1:04 pm Sep. 10, 201212
Six months before she died this past August, legendary Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown gave the Columbia Journalism School the largest gift in its 100-year history: $18 million to be used largely for the creation of a media innovation institute jointly run with Stanford University’s School of Engineering.
Today, the journalism school named the person who will lead the institute on the Columbia side: Mark Hansen, a veteran U.C.L.A. professor, news consultant and long-time visiting researcher in The New York Times research and development lab.
“Mark Hansen has about as wide a range of interests, talents, and accomplishments as anybody I have ever met,” said Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, in a statement, “It is wonderful for the school, and for journalism, that he has decided to make the work he has been doing on the frontiers of the digital revolution in journalism into his life's work."
A press release described Hansen's appointment as "the latest in a series of moves on the part of Columbia Journalism School to expand its digital offerings." Columbia, which has a reputation of being the most traditional of the three New York-based journalism schools (if not of all journalism schools), has been updating its curriculum over the past several years with added courses focussing on new media and innovation.
Lemman and Bill Grueskin, the journalism school's academic dean, will address the curriculum during a "conversation" at the school on Sept. 20, according to an email that was circulated to alumni. And Hansen will be giving a lecture there on Oct. 3 to "lay out his vision," according to a spokesperson for the school.
In the meantime, here's the press release about his appointment:
Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford University’s School of Engineering today announced that Mark Hansen has been named East Coast director of the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation. Hansen will join Stanford engineering professor Bernd Girod, who was the founding director of the Institute and will now serve as West Coast director. Hansen's appointment is the latest in a series of moves on the part of Columbia Journalism School to expand its digital offerings.
“Mark Hansen has about as wide a range of interests, talents, and accomplishments as anybody I have ever met,” said Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. “It is wonderful for the school, and for journalism, that he has decided to make the work he has been doing on the frontiers of the digital revolution in journalism into his life's work."
Hansen joins Columbia from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he built a career working with data, including projects that ranged from formal statistical modeling and machine learning to more open-ended artistic representations. Hansen holds a PhD and MA in Statistics from the University of California, Berkeley and a BS in Applied Math from the University of California, Davis. He is a long-standing visiting researcher at The New York Times R&D Lab and in recent years he has been active as a consultant to other news organizations. He has also worked at Bell Labs, and is holder or co-holder of eight patents.
“It is both humbling and thrilling to be invited here, to this historic institution, at a time when the practice of journalism is experiencing a radical reinvention,” said Hansen. “With their generous gift, David and Helen Gurley Brown challenge us to delight in these exciting times and to contribute passionately to this reinvention.”
In his new role, Hansen will build a portfolio of long and short-term research projects exploring new forms of storytelling, and will award Brown Institute fellowships and grants. He will also teach courses that cast data, algorithms and computation as essential ingredients in a new journalistic practice.
“Mark is one of those rare individuals who is accomplished both as scientist and an artist,” said Girod. “His work defies disciplinary boundaries and is intensely collaborative. I look forward to working together closely to realize David and Helen Gurley Brown's bold vision.”
In addition to working closely with Girod, Hansen will work closely with Emily Bell, Director of Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Media.
The Brown Institute was founded in January 2012, with a $30 million gift from the late Helen Gurley Brown, inspired by the memory of her late husband David Brown, a graduate of both Stanford University and the Columbia School of Journalism. The Institute’s mission is to support new endeavors to inform and entertain in transformative ways.
“Mark is a fantastic choice to be the East Coast Director and will complement the great work that Bernd has started in establishing the Institute as a leading center for education, journalism and technology,” said Frank A. Bennack, Jr., CEO of Hearst Corporation.
Eve Burton, Senior Vice President of Hearst Corporation and advisor to the Brown Institute who assisted in bringing the Institute to fruition, said: “David loved these institutions, and Helen celebrated great ideas and understood the power of community long before social media had a name. The Institute is the result of their shared passions.”
The Institute has a distinguished board of advisors including Bennack; Burton; Bill Campbell, Columbia’s Chairman of the Board, Chairman of the Board at Intuit and an Apple Inc. board member; Mary Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; and filmmaker Stephen Spielberg.
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