The Ira A. Lipman Center For Journalism and Civil and Human Rights | Columbia Journalism School

The Ira A. Lipman Center For Journalism and Civil and Human Rights

Providing leadership for the journalism community by informing and shaping the ways in which we understand race, diversity, civil and human rights.


In 1957, Ira A. Lipman, then a 16-year-old high school student, worked Friday and Saturday nights on the sports desk for the Arkansas Gazette. Frank McGee, an NBC Correspondent, and Mr. Lipman met while McGee was working at the Gazette newsroom on the desegregation of Central High School. After leaving Little Rock, McGee passed along Mr. Lipman's contact information to his colleague John Chancellor as a source. 

The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights was created in 2017 to recognize and support the vital role of journalism in democracy, particularly as it relates to these issues.  The center’s mission is to inform and shape the ways we research and report race, diversity, and civil and human rights in the United States and globally.

The center also oversees The Ira A. Lipman Fellows in Journalism and Civil and Human Rights, a fellowship program for journalistic work in these areas. 

The center's other activities include researching and reporting about race, diversity, and civil and human rights, designing curricula, and developing student activities inspired and informed by the center's work. The center at the Columbia Journalism School will be the primary hub in this field and will be directed by The Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism.

The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights was established in 2017 through a generous gift from Ira A. Lipman, a humanitarian and philanthropist who is chairman emeritus and founder of one of the world's most esteemed security services firms, Guardsmark. 

For more information about the center please click here

Fellowship Program Overview

The center will award two fellowships in 2021. The fellowship is a six-month program.

The fellowship is non-residential but the fellows have access to the resources of the journalism school. Fellows are expected to give a public presentation at the school about their work, and upon mutual agreement, may also lecture, mentor and advise students. Learn about past Lipman Fellows here.

Fellowship Application Guidelines:

  • A resume
  • A short (800 word) description of the proposed project
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Applications for 2021 open February 1, 2021 and close April 1, 2021.
  • Research list of sourcing and data here

You may email your application in Word or PDF form to

You may also mail your application to the following address:

The Ira A. Lipman Fellowship
Columbia University School of Journalism
Pulitzer Hall
2950 Broadway, New York, NY 10027


1. Must I be a working journalist?

Yes. All applicants must be full-time staff reporters or writers with a U.S. news agency, magazine or online outlet, or independent journalists working in the United States.

2. Will I need to live in New York and be on Columbia's campus?

No. The fellowship is nonresidential.

3. What is the amount of the fellowship?

Each fellow will be awarded $10,000.

4. How many fellowships will be granted?

Two fellowships will be awarded in 2020. The senior fellowship is designated for applicants with 10 or more years of journalism experience. The junior fellowship is designated for applicants who are new to the field of journalism or have fewer than five years of full-time journalism experience.

5. What does the fellowship entail?

Fellows will produce a 5,000-word story or series regarding civil and human rights broadly construed, such as voting rights, use of force by police, employment and other discrimination, human trafficking, child labor and more.

Fellows are expected to give a public presentation at the Journalism School  about their work, and upon mutual agreement, may also lecture, mentor and advise students.

6. When does the fellowship begin?

Fellows will be announced in April and will have six months to complete their projects. A draft must be given to the center by Oct. 31 and published within a month, by Nov. 30.

7.  Will I be reimbursed for travel?

We will pay for fellows to come to New York for presentations and a fellowship event in fall 2020. In some instances, we can provide modest funding for reporting stories. All travel requests and other expenses must be made in advance and are subject to approval. 


Jelani Cobb is director of The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights, and Columbia University’s Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism. He joined the faculty in 2016. He has contributed to The New Yorker since 2012 and became a staff writer in 2015. Dr. Cobb is the recipient of the 2015 Sidney Hillman Award for Opinion and Analysis writing, and writes frequently about race, politics, history and culture. Dr. Cobb is also a recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright and Ford Foundations.

He is the author of "The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress," "To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic" and "The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays." His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, Essence, Vibe, The Progressive and He has also contributed to a number of anthologies including "In Defense of Mumia," "Testimony," "Mending the World and Beats" and "Rhymes and Life."

Dr. Cobb is editor of "The Essential Harold Cruse: A Reader." Born and raised in Queens, New York, he is a graduate of Howard University and Rutgers University, where he received his doctorate in American History.


Ira A. Lipman was a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, and was educated in the Little Rock public school system. He then studied at Ohio Wesleyan University.

His business career spanned 55 years.  He created Guardsmark, one of the world’s largest security services firms, from scratch and merged it in 2015.

He received three honorary doctorate degrees, numerous national ethics awards and served on the boards of 65 organizations. He founded the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism in 1995, and was an important source for Chancellor who reached out to him in Little Rock in 1957 when Lipman was a high school senior during the Little Rock integration crisis. 

He was the author of "How To Protect Yourself From Crime" (1975), currently in its fifth edition as "How to be Safe," published in 2012.  He authored articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications during his career.

He died Sept. 16, 2019 at the age of 78 and is survived by his wife Barbara Ellen Kelly and their three sons.


Jelani Cobb
Director and Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism
Phone: 212-851-1809
Office: Pulitzer Hall, 605C
Twitter: @jelani9 

Dolores A. Barclay
Administrative Manager and adjunct professor of journalism
Office: 604-3
Twitter: @dabarclay