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Pulitzer's School: Columbia University's School of Journalism, 1903-2003
     

Pulitzer's School: Columbia University's School of Journalism, 1903-2003

by James Boylan
 

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Marking the centennial of the founding of Columbia University's school of journalism, this candid history of the school's evolution is set against the backdrop of the ongoing debate over whether journalism can—or should—be taught in America's universities.

Originally known as "the Pulitzer School" in honor of its chief benefactor, the newspaper

Overview

Marking the centennial of the founding of Columbia University's school of journalism, this candid history of the school's evolution is set against the backdrop of the ongoing debate over whether journalism can—or should—be taught in America's universities.

Originally known as "the Pulitzer School" in honor of its chief benefactor, the newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer, Columbia's school of journalism has long been a significant and highly visible presence in the journalism community. But at the turn of the twentieth century, when the school was originally conceived, journalism was taught either during an apprenticeship at a newspaper office or as a vocational elective at a few state universities—no Ivy League institution had yet dared to teach a common "trade" such as journalism. It was Pulitzer's vision, and Columbia's decision to embrace and cultivate his novel idea, that would eventually help legitimize and transform the profession. Yet despite its obvious influence and prestige, the school has experienced a turbulent, even contentious history. Critics have assailed the school for being disengaged from the real world of working journalists, for being a holding tank for the mediocre and a citadel of the establishment, while supporters—with equal passion—have hailed it for upholding journalism's gold standard and for nurturing many of the profession's most successful practitioners.

The debate over the school's merits and shortcomings has been strong, and at times vehement, even into the twenty-first century. In 2002, the old argument was reopened and the school found itself publicly scrutinized once again. Had it lived up to Pulitzer's original vision of a practical, uncompromising, and multifaceted education for journalists? Was its education still relevant to the needs of contemporary journalists? Yet after all the ideological arguments, and with its future still potentially in doubt, the school has remained a magnet for the ambitious and talented, an institution that provides intensive training in the skills and folkways of journalism. Granted unprecedented access to archival records, James Boylan has written the definitive account of the struggles and enduring legacy of America's premiere school of journalism.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Boylan, who taught journalism at Columbia from 1957 to 1979, founded the Columbia Journalism Review and served as a Pulitzer Prize juror, was commissioned by the dean of Columbia's journalism school to write this account of the school's history. Working mostly from archival materials from the university's various collections, supplemented by relevant published materials, Boylan has produced a straightforward corporate history of the institution, from Pulitzer's original $2 million grant to start a professional school of journalism on the Columbia campus, up to controversies over the future of the school's mission under its current president, Lee Bollinger. Boylan emphasizes the shifting relationship of the journalism school to the rest of the university, the role of various faculty members in shaping the journalism curriculum and the diverse career moves of the Journalism School staff. Boylan mentions major controversies on the larger campus e.g., the riots of 1968 only in passing, and he sometimes describes the journalism school's politically questionable activities in a less than critical fashion. (For example, Boylan dismisses the journalism school's involvement in training the Kuomintang, with secret funding from the U.S. government, simply as an "object lesson" in the "complications" arising from covert operations.) While it isn't unusual for corporate histories to sidestep controversy, it is unfortunate that Boylan chose not to detail the actual curriculum of the journalism school; readers are left with a sense of the generic problems of a professional school within a major university, but no real feel for the type of training "Pulitzer's School" has offered over the last century. Photos. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It has been 100 years since Columbia University began its concurrent efforts to educate journalists and promote journalism as a profession. The Columbia School of Journalism-once known as the Pulitzer School in recognition of its chief benefactor, Joseph Pulitzer-has always been closely associated with the Pulitzer prizes, which have been awarded by the university since 1917. Pulitzer's vision required creating both educational programs and awards. The combination of the two activities would, he believed, result in better journalists and newspapers to serve the public. Boylan, a journalism historian and former faculty member at Columbia, has produced a detailed history of the school from its origin to the present. Making extensive use of archival materials, he traces the school's history through its deans and faculty and highlights the ongoing academic arguments over the nature of journalism education. Journalism educators as well as Columbia faculty and alumni will appreciate this detailed history, but outsiders may find it slow going. Recommended for academic libraries that support journalism education.-Judy Solberg, George Washington Univ. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Anthony Lewis
At a time of intense controversy about the press, James Boylan has written a candid, fascinating account of the best-known school for educating journalists. The Columbia Journalism School is undergoing its own revolution these days. Perhaps it will move back toward the goal, set by Joseph Pulitzer in 1902, that Boylan recalls: to teach journalists about 'politics, literature, government, constitutional principles.'

American Journalism - Maurine H. Beasley
[Boylan's] book provokes thought about the role of journalism in society and the place of a professional school.

The Journal of American History - Barbara Cloud
Boylan's attention to detail and his agreeable writing style make it highly readable...Pulitzer's Schoo is a fascinating look at the early days of their discipline.

Columbia Journalism Alumni Journal
Boylan's book is absorbing certainly for anyone with a tie to the School or a concern about journalism education. And it portrays some fascinating characters, their oddities, their disputes, their fits of indignation, and even occasional heroism.

Columbia Daily Spectator
This book is a valuable contribution to the debate about journalism education. Boylan has done an admirable job of summing up the technical problems of the school's administration. But his history was ultimately written in the hopes that the school's leaders can transcend the details and lead the institution to realize Pulitzer's dreams.

Choice

This valuable book is far more comprehensive than John Hohenberg's The Pulitzer's Diaries: Inside America's Greatest Prize. Recommended [for] journalism collections at all levels.

American Journalism
[Boylan's] book provokes thought about the role of journalism in society and the place of a professional school.

— Maurine H. Beasley

The Journal of American History
Boylan's attention to detail and his agreeable writing style make it highly readable... Pulitzer's Schoo is a fascinating look at the early days of their discipline.

— Barbara Cloud

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231500173
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
01/22/2005
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
337
File size:
7 MB

What People are Saying About This

Ben H. Bagdikian
James Boylan has written a detailed and unvarnished account of the first truly serious school of journalism in the country that befits a professional historian. But he has also written—God save us—a highly readable book, which will be equally compelling to serious readers of the daily news, professional journalists, and academics.

Meet the Author

James Boylan is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he taught journalism and history from 1979 to 1991. He was previously a member of the journalism faculty at Columbia (1957-1979), and was the founding editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. He has also edited an anthology drawn from Pulitzer's New York World, and was a Pulitzer Prize juror.


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