Steve Coll

Steve Coll, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and former Managing Editor of the Washington Post, has been named the new dean of Columbia’s J-school.

Like outgoing J-school dean Nick Lemann, Coll is a staff writer at the New Yorker, which is apparently a farm team for Columbia J-school deans.

Before being named as dean, Coll served as president of the New America Foundation, a liberal Washington think tank. He has won the Pulitzer Prize twice (and came really close a third time) and is now part of the board that oversees the Pulitzer Prizes. He did not like Zero Dark Thirty.

He has been described (by Prezbo) as “one of the most experienced and respected journalists of his generation” with the necessary experience to lead “the premier school of journalism in the nation and, indeed, the world.”

Prezbo’s letter:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am pleased to announce my appointment of Steve Coll, one of the most experienced and respected journalists of his generation, as the new Dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Our Journalism School, now completing an extended celebration of its centennial, is in the midst of a period of institutional innovation as significant as any since the school’s founding a century ago. Under the exemplary decade-long leadership of outgoing Dean Nicholas Lemann and his team, the School has launched centers focused on digital journalism, media innovation and investigative reporting, and created a comprehensive new curriculum, including a dual degree program in Computer Science and Journalism with our School of Engineering and Applied Science. It also has added an exceptional master of arts program that provides journalists with the kind of substantive grounding in academic knowledge that is needed for intelligent coverage and commentary on the critical issues facing our society. As a result Columbia has solidified our standing as having the premier school of journalism in the nation and, indeed, the world.

Nonetheless, Nick Lemann would be the first to acknowledge that these developments cannot be seen as a legacy to be preserved, but as work that must be ongoing. We all recognize that sweeping changes in digital technology and the global marketplace have created unprecedented challenges and opportunities for the news media that demand constant reflection on the mission and substance of a modern journalism education.

That Steve Coll is ideally suited for taking on this leadership challenge is made clear by more than the experience he and Nick happen to share as admired long-time writers for The New Yorker. In 1985, Steve 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 successful tenure as managing editor from 1998 to 2004. A Pulitzer Prize winner in explanatory journalism for a series of Post articles on the Securities and Exchange Commission, which he reported with David Vise, Steve is the author of seven books including “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001,” for which he received a second Pulitzer in 2005 for general non-fiction. 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. Most recently Steve served for five years as president of The New America Foundation, a leading public policy institute in Washington that has supported a remarkable range of thinking on the issues facing our society, including the changes in journalism. It is experience that will serve him well here at Columbia, not only at the Journalism School but across a University community whose breadth of scholarship makes this a unique place to help shape the future of journalism.

I want to express my gratitude to the members of the search committee for their dedication of time and energy. While we are glad to have completed our work together, I will personally miss collaborating with such a collegial, insightful and, diverse team dedicated to the School, the University and the profession.

For the present, please join me in thanking Nick Lemann for his enduring contributions over the past decade and in welcoming Steve Coll as the new Dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.


Lee C. Bollinger

Sexy black-and-white portrait via New Yorker