New Columbia J-School Dean Steve Coll “Elated” to Start Work, Does Not Think Journalism Is Plunging Headlong Into the Abyss


Columbia Journalism School’s new dean is here, and he is pumped. Incoming dean Steve Coll, a former managing editor for the pre-Bezos buyout Washington Post, as well as a staff writer for the New Yorker and director of the New America Foundation, made landfall on July 15; the class of 2014 arrived for orientation late last week. Coll replaces Nicholas Lemann, who announced he was stepping down in October.

By way of introduction, Coll sent out a letter to alumni yesterday, in which he made some encouraging noises about the changing media landscape, and noted the “bounce in the steps of our newest students” as a reminder of journalism’s eternal promise. I graduated from the J-school in 2011 (the loans should be paid off by the early 22nd century). I remember feeling distinctly bouncy before all the sleep deprivation set in, when I realized graduate school meant I had functional health insurance for the first time in years.

Coll thinks it’s something else. “I have great confidence in the Journalism School’s mission and values,” he wrote. “Journalism is changing, but the opportunities it offers of a life and career of relevance, curiosity, learning and engagement remain as thrilling as ever.”

The new dean joins the school at a time when it’s overhauling their curriculum for the Digital Age; unlike dinosaurs like myself and fellow staff writer Albert Samaha, who were allowed to major in something ludicrous called “magazine writing,” the newbies are now required to take courses in three “modules:” The Written Word, Image and Sound, and Audience and Engagement (aka “Twitter”).

Coll’s full letter is below. Get stoked. Alternately, with the class of 2014 in mind, share your best sleep deprivation story in the comments. Get ready to watch a whole lot of sunrises from the eighth floor, kids.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that Coll is replacing Sree Sreenivasan, who also recently left the J-school to join the Met as their chief digital officer. I was just overly excited to make that joke about Sree interviewing the Epic Meal Time bros. My apologies to all the deans everywhere for the error.

Dear Alumni,

I am writing to introduce myself as the new Dean of Columbia Journalism School. Thanks again to those of you who have already offered welcomes–it has been wonderful in these early weeks to discover, one by one, so many loyal, diverse and talented alumni.

I arrived at the school on July 15. I’ve enjoyed a very warm reception from the university and the school’s faculty and staff. I could not be more elated about what lies ahead.

It is a gift to join an institution in such strong shape. With your vital support, Nick Lemann and his team have done extraordinarily well during a time of change and disruption in our profession. The school’s global reputation is stronger than ever and the fundraising campaign that closed at this spring’s centenary exceeded all goals and expectations. This autumn, we start our second century with momentum.

We have strong new classes of students. Our Master of Science class will benefit from a new fall curriculum that preserves the core strengths of RW1 while delivering deeper access to digital and multimedia knowledge and skills. Construction is under way downstairs on the gorgeous new Brown Institute for Media Innovation. That space will also house the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. We plan to start renovations on the World Room next summer, aided by a generous gift from the Pulitzer family.

I have great confidence in the Journalism School’s mission and values. Journalism is changing, but the opportunities it offers of a life and career of relevance, curiosity, learning and engagement remain as thrilling as ever.

The bounce in the steps of our newest students is an ample reminder of that. It is a privilege to be a part of Columbia’s tradition and unmatched record of excellence.

Thank you for all that you do to make the Journalism School such an important and durable institution. I have much to learn and I welcome your opinions and participation in the months ahead. I very much look forward to being in touch.


Steve Coll
Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor