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Journalism School announces media institute director

Mark Hansen, a statistics professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, will lead the new media institute endowed by David and Helen Gurley Brown, the Graduate School of Journalism announced on Tuesday.

“Mark Hansen has about as wide a range of interests, talents, and accomplishments as anybody I have ever met,” Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Journalism School, said in a statement.

Hansen will head the East Coast division of the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation, a joint venture between Columbia’s Journalism School and Stanford University’s School of Engineering. As director, he will conduct research, award fellowships and grants, and teach journalism courses that integrate data, algorithms, and computation.

“It is both humbling and thrilling to be invited here, to this historic institution, at a time when the practice of journalism is experiencing a radical reinvention,” Hansen said in the statement.

Helen Gurley Brown, the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, gifted $30 million to Columbia and Stanford in January to establish the institute. Brown’s late husband, David, held degrees from both Stanford and the Columbia School of Journalism. Gurley Brown, who made Cosmopolitan what it is today by starting candid discussions of sex in its pages, died in August.

Through the institute, Stanford researchers and engineers will be able to analyze content produced by the Journalism School, and Columbia journalism students can gain access to cutting-edge technology, according to Jamie Beckett, director of communications and alumni relations at Stanford Engineering School.

The donation also allocated $6 million for construction of a high-tech newsroom inside Pulitzer Hall, planned to open in 2014.

Hansen will work closely with Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, which launched in October of 2010. Research at the Tow Center explores the effects of technology on the field of journalism and offers a dual-degree Master of Science program in computer science and journalism with Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Stanford engineering professor Bernd Girod, the founding director of the Gurley Brown Institute, will become West Coast director, working alongside Hansen.

“It is wonderful for the school, and for journalism, that he has decided to make the work he has been doing on the frontiers of the digital revolution in journalism into his life’s work,” Hansen said.


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