Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger has announced his appointment of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Coll as the new dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, effective July 1, 2013. Coll replaces Nicholas Lemann, who has served as dean since 2003.
“Steve Coll is one of the most experienced and respected journalists of his generation,” said Bollinger. “Sweeping changes in digital technology and the global marketplace have created unprecedented challenges and opportunities for the news media that demand our constant reflection on the mission and substance of a modern journalism education. Our journalism school is thriving today because of its innovative response to these developments, and Steve’s breadth of experience as a reporter, editor, author and executive make him ideally suited to lead the School in the years ahead.”
Coll most recently served for five years as president of The New America Foundation, a leading public policy institute in Washington that has supported a wide range of thinking on the public issues facing our society, including the changes in journalism. In 1985, Coll joined the Washington Post as a general assignment feature writer for the Style section and over the next twenty years served as a foreign correspondent and senior editor, culminating in his tenure as managing editor from 1998 through 2004. He received his first Pulitzer in 1990 for explanatory journalism with a series of articles on the Securities and Exchange Commission which he reported with David Vise. The author of seven books, Coll won his second Pulitzer Prize in 2005, in general non-fiction, for Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Ghost Wars also won the Council of Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross award, the Overseas Press Club Award, and the Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book published about international affairs. His latest book, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, was published this past November, and won the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs prize for best business book of the year.
“Columbia’s leaders and faculty have built an enormously successful school that affirms journalism’s most serious and enduring values – depth, originality, ethics, and the role journalists can play in a democracy by promoting transparency, giving voice to the powerless and holding the powerful to account,” Coll said. “The digital revolution has been hugely disruptive within the profession but it is also made journalism more vital, accessible, and essential, we’re only beginning to learn what great journalism in new media will look like and how to teach, strengthen and inspire journalists in what is increasingly a globalized profession. The journalism school has a chance across the next decade to extend its leadership as an institution with worldwide influence, a locus of deep and serious education, a source of experimentation, and a place where great journalism is not just taught but practiced.”
Like Lemann, Coll joins several Columbia faculty members who have been regular contributors to The New Yorker magazine. In addition to the Pulitzers, which are administered by Columbia, his other journalism honors include a Livingston Award for outstanding foreign reporting in 1992; the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for coverage of the civil war in Sierra Leone in 2000; and a second Overseas Press Club Award for international magazine writing. He holds a BA in English and history from Occidental College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Cum Laude, in 1980.
Columbia Journalism School is now completing an extended celebration of its centennial year and capping a decade of institutional development under outgoing Dean Nicholas Lemann. Over recent years, the school created a comprehensive new curriculum; launched new centers focused on digital journalism, media innovation and investigative reporting; and created a dual degree program in computer science and journalism together with Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. It has also added a master of arts program that provides journalists with the substantive grounding in other academic disciplines needed for intelligent coverage and commentary on the critical issues facing society locally and globally.
“We are grateful to Nick Lemann for his enduring contributions to Columbia,” Bollinger said. “But he would be the first to acknowledge that these exciting developments at the Journalism School cannot be seen as a legacy to be preserved, but as work that must be ongoing. I am confident that Steve Coll will do just that as dean.”