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Cronkite Dean Named Journalism Administrator of the Year

March 11, 2010

Christopher Callahan

Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, has been named the Scripps Howard Foundation Journalism Administrator of the Year.

Callahan will receive $10,000 and the Charles E. Scripps Award for Journalism Administration. The award is given in cooperation with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication to recognize leadership in journalism education.

“No journalism-mass communication dean at a university in the United States can match – or come close to – Chris’s accomplishments at ASU during the past five years,” said Doug Anderson, dean of the College of Communications at The Pennsylvania State University and a former winner of the Journalism Administrator of the Year Award. “The strides that the school has made under his high-voltage leadership are nothing short of astonishing.”

Anderson, who led the Cronkite School to national prominence as the program’s director for 12 years, and others who nominated Callahan for the award said he has built a journalism powerhouse at ASU – a school that is widely recognized as one of the best in the country.

Callahan created major new professional programs such as Cronkite News Service, the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, the New Media Innovation Lab and Cronkite NewsWatch, a 30-minute newscast that airs nightly on PBS across Arizona. He also nearly doubled the size of the full-time faculty and added national figures such as Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post, former CNN anchor Aaron Brown and former Minneapolis Star Tribune editor Tim McGuire.

He also brought to Cronkite the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, ABC News on Campus and the Carnegie-Knight News21 digital media initiative.

In addition, he has raised more than $25 million, led the school’s move to a new state-of-the-art building in downtown Phoenix and led a revision of the curriculum with a new emphasis on high standards, digital media, innovation, entrepreneurship and professional program experiences for students.

“At a time when the media industry remains anxious and even schizophrenic about the transition to a digital age, the Cronkite School under Chris’s direction has become a model for how it can be done,” said Thomas Kunkel, president of St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., and former dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, where Callahan was assistant and then associate dean.

Callahan, 49, was named founding dean of the Cronkite School in 2005, shortly after the school became an independent unit at ASU. He came to ASU from Maryland, where he worked as the No. 2 administrator and served as senior editor of American Journalism Review. Before entering journalism education, Callahan was a Washington correspondent for The Associated Press. He is a graduate of Boston University’s College of Communication and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the author of “A Journalist’s Guide to the Internet.”

Callahan said he is grateful and humbled by the Scripps Award, but he said much of the credit for the Cronkite School’s progress goes to others.

“We have an unparalleled faculty that mixes great professional journalists, digital media thought leaders and top-flight researchers,” Callahan said. “We have tremendously talented and dedicated associate deans and staff. We also have the finest journalism students in the world.” Cronkite students have finished first in the Hearst Journalism Awards twice in the past three years and first in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence competition for four consecutive years.

“We also have fantastic media partners, great support from foundations, corporations and individuals, a leader in President Michael Crow who understands and embraces the importance of a high-quality journalism education, and now a state-of-the-art teaching facility,” he said. “With all of that, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.”

Callahan said his philosophy of journalism education is to focus on two different but equally important dimensions: new digital technologies and traditional values of great journalism.

“We must teach the next generation of great journalists to embrace new media technologies that allow for outreach to and interaction with news consumers in ways unimaginable just a few years ago,” Callahan said. “We need to help ignite in these young people a spirit of daring, experimentation, innovation and entrepreneurship. We need, in short, to equip our students with the digital skills and new ways of thinking that will allow them to create the news media future.

“But we also must redouble our efforts to instill in our students the traditional values of great journalism – accuracy, objectivity, fairness and integrity. New technologies will help us attract new audiences and develop new communities, but powerful, trustworthy content that is central to people’s lives is what will keep them engaged. One without the other is a formula for failure.”

Steve Doig, the school’s Knight Chair in Journalism who was interim director prior to Callahan’s arrival, said it has been Callahan’s tireless enthusiasm for improving the school that has motivated faculty, staff and students.

“It’s not unusual to get a pre-dawn e-mail from him recommending a relevant news story or pitching an idea,” Doig said. “He had the vision to see what the Cronkite School could become and the leadership skills to inspire our faculty, staff, students and university administration to bring that vision to fruition.”

Callahan will receive the Scripps Award in August at the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Denver. He said he will use the Scripps Howard grant to complete a pledge he and his wife, Jeanmarie, made to name a digital editing bay in the Cronkite School in honor of their two sons, Cody, 17, and Casey, 12.

Previous Journalism Administrators of the Year award winners include Kunkel, Anderson and the late Reese Cleghorn, Callahan’s first dean at the University of Maryland.

“One of the great honors of receiving this award is following in the footsteps of great journalism leaders who not only changed journalism education, but who helped me so much over the years,” Callahan said.

Dedicated to excellence in journalism, the Scripps Howard Foundation is a leader in industry efforts in journalism education, scholarships, internships, literacy, minority recruitment and development and First Amendment causes.