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Founded in 1912 by Joseph Pulitzer, the Columbia Journalism School is the only journalism school in the Ivy League and one of the oldest in the world. It offers four degree programs: 1) master of science; 2) master of arts; 3) a variety of dual degrees, including a master of science in journalism and computer science; and 4) a doctor of philosophy in communications.
The school is housed alongside the Pulitzer Prizes, arguably journalism's most prestigious award. It directly administers several other prizes, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, honoring excellence in broadcast and digital journalism in the public service. It co-sponsors the National Magazine Awards, also known as the Ellie Awards, and publishes the Columbia Journalism Review, a widely respected voice on press criticism since 1961.
In addition to offering professional development programs, fellowships and workshops, the school is home to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, which "examines digital journalism's industry-wide economic trends, its cultural shifts, and its relationship with the broader, constantly changing world of technology," and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, "a collaboration between Columbia University and Stanford University, designed to encourage and support new endeavors in media innovation," particularly the incorporation of new tools and technologies in journalistic storytelling in the digital age. The school is also home to the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, "a resource center and global network of journalists, journalism educators and health professionals dedicated to improving media coverage of trauma, conflict and tragedy."
Admission to the school is highly selective and has traditionally drawn a very international student body. A faculty of experienced professionals preeminent in their respective fields, including politics, arts and culture, religion, science, education, business and economics, investigative reporting, and national and international affairs, instruct students. A Board of Visitors meets periodically to advise the dean's office and support the school's initiatives.
In 1892, Pulitzer, a Hungarian-born newspaper magnate, offered Columbia University President Seth Low funding to establish the world's first school of journalism. He sought to elevate a profession viewed more often as a common trade learned through an apprenticeship. His idea was for a center of enlightened journalism in pursuit of knowledge as well as skills in the service of democracy. "It will impart knowledge--not for its own sake, but to be used for the public service," Pulitzer wrote in a now landmark, lead essay of the May 1904 issue of the North American Review. The university was resistant to the idea. But Low's successor, Nicholas Murray Butler, was more receptive to the plan.
Pulitzer was set on creating his vision at Columbia and offered it a $2 million gift, one-quarter of which was to be used to establish prizes in journalism and the arts. It took years of negotiations and Pulitzer's death in October 1911 to finalize plans. On September 30, 1912, classes began with 79 undergraduate and postgraduate students, including a dozen women. Veteran journalist Talcott Williams was installed as the school's director. When not attending classes and lectures, students scoured the city for news. Their more advanced classmates were assigned to cover a visit by President William Howard Taft, a sensational police murder trial and a women's suffrage march. A student from China went undercover to report on a downtown cocaine den. A journalism building was constructed the following year at Broadway and 116th Street on the western end of the campus.
In 1935, Dean Carl Ackerman, a 1913 alumnus, led the school's transition to become the first graduate school of journalism in the United States. As the school's reach and reputation spread (due in part to an adjunct faculty of working New York journalists and a tenured full-time faculty that included Pulitzer winners Douglas Southall Freeman and Henry F. Pringle and Life Begins at Forty author Walter B. Pitkin), it began offering coursework in television news and documentary filmmaking in addition to its focus on newspapers and radio. The Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, the oldest international awards in journalism, were founded in 1938, honoring reporting in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards for excellence in broadcast journalism moved to the school in 1968. In 1958, the Columbia Journalism Award, the school's highest honor, was established to recognize a person of overarching accomplishment and distinguished service to journalism. Three years later, the school began publishing the Columbia Journalism Review.
After joining the tenured faculty in 1950, veteran United Nations correspondent John Hohenberg became the inaugural administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes in 1954, a secondary appointment that he would hold until 1976. Ackerman was succeeded as dean in 1954 by former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Edward W. Barrett, who served until 1968. In 1966, the school began awarding the National Magazine Awards in association with the American Society of Magazine Editors. Former CBS News president Fred W. Friendly was appointed the same year to the tenured faculty and enhanced the broadcast journalism program alongside former NBC News correspondent Elie Abel, who served as dean from 1970 to 1979. Abel was succeeded by former Newsweek editor and prominent New York socialite Osborn Elliott (1979-1986), who in turn was succeeded by longtime Bill Moyers collaborator Joan Konner (1988-1996), the school's only female dean to date. By the 1970s, the Reporting and Writing 1 (RW1) course had become the cornerstone of the school's basic curriculum. The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship was created in 1975 to enrich economics and business journalism. In 1985, the Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism was founded. While serving as Pulitzer administrator, former New York Times managing editor Seymour Topping joined the tenured faculty in 1994.
A doctoral program was established in 1998 by communications theorist James W. Carey, who emerged as an "editor of and contributor to many scholarly publications at a time when Columbia was urging journalism professors to do more academic research." In 2005, Nicholas Lemann, two years into his tenure as dean, created a second more specialized master's program leading to a master of arts degree, prompting the hiring of political journalist Thomas B. Edsall and music critic David Hajdu. As a result of industry changes forced by digital media, the school in 2013 erased distinctions between types of media, such as newspaper, broadcast, magazine and new media, as specializations in its master of science curriculum. The Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, dedicated to training select students interested in pursuing careers in investigative journalism, opened in 2006. A year later, the Spencer Fellowship was created to focus on long-form reporting. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma relocated to Columbia in 2009 to focus on media coverage of trauma, conflict and tragedy. In 2010, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism was created. The Brown Institute for Media Innovation was launched under the aegis of former Bell Labs statistician and data scientist Mark Henry Hansen in 2012.
The school's ten-month Master of Science (M.S.) program offers aspiring and experienced journalists the opportunity to study the skills, art and the ethics of journalism by reporting and writing stories that range from short news pieces to complex narrative features. Some students interested in investigative reporting are selected to study at the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, a specialization of the M.S. program. Documentary and data journalism specialization programs are offered as well. The M.S. program is also offered on a part-time basis.
A year-long M.S. program in data journalism teaches the skills for finding, collecting and analyzing data for storytelling, presentation and investigative reporting.
The school offers several dual-degree programs in collaboration with other schools at Columbia: journalism and computer science, journalism and international affairs, journalism and law, journalism and business, and journalism and religion. The school also offers international dual-degree programs with Sciences Po in Paris, France and the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The smaller, nine-month Master of Arts (M.A.) program is for experienced journalists interested in focusing on a particular subject area: politics, science, business and economics or arts and culture. M.A. students work closely with journalism professors and take courses in other academic departments and schools at the university. The program is full-time.
The doctoral program draws upon the resources of Columbia in a multidisciplinary approach to the study of communications. Ph.D. students craft individual courses of study to acquire deep knowledge in an area of concentration through research and coursework in disciplines ranging from history, sociology or religion to business or international affairs.
The Bronx Beat established in 1981 and published Mondays is the weekly student publication of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism giving Columbia graduate students the chance to work on a real newspaper that serves more than a student audience. The publication serves readers in the South and Central Bronx and covers such urban issues as schools, jobs and unemployment, health care, education, crime, mass transportation, religion and the arts. Seasoned editors and reporters assess the content quality and crtique it. Students' stories are edited by colleagues, and by professional journalists from The New York Times and other New York dailies line-edit copy and help with the paper's layout.
The school administers many professional awards, a tradition Joseph Pulitzer began when he founded the school and endowed the Pulitzer Prizes at Columbia, honoring excellence in journalism and the arts since 1917.
The school administers the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, the National Magazine Awards, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Lukas Prizes, the Oakes Prizes, the Meyer Berger Award, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award and the Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma.
The Columbia Journalism School is accredited by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.