Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism Names Winners of the 2012 Annual Alumni Award

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By: Press Release | Columbia Journalism School

NEW YORK, November 22, 2011—Four prominent alumni of Columbia Journalism School will receive the 2012 Alumni Award. The winners are Gail Collins (Knight-Bagehot Fellow) ’82, Lolis Eric Elie ’86, John Fialka ’62 and Simon Li ’70.  

The awards will be presented on Saturday, April 21, 2012, as a feature of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism’s Alumni Weekend (April 20-21), which is also the kick-off of the School’s year-long Centennial Celebration. The awards ceremony will take place in Low Memorial Library on the Columbia campus.  

The Alumni Awards are presented annually for a distinguished journalism career in any medium, an outstanding single journalistic accomplishment, a notable contribution to journalism education or an achievement in related fields. The awards, which represent recognition of excellence by professional peers, are highly prized by the Journalism School’s alumni, many of whom go on to become respected leaders in the field. The winners are selected by a panel of jurors composed of previous award winners, headed by David Peterkin ’82, chair of the Alumni Board.  

More about the 2012 Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Alumni Award winners:  

Gail Collins (Knight-Bagehot Fellow) ’82, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, was the first woman ever appointed editor of The Times’ editorial page. At the beginning of 2007, she stepped down to begin a leave of absence in order to finish her book, “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present,” a sequel to her book, “America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines.” Before joining The Times, Collins was a columnist at New York Newsday and the New York Daily News, and a reporter for United Press International. Her first job in journalism was in Connecticut, where she founded the Connecticut State News Bureau, which provided coverage of the state capitol and Connecticut politics. Besides “When Everything Changed,” published in October 2009, Collins is the author of “America’s Women,” “Scorpion Tongues:  Gossip, Celebrity and American Politics,” and “The Millennium Book,” which she co-authored with her husband, Dan Collins. She teaches as an adjunct at Columbia Journalism School.  

Lolis Eric Elie ’86 is the story editor for the HBO series “Treme,” created by David Simon (“The Wire”). A native New Orleanian, Elie is an award-winning metro columnist and accomplished author. He has chronicled the heartbeat of its neighborhoods for the city’s major daily newspaper, The Times-Picayune. A writer and documentarian, Elie has closely recounted New Orleans’ story for more than 15 years. He wrote and co-produced the 2008 documentary “Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans,” which focused on the historic neighborhood in New Orleans that, during slavery, was home to one of the oldest, most prosperous, and most politically active black communities in the country and the birthplace of jazz. He is the author of “Of Bondage & Memory,” a book on the enduring legacy of the slave trade on two continents, and “Smokestack Lightening: Adventures in the Heart of Barbeque Country,” a book about the culture of barbeque. He is the editor of “Cornbread Nation 2:  The Best of Southern Food Writing” for University of North Caroline Press. As a producer for the Smithsonian Institute’s Jazz Oral History Project, Elie conducted interviews with many of New Orleans’s elder jazz musicians.  

John Fialka ’62 is the editor of ClimateWire, an Internet newsletter devoted to the myriad issues surrounding global warming. Until January, 2008, he was a reporter with the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Bureau, where he covered a wide variety of beats over 25 years, including defense and intelligence matters. He served abroad as the lead reporter for the Journal in the first Gulf War and in the London bureau, during the waning days of the Cold War. His specialties have included nuclear power, nuclear proliferation, war mobilization, and politics and money. From 1996 until retiring in December 2007, he covered energy and environmental matters in the Washington Bureau, a set of issues that became increasingly dominated by climate change. He is the author of three books, including “Hotel Warriors,” an exploration of the battles between the press and the military during the Gulf War that led to the implementation of the “imbed” system used during the War in Iraq; “Economic Espionage in America” and “Sisters, Catholic Nuns and the Making of America,” which has been the subject of two television documentaries. Fialka has won several major awards including the Worth Bingham and the Raymond Clapper awards for investigative journalism.

Simon Li ’70, editor and leadership consultant and vice chairman of the board of the International Press Institute, had a 42-year career in newspapers, the last 23 of them with the Los Angeles Times, where he was an assistant business editor, deputy foreign editor and assistant managing editor. With nearly two decades of management experience, Li believes that moral courage, the human touch, and coaching others are the hallmarks of the best leaders, managers and editors. Born in London and a graduate of University of Oxford, where he is currently a Fleming Fellow and a member of the Rector’s Council, Li began his career as a reporter at the Hong Kong Standard, the English-language daily, during an exciting time — the Cultural Revolution was underway and the politics had spread to Hong Kong. He was recently honored with the “Leadership in Diversity Award” at the Asian American Journalists Association National Convention in Detroit, in recognition of his efforts to diversify the newsroom during his long career as a reporter and editor. He was known in the Times newsroom for his championship of international coverage and directed the paper’s coverage of the Persian Gulf War. Li is also Member of the Board of Overseers of the Huntington Library and a member of the Columbia Journalism School Board of Visitors.    

About the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
For almost a century, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has been preparing journalists in a program that stresses academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry, and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer in 1903, the school offers master of science, master of arts, and doctor of philosophy degrees. For more information about the Journalism Alumni Awards, visit:

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