Cronkite School staff member Karen Bordeleau has been inducted into the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame in recognition of a career that has spanned more than four decades and six New England states, particularly benefiting the journalism profession in her native “Ocean State.”
Bordeleau, who is currently director of Career and Professional Development and a former director of communications at Cronkite, is the retired executive editor and senior vice president of The Providence Journal and is the first woman in The Journal’s 194-year history to hold the top editor’s position.
She joined the Cronkite School in 2018 as the Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics. She was also the Reynolds Visiting Professor of Journalism from 2019 to 2020, during which time she helped design and teach the Master’s in Investigative Journalism bootcamp.
“Karen has been an integral part of the Cronkite School since her arrival. Countless students, staff and faculty have benefited from her leadership and wealth of experience,” said Cronkite School Dean Battinto L. Batts Jr. “We are proud of Karen for this wonderful achievement.”
At the beginning of her journalism career, Bordeleau served as editor at The Kent County Daily Times in West Warwick, Rhode Island. After her stint with the Daily Times, she joined the public relations department at the University of Rhode Island and earned a master’s degree in political science.
Bordeleau then became the editor at The Call, a daily newspaper in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where she redesigned the paper, earning it The New England Press Association’s Better Newspaper Award.
In 1996, she moved to The Journal, where she worked for almost 20 years, mostly in a newsroom leadership role. According to the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame, Bordeleau’s “enthusiasm energized Rhode Island’s largest news staff, and together they produced many prize-winning series, redesigned the newspaper to better serve women and other underrepresented groups.” Bordeleau was credited with launching the award-winning Publick Occurrences forums, which brought together industry experts and government leaders to civilly discuss highly controversial topics in front of packed auditoriums.
The news organization also produced a number of prize-winning investigative and explanatory series under Bordeleau’s leadership. She was an editor for “The Station Fire” series, which was a Pulitzer finalist in the Public Service category in 2004.
Bordeleau has also been involved in journalism higher education for more than 25 years, teaching everything from advanced reporting and feature writing to journalism ethics and newsroom management. In addition to teaching at the University of Rhode Island, Emerson College and Northeastern University (Boston), Bordeleau has taught journalism workshops in Pakistan and Kenya. She was also instrumental in organizing and implementing exchange programs with Russian and Iranian journalists.
“It’s an honor to have a place among the great journalists who have made their mark in Rhode Island,” Bordeleau said. “But I learned from the best. There are literally scores of journalists who mentored and encouraged me and taught me about the awesome responsibility of this important profession. I just want to acknowledge them and thank them for letting me stand on their very broad shoulders.”
Bordeleau is a past president of the New England First Amendment Coalition, the New England Associated Press News Executives Association and the New England Society of News Editors. She served twice as a Pulitzer Prize juror. In 2014, she was inducted into the Academy of New England Journalists, the highest honor given to any journalist in the six-state region to recognize life-time achievement in the journalism profession. In 2016, she was awarded the Judith Vance Weld Brown Spirit of Journalism Award, the highest honor given to a woman journalist in New England.
The Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame was established in 1985 by the Rhode Island Press Association to honor journalists who have been influential in their profession.