just don’t have that anymore. We thought a lot about how to attract people to work at the Harbus and we decided to focus on the fact that the Harbus is a small business rather than just a newspaper, and we have a lot of other products that we put out as well (the course review and the interview guide, just to name two) that require active management.

Selikowitz: I wonder – are the other top business schools are even literate enough to have newspapers?

Kleiner: And when you say “other top business schools”…

Selikowitz: I’m referring to Exec Ed.

Kleiner: Right, that makes sense.

Harbus: Aside from fostering hatred for Wharton, are there other things you did from a business perspective that helped attract people to the Harbus?

Kleiner: We also created some distinct positions that have a business flair (we have a CFO for the first time, a Chief Revenue Officer, we’ve contracted web developers, hired a director of fundraising, and there’s even one person working on social media). Those were the types of things that we thought would be more attractive for business school students to spend their time on. It wasn’t a home run, there’s still definitely some hesitancy for people to spend their time on something like the Harbus, but we’re definitely pleased with the results we’ve had this year.

Harbus: What are you doing after HBS?

Selikowitz: I’m going back to Papa Bruce at BCG in NYC.

Harbus: Let the record show that Daniel just pantomimed “pouring one out for his homies”.

Kleiner: I’m going back to the firm I worked for before school as well – Vector Capital, a PE firm in SF.

Harbus: How will you fill the broadsheet-sized hole in your hearts that leaving the Harbus will leave in your hearts?

Selikowitz: Ben & Jerry’s. Also, I plan to found a weekly publication at BCG.

Kleiner: Maybe I’ll start blogging?

Harbus: Alex, what other early-2000s phenomenon will you be partaking in? Perhaps creating a Friendster account to go with your Xanga page?

Kleiner: Well Dan’s really excited that I’m going back to Vector, so I figure other people must be too.

Selikowitz: Will it be a professional blog, or just more random crap about your life?

Kleiner: I think it’s going to be case facts, mostly.

Selikowitz: You should just write an extended case in the style of HBS. “Alex gazed pensively out the window, sipping a macchiato and kicking a small goat.”

Kleiner: Those are the only size goats I kick.

Harbus: Any words of wisdom you’d like to impart to your incoming editor in chief?

Kleiner: We’re both really excited for Nabil to take over. He’s very passionate about the Harbus and that’s really all we can ask in an EIC. Also, he was one of the new hires we found for the positions we created, and that’s just great

Selikowitz: I think the biggest vote of confidence we can give is that we’re looking forward to reading upcoming issues of the Harbus.

Harbus: Anything you wish I’d asked?

Kleiner: The one thing I want to say is that La Keisha has been spectacular – she’s our COO and general manager. She’s kind of the glue that keeps the Harbus together. She’s our main Harbus employee, and she deserves as much credit as the two of us in putting together the strategy. She’s really a jack of all trades – she does HR, advertising, strategy, everything. Part of the reason we built the team was to ease the burden on her, and on a day to day basis she still does all of the things that makes the Harbus possible.

Selikowitz: Absolutely. I’d also like to thank my wife for her steadfast support throughout the year in the face of adversity and an even larger caseload than my own.

May 6, 2014

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