Welcoming the 2023 Fellow of the Joan Konner Program in the Journalism of Ideas

August 28, 2023

Columbia Journalism School is welcoming back alumni Atul Dev, ‘22 M.A., as a fellow in the Joan Konner Program in the Journalism of Ideas. This fellowship supports reporting in areas that depart from traditional journalism beats, instead focusing on ideas and beliefs.

The fellowship is open to graduates of CJS master's programs from the last six years and Ph.D. students who have completed their coursework. The program honors the late Joan Konner, dean emerita of the school and producer of groundbreaking broadcast programs that explored the most compelling ideas of her time.

Like Konner, Dev will be investigating one of the most pressing issues of our modern day. Reporting from Tuvalu, in Polynesia, he will report on the country's bid to survive as a nation-state after it has lost all its territory to the rising Pacific. Before being swallowed whole by the sea, Tuvalu is trying to create a digital clone of itself.

The project involves digitizing records of Tuvalu’s islets, birds and fish species, traditional songs, recipes, language and even the scores of the national volleyball team.More than that, it wants to become a country that has migrated all its core governance and administrative systems online, to enable it to remotely operate as a state and fulfill all its obligations under international and maritime law.

This climate crisis invites existential questions: What is a country? Can a nation continue to be a nation without a territory to call its own?

Tuvalu will be the first country to confront what it means to exist without a habitable territory, but many more will follow suit. The Maldives, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and the Marshall Islands are going to be completely submerged by the end of the century. Tuvalu could disappear in the next 25 years. This climate crisis invites existential questions: What is a country? Can a nation continue to be a nation without a territory to call its own? Dev will document the first attempt at answering this, and what will define the future of nation-states in the 21st century.

A journalist based in New York, Dev graduated from CJS in 2022 with a degree in M.A. Politics. His work has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The Caravan, where he worked as a staff writer for seven years in New Delhi. He has received grants from the Pulitzer Center and the Robert B Silvers Foundation. He was born in Sikar, India, and started working as a journalist in 2013.

Established through a bequest from the Konner estate and with generous support from the M & T Weiner Foundation, the program provides fellows like Dev $10,000 and faculty mentorship on work in any medium and on any subject exploring the intellectual foundations and significant questions arising from the world of ideas.

The fellowship is named for Konner, ‘61 M.S., a broadcast news producer, documentarian, television executive, and author who served as Dean from 1988 to 1997.  Konner brought many innovations to the School, establishing both the part-time Masters of Science and Ph.D. programs, and modernizing the curriculum.

She also 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 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 and this endowed fellowship, both in her name.