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Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Establishes
Spencer Fellowship for Education Reporting

$2 Million Grant to Hone Research and Reporting Skills for Time-Tested Beat

New York, Aug. 6, 2007 – The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Spencer Foundation have established the Spencer Fellowship for Education Reporting to enable education writers to spend a year at Columbia to develop a long-form reporting project to advance the understanding of the American education system.

The education reporting fellowship, which is open to professional educators, working journalists and candidates who have a passion for education writing, aims to provide writers with the research resources of a great university and a break from the newsroom to delve into an important aspect of education reporting.

Three fellows will be selected for the highly-competitive program, based upon their previous and potential work, demonstrated commitment to reporting on education issues, and the importance and originality of their proposed projects. Proposals can take the form of a narrative newspaper story or series, a magazine article or a nonfiction book.

“Part of the power of journalism is its ability to generate informed public discussion on major issues,” said Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Journalism School. “There is no issue more important than education. What we are trying to do here is help to shape and launch three ambitious and memorable works of journalism a year on educational topics – works that demonstrate the way our profession, when practiced at its highest level, can bring public questions vividly to life.”

The education reporting fellowship, funded by a $2 million grant over the next four years from the Spencer Foundation, will provide journalists and educators with the education coursework and research to produce accessible and compelling journalism. Participants in the year-long residential fellowship will be given the opportunity to work closely with an advisor who will act as a writing coach and editor. Together, they will define their subject matter and scope and see the project through all stages of the writing and editing process. Fellows will attend classes at Columbia, including Teachers College and the Journalism School, as they work on their projects.

“The Spencer Foundation is committed to supporting programs that spur awareness of the challenges and opportunities in education around the world,” said Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation. “Working with this outstanding journalism graduate program allows us to continue to meet our goal of improving education at all levels.” 

Fellows will be taught critical skills in research and analysis so that their work is both well reported and explanatory, working with nationally recognized educators and writers. Professor LynNell Hancock, a Journalism School faculty member and a nationally known education, family and children's issues writer, will act as curriculum specialist and chief advisor to the program. Samuel Freedman, who teaches book-writing and Sheila Coronel, who runs the Journalism School’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, also will be key advisors. Associate Dean Arlene Morgan will serve as the overall director in the application and selection process.

“Our purpose is also to help elevate, through the exemplary work of the Spencer Fellows, the position of the education beat within journalism, and to demonstrate that the intellectual and analytic resources that reside in a great university can be enormously helpful to journalists in doing their work, even if that work is aimed at the broad public and does not read as academic,” Dean Lemann said. “We hope to show that in education journalism, as in other realms of our profession, the marriage of expertise to reporting and narrative can produce impressive results.”

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 by Joseph Pulitzer in 1912, the school offers Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

About the Spencer Foundation

The Spencer Foundation was established in 1962 by Lyle M. Spencer. The Foundation received its major endowment upon Spencer’s death in 1968 and began formal grant making in 1971. The Foundation is intended, by Spencer’s direction, to investigate ways in which education, broadly conceived, can be improved around the world. The Spencer Fellowship for Education Reporting is a key activity of the Spencer Forum, a Foundation initiative established in 2005 to strengthen the connections between education research, policy and practice and to enrich the broader public discourse on issues related to education.

About Columbia University

A leading academic and research university, Columbia continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia’s extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations and community partnerships enrich campus life. They help define the University’s underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. For more information, visit www.columbia.edu.