News | Academics

J-School announces new digital center, seeks director

  • Going Digital | The Columbia Journalism School this month announced that it has finished fund-raising for the new Tow Center for Digital Journalism, a year after the Tow Foundation gave a $5 million gift.

If you know your way around a smartphone, you may be just what the Journalism School employment office is looking for.

Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism announced Jan. 11 that it has completed fund-raising for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and is currently searching for a director.

“We’ve been moving in a digital direction very rapidly these past few years, and we’d like to keep moving and be a recognized leader in teaching digital journalism to students,” said Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Journalism School.

In 2008 the Tow Foundation gave a $5 million gift to the J-School to found a digital media center, with the stipulation that Columbia raise an additional $10 million in two years.

With fund-raising complete, the J-School has launched an international search for a director to lead the center.

“We are looking for someone with a strong track record of innovation in digital media, with an appreciation for the big questions facing journalists these days, and with the intellectual and personal capacity to help lead the school’s efforts in this field,” said William Grueskin, dean of academic affairs at the Journalism School. “The person may come from professional practice or may come from an academic institution—it could be someone working in New York City or in Mumbai.”

Lemann hopes to have appointed a director by July 1 of this year. As for additional hires, Lemann said there is money to bring on an additional faculty member, but a director is the school’s first priority.

“Once that person is aboard, we’ll be making additional decisions in terms of how we allocate the funds,” Grueskin said. “Some will go to instruction, some to research.”

Grueskin envisions the Tow center as operating similarly to the Journalism School’s other specialized operations, such as the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism and the Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism. Currently all M.S. students in the Journalism School are given some training in digital media, and a concentration in digital media is available. However, the center will be a resource for all students regardless of their area of specialization.

“All students will benefit, at least indirectly, from the center, given our plans to ensure it’s tied closely to the curriculum of the Journalism school,” Grueskin said. “We expect that Tow … will act as a convening point for many of the best people in the field, including those affiliated with institutions outside of Columbia.”

Lemann said there is a collaborative degree with the School of Engineering and Applied Science also in the works, which would combine computer science and digital media.

Lemann is not sure yet whether the Tow Center will occupy a specific space in the Journalism School building, but said for right now the emphasis is on getting the center operational and staffed.

Current digital media fellow Alan Haburchak said that although he does not know many details about the project, he is looking forward to the results of the center.

“I am excited about the possibility of more resources being put into developing digital media here at the Journalism School,” Haburchak said. “I hope that the Tow Center will help us more fully integrate all aspects of the journalism education with digital media technology.”


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