Four candidates left in director search

The final stage in the international search for a new director for Annenberg’s School of Journalism began March 26 after the last “Director Search Job Talk.”

Final stretch · Geneva Overholser, the director of Annenberg’s School of Journalism, will step down in June. Her successor will start work in July.  - Courtesy of USC News

Final stretch · Geneva Overholser, the director of Annenberg’s School of Journalism, will step down in June. Her successor will start work in July. — Courtesy of USC News

The new director is slated to begin work on July 1.

“The expectation is that the school will have a new director in the next few weeks,” said Bill Celis, the associate director of the School of Journalism. “USC Annenberg Dean Ernest Wilson III, advised by faculty feedback, will make the final decision.”

The selection process began when current School of Journalism Director Geneva Overholser announced last year that she would leave at the end of June 2013, the conclusion of her five-year term.

“Geneva Overholser is a visionary leader who has spent her career focused on how to make journalism excellent in every way — more inclusive, more democratic, more focused on civic engagement,” Wilson said. “When she agreed to put her experience and energy toward the education of the next generation of journalists for a five-year term here at USC Annenberg, we knew we were embarking on a revolutionary time for the school. Geneva has set the bar very high for her successor.”

Vice Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Larry Gross said it is imperative for the new director to continue Overholser’s legacy.

“The chief qualities we are looking for in a new director include someone who can maintain the extraordinary momentum established by Geneva Overholser and her colleagues in the past few years as the School of Journalism has responded to the upheavals in the field of journalism by transforming itself into a journalism school for the 21st century,” Gross said.

The finalists to succeed Overholser as director of the journalism school include Executive Editor and Senior Vice President for The Seattle Times David Boardman, Associate Professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University Douglas Foster, Vice President and Managing Editor of The Associated Press Kristin Gazlay and Dean of Academic Affairs at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism William Grueskin.

The quartet of finalists represent the top applicants from a pool of dozens that was gathered beginning last spring. Each was selected by a committee and invited to meet faculty, students and the administration and deliver a talk on the nature of journalism in the modern world.

“We wanted a wide swath of feedback for deciding the leader of one of the country’s most prominent journalism schools,” Celis said.

Based on the feedback gathered during each candidate’s visit, a variety of criteria will be applied in the process of determining the new director.

“We are looking for someone who embraces change and are effective in leading faculty and staff colleagues through change,” Celis said. “We want a director who is forward-looking and who acknowledges not only the problems but also the promise of journalism and how we reframe the practice of journalism in a new century.”

Celis said that the changing role of journalism to reflect digital platforms, more diverse voices and greater public dialogue will frame the qualities sought for in the new director. With the emergence of citizen journalism and journalism’s evolution as a form of two-way conversation with the public, Celis said the new director will need to be open to both new ideas and new voices.

“We are looking for someone who is open to experimentation, acknowledges the importance of diversity both in terms of recruiting students and faculty and teaching a new generation of journalists to include a broader range of voices,” Celis said. “We want somebody who values the fairness, accuracy, context but also understands that much of how we practiced journalism in the past is changing and must change.”

Gross emphasized that the importance of journalism to greatersociety places a high responsibility on the journalism school’s next leader, who will be charged with leading the journalism school.

“Journalism schools are the teaching hospitals that train the next generations of professionals to provide the information in the public interest that is the lifeblood of democracy,” Gross said.