Betsy West | Columbia Journalism School

Betsy West

Fred W. Friendly Professor of Professional Practice in Media Society Emeritus

Broadcast Documentary

Betsy West is a video journalist and filmmaker with three decades experience in news and documentaries. Most recently, she directed RBG (CNNFilms, Magnolia, Participant) along with CJS alum Julie Cohen ‘89. RBG, a theatrical documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018 and will be released nationwide this May.

West was executive producer of the MAKERS documentary and digital project (AOL & PBS, 2012); the feature documentary The Lavender Scare (2017), and the short doc 4%: Film’s Gender Problem (Epix 2016.)  Along with her husband, filmmaker Oren Jacoby, she is a principal at Storyville Films where she co-produced Constantine’s Sword (First Run Features, 2007.)

West joined the Columbia faculty in 2009 after working three decades in network news. As a producer and executive at ABC News, she received 21 Emmy Awards and two duPont-Columbia Awards for her work on “Nightline” and “PrimeTimeLive” and the documentary program Turning Point,” where she served as executive producer from 1994-1998. As senior vice president at CBS News from 1998-2005, she oversaw “60 Minutes” and “48 Hours,” and was executive in charge of the CBS documentary 9/11, winner of the Primetime Emmy Award in 2002.

At Columbia, she teaches classes in reporting, video production and documentary. She co-curates and moderates the FilmFridays screening series that brings first-run documentaries and their directors to the Journalism School.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brown University, West holds a Master’s in Communications from Syracuse University. She served two terms on the Corporation of Brown University, and sat on Board of Directors of The New 42nd Street. She and Oren live in Morningside Heights.