Journalism School Selects New Dean

Photo: Neil Henry
Neil Henry

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The Graduate School of Journalism's two-year search for a dean came to an end last Thursday when the school announced that Interim Dean Neil Henry would fill the permanent post.

In the most recent of two national searches-which lasted from September to April-school officials contacted over 300 people about the job but failed to produce a replacement after the four frontrunners dropped out last month.

Henry said he had not applied for the position because he believed the school was committed to attracting an outsider and did not want his status as interim dean to discourage anyone from applying.

"Lo and behold the best candidate was right here," said Robert Gunnison, director of school affairs and a selection committee member.

Henry became the interim position after Dianne Lynch, who was approved by the UC Board of Regents in 2007, turned down the post for personal reasons. Lynch is currently the dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College in New York.

During his year and a half as interim dean, Henry helped raise $5 million for the school through fundraising efforts. In that time, the school integrated multimedia into its curriculum and acquired funding from the Ford Foundation, which was used to launch a series of Web sites that cover news related to under-reported Bay Area communities.

Henry said his appointment will allow him to see these projects through.

"I'm filled with a sense of mission," he said. "There are important things that need to be done."

William Drummond, a professor in the school, said he was impressed that Henry was able to accomplish these things during his uncertain post as interim dean during a difficult time for journalism and for the school.

"To me, that's just extraordinary," he said.

The faculty at the school had a difficult time reaching a consensus as to which direction the school should take in a changing time for media, Drummond said. Across the country, newspapers have lost advertising revenue, scaled back production or folded completely, as more people get their news for free online.

"We don't know who exactly has the answers, but we think Neil is capable of leading that discussion," Gunnison said.

The school was bold in searching for a new leader in a time when the industry is taking a hit, said Steve Horton, a media expert with Nashville's Katcher Vaughn & Bailey Public Relations.

"A lot of people might have been looking at this, saying 'it's taking so long,' but it's an important decision for who will lead all of these future journalists," he said.

Henry spent his first weekend as permanent dean poring over applications from African journalists looking to spend two years learning at the school, a program funded by a new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"We're going to be moving even faster," Henry said.

Before joining the school's faculty in 1993, Henry worked for 16 years as a correspondent for The Washington Post, primarily covering Africa.

He will serve out his five-year appointment until 2012. After that he said he hopes to return to teaching and writing full-time.

Robert Berring, a professor at Boalt Hall School of Law and head of the selection committee, said Henry is equipped to lead the school in trying times.

"I think it's a happy ending for everybody," Berring said.


Contact Leah Greenbaum at [email protected]

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