Guardian exec Emily Bell to lead new digital journalism center

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British journalist Emily Bell, a major figure in the world of online news, has been hired to direct a new digital reporting center at the Graduate School of Journalism.

Over the past decade, Bell has overseen the digital news operations of Britain’s Guardian newspaper. The left-leaning Guardian, despite having a modest print circulation for a British daily, has the second- most-trafficked English-language news Web site in the world, attracting 37 million unique visitors per month. That trails only the New York Times.

At Columbia, Bell becomes the inaugural director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, which will be launched this fall with $5 million in support from the philanthropic foundation of Leonard Tow ’60GSAS and $10 million in additional gifts. The center will infl uence the curriculum of the entire school, training even its print journalism students in video, audio, and other multimedia reporting tools. Bell and her colleagues will also teach students to develop new models for delivering information and create business innovations to support those models.

“We’re thrilled to have been able to recruit Emily Bell to come here and to lead the Tow Center,” says Nicholas Lemann, dean of the journalism school. “She has an unparalleled understanding of the toolkit available to digital journalists, and of just how deep and cooperative the relationships between journalists and the public can now become.”

Guardian.co.uk, under Bell’s leadership, was named the best news site by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009. It’s known for innovative content: As part of its May 18 coverage of the Thai uprisings, for example, readers could view photos and videos shot in different Bangkok neighborhoods by clicking individual streets on a city map. The same day, readers could learn why infl ation rates in Britain have risen in recent years by clicking the dips and peaks of a graph that spanned several years and being linked to relevant stories from the Guardian’s archive.

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