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Editor Named New Director of Reynolds Business Journalism Center

March 22, 2009
Linda Austin
Linda Austin

Courtesy of Lexington Herald-Leader

Linda Austin, editor and vice president of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and former business editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, will be the new executive director of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University.

The Reynolds Center, created through generous grants from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation of Las Vegas and operated by ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is dedicated to improving the quality of business and economics coverage through training programs for business reporters and editors.

Austin will start as executive director April 30 at the Center’s headquarters in the new Cronkite School building on ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus. She also will hold the faculty rank of professor of practice.

Andrew Leckey, the founding director of the Center, recently moved into the newly created position of the Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism at the Cronkite School. In that post he will build a specialization in business and economics journalism at the undergraduate and master’s levels. Leckey, who holds the faculty rank of professor, also will serve in the new post of president of the Reynolds Center, coordinating collaborative work of a network of Reynolds business journalism chairs at the University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Nevada, Reno, Washington and Lee University, and ASU.

“Linda Austin, with her superb newsroom leadership skills, business journalism expertise and passion for professional newsroom education and training, is the ideal person to take the Reynolds Center into the future, building on Andrew Leckey’s unparalleled work over the past six years,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “With Linda focusing on professional development in newsrooms and Andrew on the education of aspiring business journalists, the Reynolds Center at the Cronkite School – through the extraordinary support of the Reynolds Foundation – will be the world’s hub of business journalism education.”

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation created the Reynolds Center in 2003 at the America Press Institute in Reston, Va., and moved it to the Cronkite School in 2006. The foundation has invested more than $9.26 million in the Center, which has reached more than 8,000 working journalists, journalism educators and university students across the country with intensive one-day workshops, weeklong residential seminars for journalism educators, and a variety of Webinars and Web-based tutorials and seminars. Its Web site, www.businessjournalism.org, is a popular destination for journalists and students seeking information about the latest concepts and techniques in business journalism.

“The Reynolds Center, under Andrew Leckey’s leadership, has played a critical role in improving American business journalism over the past six years,” said Fred W. Smith, chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. “We are enthusiastic about Linda Austin leading the Center into the future as business and economic issues become even more important and more complex.”

Austin joins the Reynolds Center following a rich career in daily newsrooms around the country. As the top editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Austin focused on fostering watchdog reporting and driving digital innovation on the Herald-Leader’s site, Kentucky.com.

Before moving to Lexington in 2007, she was executive editor of The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Ind., and earlier was managing editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. She led her newspapers to numerous national prizes, including a Pictures of the Year International Award, Casey Medal, Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award and awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors, National Press Club and Associated Press Sports Editors.

Austin joined The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1987 as an assistant business editor and rose to become the paper’s business editor, revamping the section and starting a technology section. She also helped direct an investigation that led to the 1990 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service. In 1997 she was named The Inquirer’s director of business development, creating a new monthly magazine, PhillyTech, and serving as the publication’s editor and publisher.

A 1976 journalism graduate with highest honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Austin worked as a reporter and editor at The Dallas Times Herald and The Straits Times in Singapore before joining The Inquirer.

She served as a Pulitzer Prize juror in 2006 and 2007.

“Given the current economic meltdown, clear and cogent business reporting has never been more important,” Austin said. “This position gives me the chance to help improve that reporting on a national stage.”

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has played an integral role in helping the Cronkite School grow into one of the premier professional journalism programs in the country. The foundation also funds the Reynolds High School Journalism Institute, which brings 35 high school journalism advisers from around the country to Cronkite each summer for intensive training and education programs.

The Reynolds Center is located in the new, $71 million, state-of-the-art Cronkite building in downtown Phoenix that opened in August of 2008. The Center is adjacent to the Donald W. Reynolds Leadership Suite, which houses the offices of the school’s deans and directors and is named in honor of the foundation.

The Cronkite School also is home to the Carnegie-Knight News21 Journalism Initiative, the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, Cronkite News Service, Cronkite NewsWatch, the New Media Innovation Lab, ABC News on Campus and the Azcentral.com Multimedia Reporting Program, in addition to the Reynolds Center and Reynolds High School Journalism Institute.

Austin joins a faculty that includes Leckey, the Reynolds Chair who writes a nationally syndicated Chicago Tribune business column and is a former CNBC anchor; former Minneapolis Star-Tribune Editor Tim McGuire, the Frank Russell Chair in the Business of Journalism; Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Steve Doig, the school’s Knight Chair; former CNN anchor Aaron Brown, the Walter Cronkite Professor of Journalism; former BET Vice President Retha Hill, director of the New Media Innovation Lab; digital media leader Dan Gillmor, the Kauffman Professor of Digital Media Entrepreneurship; and former Sacramento Bee Executive Editor Rick Rodriguez, the Carnegie Professor of Journalism. Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post, joins the faculty in August as the Weil Family Professor of Journalism.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. The foundation maintains headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to its national journalism program, the foundation provides funding for clinical cardiovascular research, aging and quality of life and capital grants for qualifying nonprofit organizations in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Nevada.