Ethics Center Hires Director of Storytelling and Public Engagement

The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University has brought on reporter, audio producer, podcast host, Peabody-award nominee, and educator John Biewen as its “director of storytelling and public engagement.”

Biewen had been a part of Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies since 2006, and launched the podcast “Scene on Radio” in 2015.

In a press release about the hire, David Toole, Interim Director of the Kenan Institute says: “Adding John and his podcast to Kenan deepens the Institute’s longstanding commitments to public-facing programs that focus on societal inequities. His engaging, thorough explorations of racism, gender, democracy, and the climate crisis could not be timelier, and I’m excited about his plans for future seasons.”

Biewen will collaborate with Duke’s Michael Betts II on the institute’s program, “America’s Hallowed Ground“, to produce a multi-episode podcast about the 1898 race massacre and coup d’etat in Wilmington, NC, and will continue to produce “Scene on Radio,” too.

Barry Lam, the philosophy professor who created the podcast Hi-Phi Nation, said in a social media post about the Biewen’s hire:

This is an enterprising move for Kenan. Imagine the impact if every endowed ethics center at universities across the country… had a Director of Storytelling/Public engagement, let alone a Peabody-nominated podcast. The amount of attention brought to ethics, philosophy, and related fields would be enormous. Public-facing, academic crossover media for the win!

More information here.

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Barry Lam
1 year ago

Just a little more context. The Prindle Institute at Depauw has long had community engagement, a podcast or two produced by Christiane Wisehart, and the Prindle post. With John Biewen at Kenan Institute, that makes two. McCoy Family Center for Ethics at Stanford doesn’t seem to have a media arm, which is very surprising given that there is actually a Storytelling Project at Stanford and Philosophy Talk is produced at Stanford, but to my knowledge, they have to go to grant agencies for (inconsistent!) funding. One relatively high-impact ways for these places to spend their endowment funds is on academic-crossover media content. Even at NPR, they cancelled some of the most popular podcasts in that space because of a drop in advertising revenue. Public media isn’t what it used to be in terms of being driven by a mission to educate and inform the public. Very well-endowed ethics centers can help in this respect.