Columbia Journalism School Launches New Fellowship in Journalism of Ideas Honoring Dean Emerita Joan Konner

May 21, 2020

Columbia Journalism School announces the Joan Konner Program in the Journalism of Ideas, which will award annual fellowships supporting reporting or academic research projects that depart from traditional journalism beats to focus on ideas and beliefs. Established through a bequest from the estate of Joan Konner and with generous support from the M & T Weiner Foundation, the program honors the legacy of Joan Konner, dean emerita of the school and producer of groundbreaking broadcast programs that explored the most compelling ideas of her time and the cultural forces behind them. Dean Konner died in 2018. 

In this inaugural year, the program will provide a $10,000 fellowship and faculty mentorship to support the completion of reported works that explore the intellectual foundations and significant questions arising from the world of ideas, on any subject, including politics, economics, history, culture, science, law and values.

Graduates of the Master’s programs from the last six years (in 2020, Classes of 2015-20) and Ph.D. students who have completed their coursework will be eligible to apply. Applicants are encouraged to apply for support of works on any platform. 

Rosemary Steinbaum, Dean Konner’s daughter and president of the family foundation that helped to create the fellowship, said Konner was long interested in fostering the Journalism of Ideas.

“I remember vividly my mother’s eloquently expressed visions for developing alternative beats in journalism, beats that were uncoupled from conflicts and polarities, beats that might take as their focus ideas instead,” she said. “The family is moved and gratified to be able to perpetuate, with the support of the M&T Weiner Foundation, my mother’s work. Our valued partnership with the Columbia Journalism School has engendered the Joan Konner Program in the Journalism of Ideas.”

Fellows will be selected on a competitive basis by members of the Journalism School faculty. Works must be intended for publication in a peer-reviewed academic, specialized or general interest outlet. As part of the selection process, applicants must identify the intellectual foundations and/or significant questions arising from the world of ideas that they wish to explore.  Applicants will also describe their proposed project and submit a proposed budget, as well as, if available, a letter of support from a news outlet or other qualifying publication interested in running the story. 

“With the creation of this new fellowship program, Joan and her family have secured for the future an important new opportunity, all too rare, for aspiring and talented journalists and communications scholars entering the field to pursue ambitious work,” said Steve Coll, Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor Journalism. “We are especially grateful to receive this gift now, in this era of profound disruption, as it opens up new possibilities for serious work that views events from thoughtful and original perspectives.”

Konner joined the J-School in 1988 as dean and served in the role until 1997. During her tenure she established the school’s part-time Master’s of Science and Ph.D. programs, modernized the curriculum to prepare for the digital age and introduced into the curriculum the Journalism of Ideas, as she defined it: works that explore the intellectual foundations and significant questions arising from the world of ideas, on any subject, including politics, economics, history, culture, science, law and values.

Prior to her appointment at the J-School, Konner spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism with roles including executive producer for national news and public affairs for WNET/Thirteen, the New York PBS affiliate, and executive producer of “Bill Moyers’ Journal.” She produced more than 50 documentaries and television series, including groundbreaking programs on topics including the women’s movement and nuclear waste, as well as the iconic series “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers,” for which she won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. Konner was also the recipient of 16 News and Documentary Emmys and a Peabody Award, among numerous other honors. 

She was also an alumna of the Graduate School of Journalism. Prior to her term as dean, she served as a trustee of Columbia University, and after her term as dean, as publisher, and later as a member of the Board of Overseers, of the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR). She lent her philanthropic support to CJR and to the school including by establishing an endowed scholarship, a graduation prize and by restoring the school’s lobby. Her family has continued to support this legacy through the establishment of a visiting professorship in her name and now, through its support, to help create this endowed fellowship to benefit recent alumni and Ph.D. students of the school.