Thanks Malcolm for the Harkness Reports

Behind the scenes, a small group of former Harkness Fellows and associates keep the Harkness Fellows Association alive, seeking ways to keep the network of fellows engaged and connected. Over the years this has included the production of newsletters, though the format has varied over time.  A look at our website will show this variation.  Much the best of these were the five Harkness Reports produced from 2011 to 2016.  We have Malcolm Dean, retiring committee member to thank for these. He was ably supported by Veronica Plowden.

Malcolm is leaving the HFA board as he has Alzheimers.  He alerted his committee colleagues to this some time ago.  He faced his diagnosis with a positive and good-humoured approach, the same style he took in his contributions to meetings throughout his long service on the committee. In all other ways he keeps well and has a very supportive family.

We are very grateful to Malcom for all he has done for the Association.

Malcolm spent 38 of his 50 years in journalism at the Guardian. He was trained by Kemsley weekly newspapers for four years, then spent a further four working his way around the world with posts in Canada, the West Indies, Australia, and then a further year as a freelancer in South East Asia. On his return in 1964, he joined the Reuters bureau in London before taking up a fellowship at Ruskin College, Oxford. From there he won a Harkness Fellowship to the US in 1966.  He spent the first year at Chicago and the second working in Congress as a speechwriter to a senator, then for a Congressman who put him on his full-time staff. He also studied with the American Political Science Association.

He joined the Guardian in 1969 and was a reporter, social affairs leader-writer and assistant editor. In 1979 he launched its Society section and edited it for many years. Society Guardian played a large part in supporting the development of the voluntary sector and bringing social issues into the public domain.  Joint editor of Unequal Ageing, the untold story of exclusion in old age, Malcolm had challenged his employers on their retirement policy. In his retirement editorial in 2006 he notes “ On my 64th birthday I gave the editor a memo setting out the five reasons why the Guardian should not require me to retire on my 65th “; his negotiations led to two more years at the paper.  Those who know him well are not in the slightest surprised about this challenge.

In the same editorial, Malcolm said “Journalism is a wonderful trade, such a mixture of characters, interests and specialisms.  Being a leader writer at the Guardian is a policy wonk’s dream”.   Influencing social policy was a passion for Malcolm, not only through the editorial and features in Society Guardian, but also through membership of various boards and commissions.   He has served on more than a dozen national social policy working parties, chaired a Joseph Rowntree Foundation commission on older people, and been a trustee of six charities.

Passionate about the importance of good quality journalism, after his retirement he went on to study the impact of journalism on democracy, during his fellowship at Nuffield College Oxford. He drew on four decades of Whitehall briefings, and interviews with many policy makers to make his, often critical, case through historical analysis and case studies.  He published the results of his studies in Democracy Under Attack – How the media distort policy and politics; definitely an enlightening read.

For a taste of his writing style see the feature he wrote more recently about his colleague and Harkness Fellow, JG Farrell.