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Ever since the internet began to lure readers away from print, pundits have been predicting the end of long-form journalism. But the end, it turns out, is not in sight. In fact, if the popularity of websites like Longform.org and Instapaper.com is any indication, long-form is enjoying a new beginning.
At the College of Communication, a new professorship made possible by a $2.5 million gift from Viacom and CBS chair Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94) will help, by encouraging the production and appreciation of narrative storytelling. The new Sumner M. Redstone Professorship in Narrative Studies, endowed in perpetuity through a gift from the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation, will support a senior COM faculty member with scholarly and teaching expertise in the field of narrative studies.
The yet-to-be-named professor will teach courses exploring the power of storytelling in communicating ideas, produce original narrative works or scholarly studies, and organize gatherings of others in the field.
“Storytelling in both entertainment and journalism has always been an integral focus of my business life through Viacom and CBS,” Redstone says. “I am so proud to help inspire others to the field by furthering the conversation and study of narrative storytelling at one of the country’s leading institutions.”
Thomas Fiedler, dean of COM, says the function of the new professorship aligns with the vision that has powered Redstone’s remarkable career.
“Sumner Redstone famously said, ‘Content is king,’” Fiedler (COM’71) says. “We define narrative as storytelling with a purpose, and see it as one of the fundamental skills that underpin every discipline we teach. In the media business, the quality of content will always trump methods of distribution, which constantly change with the evolution of technology.”
Redstone grew up in Boston’s West End and graduated first in his class from Boston Latin School. He graduated from Harvard University in 1944, then became a first lieutenant in the US Army and was selected by Harvard Japanese history professor Edwin Reischauer (later US ambassador to Japan) to join a special intelligence group whose mission was to break Japan’s high-level military and diplomatic codes. For his work, Redstone received two commendations from the Military Intelligence Division. He is also a recipient of the Army Commendation Award.
After working as a law secretary with the US Court of Appeals and as a special assistant to the US Attorney General, in 1954 he joined National Amusements, Inc., which has since grown to 950 screens, including Showcase Cinemas, Multiplex Cinemas, and Cinema De Lux, as well as IMAX theaters in the United States and Argentina.
Redstone became a member of the BU School of Law faculty in 1982, where he created one of the nation’s first courses in entertainment law. He also pioneered the school’s curriculum for protecting intellectual property in the entertainment industry. In 1994, Redstone received an honorary Doctor of Laws from BU.
In September 2012, he gave $18 million to help expand and improve the facilities at LAW, including the construction of the new Sumner M. Redstone Building adjacent to the school’s core facility. For 34 years, he has also sponsored BU’s Redstone Film Festival, a competition showcasing the most promising work by students and recent grads of COM’s filmmaking and screenwriting programs.
Through the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation and personal donations, Redstone has contributed more than $216 million to charities around the world in the areas of medical research and education and to arts and entertainment institutions and organizations. Redstone has also played a significant role in the affairs of the entertainment and communications industries, serving as a member of the Advisory Council for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation as well as a member of the executive committee of the National Association of Theatre Owners.