Emily Bell had spent five years dedicated to online news and information, but it was a telephone call that got her attention. Was the director of digital media at Britain’s Guardian News and Media interested in leading a new center at Columbia Journalism School? Bell seized the opportunity to bring her expertise to New York and educate the next generation in digital journalism and emerging media.
Since October 2010, under Bell’s direction, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism has examined the interaction between journalism and readers who are both consuming and contributing online content. The center and its students explore innovative methods of digital reporting and presentation, providing pathways for truly interactive journalism to emerge and creating models that will serve both new and established media outlets. “Journalism has been set some profound challenges by digital progress,” Bell has said, “and needs help answering them.”
In 2008, with newspapers facing an uncertain future, Leonard Tow ’52GSAS, ’60GSAS decided to act. “It seemed to me the appropriate time to at least plant the seeds for a kind of new integrity in Internet journalism,” the cable television pioneer and distinguished philanthropist told the New York Times.
Tow envisioned a center dedicated to the teaching and research of professional journalism in digital and emerging media. The Tow Foundation — run by Leonard Tow’s daughter, Emily Tow Jackson — indicated that it would be happy to give $5 million if Columbia Journalism School raised $10 million more. Donors rose to the challenge.
“This gift from The Tow Foundation reflects their vision of a journalism profession that evolves with changing demands and is based on sound research and cutting-edge innovation,” said (now former) Journalism dean Nicholas Lemann. “Their generosity is also a reminder and a challenge to those in the field of journalism to turn the obstacles we face into opportunities for growth.”
Published: June 2011