Think Tank Completes Its First Decade p. 10

By: Tony Case

Freedom Forum Media Studies Center celebrates 10th anniversary
with plans to relocate to a new $9.4 million facility sp.

IT’S BEEN A monumental year for the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University.
In March, the communications think tank celebrated its 10th anniversary with a two-day conference featuring United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani declared March 19, “Freedom Forum Media Studies Center Day.”
And just last month, the center announced plans to relocate from its cramped, hard-to-reach headquarters on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to a spanking-new, $9.4 million facility in the IBM Building in Midtown.
Through its well-regarded residential fellows program, the Media Studies Center has provided scores of media practitioners the opportunity to write books, conduct research, and investigate, discuss and debate the latest media and free-press issues. Former Boston Globe editor Thomas Winship, now a columnist for E&P, even created another press group, the Center for Foreign Journalists, during his fellowship.
In fact, over the last decade, the center has hosted 150 fellows, generated 90 books and sponsored dozens of seminars for newsroom managers and journalism educators. Besides all this, the center puts out a weighty quarterly, the Media Studies Journal.
In its ads in the trade press, the center implores: “Start the book you’ve always wanted to write ? and help us begin a new chapter.” Such critically acclaimed titles as Three Blind Mice by media critic Ken Auletta and Den of Lions by former AP correspondent Terry Anderson were produced at the center.
Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, columnist and publisher William F. Buckley and the major television network news anchors are among those who’ve addressed the center.
But the Media Studies Center has always had one rather significant problem: It didn’t have adequate conference space at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism building. What’s more, the center had trouble attracting media types to its out-of-the-way location.
As the New York Times put it in a story about the impending move: “If a tree falls and no one hears, has it made a sound? If a foundation holds a conference and no one comes, has it made an impact?”
So next autumn, the center ? which now occupies 17,000 square feet ? will move to a 50,000-square-foot, four-story base in the heart of the city, scant blocks away from the likes of Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.
In making the announcement, Freedom Forum chairman and USA Today founder Allen H. Neuharth said: “This will be a unique blend of academia and Madison Avenue.”
“The Freedom Forum programs and facilities will add significantly to the amazing energy that exists in the area,” said Freedom Forum president and CEO Charles L. Overby. “The Freedom Forum will provide a home for scholarly work, timely media discussions, lectures and film series, and historical perspectives.”
In addition to various programs, the new center will showcase historical displays related to journalism.
The concourse and mezzanine levels will be home to state-of-the-art conference rooms, seating 250 and featuring an 11?x8? video wall; an auditorium for public events that holds 200; and a technology laboratory.
Offices for Freedom Forum staff and fellows, as well as a media library, will be on the building’s 42nd floor. The street level will house journalism exhibits coordinated by the Newseum, a $40 million, Freedom Forum-funded news museum scheduled to open in Arlington in 1997.
Overby said that through the new conference center, the Freedom Forum will be better situated to educate the public about the media, employing broadcast facilities, a rooftop satellite dish and fiber-optic technology.
The Media Studies Center will retain its ties to Columbia University and will initiate consortiums with other universities worldwide, according to Everette E. Dennis, executive director.
“These new offices will make it possible for a large number of people to take part in our activities, while we extend our work to a global audience through fellowships, conferences, publications, research, television and cyberspace activities,” Dennis said.
In announcing the relocation, Overby commented that the Media Studies Center had been “well worth the more than $50 million we’ve invested in it over the last 10 years.”
“It has been years ahead of the curve on every significant media issue to date, and we expect that its vision will continue to lead the pack over the next 10 years.”
?(The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, located on the Columbia University campus for more than 10 years, will relocate next fall to larger digs in Midtown Manhattan. The new center will house state-of-the-art broadcast facilities, a 200-seat auditorium and a journalism exhibit.) [Photo & Caption]

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