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Karen Bordeleau, former executive editor of The Providence Journal in Rhode Island, has joined Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication as the Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics.
Bordeleau, who recently was appointed as president of the New England First Amendment Coalition, is teaching journalism ethics and diversity at the Cronkite School this spring.
“Karen is a trailblazer for women in our profession and a leader in digital journalism,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “She’s a great role model for our students and has much to teach them.”
Bordeleau was the first woman in The Providence Journal’s 188-year history to hold the title of senior vice president and executive editor. She was responsible for shifting the newsroom into a “story-first” digital operation.
She also is credited with introducing many audience engagement initiatives — among them the award-winning Publick Occurrences forums to promote civil discourse on complex topics. Under her leadership, The Journal won numerous state, regional and national reporting awards. She retired in 2015.
“The Cronkite School is an impressive educational institution, thanks to the vision of Dean Callahan and Senior Associate Dean Kristin Gilger,” Bordeleau said. “I am amazed at the sheer volume of journalism classes and events here — all with the purpose of preparing Cronkite students to go forth and practice journalism of the highest caliber. Cronkite is a great gift to the future of the profession.”
Bordeleau began her journalism career at the age of 17, writing a high school column for her hometown newspaper. She eventually became the editor of two small daily papers before joining The Providence Journal in 1996 as a copy editor and special sections reporter. Within a few years, she had moved into the ranks of management, first as managing editor for print and digital operations, then as deputy executive editor and, ultimately, as executive editor.
Bordeleau spent much of her career pushing for open records and open meetings in New England, particularly in Rhode Island. In 2014, she was honored with the Yankee Quill, the highest individual journalism honor in New England, which recognizes a lifetime contribution of excellence in the field.
In 2016, she was presented with the Judith Brown Spirit of Journalism Award, given annually to one woman who has made a significant impact on journalism in New England. In 2013, she was named one of the “Top 10 Women to Watch in the U.S. Media” by Editor & Publisher magazine. She also was named one of “Rhode Island’s Most Powerful Women” by Rhode Island Monthly.
Bordeleau served as a Pulitzer Prize juror in 2015 and 2016. She is a member of the board of directors for the New England First Amendment Coalition, the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting, and the Women’s Development Corporation. She is past president of both the New England Associated Press News Executives Association and the New England Society of Newspaper Editors.
Bordeleau has taught journalism for 21 years at institutions of higher education that include Emerson College, Northeastern University, the University of Rhode Island and Bryant University. Although she has taught courses on everything from the foundations of journalism to advanced reporting, her specialty is journalism ethics.
“This is a critical juncture in the history of our republic — one that requires the Fourth Estate to be extra vigilant, not only in its factual reporting but also in the ethics surrounding those reports and stories,” Bordeleau said. “To maintain the confidence of the American public — and the confidence of the rest of the world — we cannot afford to make even the slightest misstep. This is the message I deliver to my journalism ethics students.”
Bordeleau holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Rhode Island. She was a Sulzberger fellow at Columbia University in 2011.
The Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professorship was created at Cronkite in 2006 with the support of the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Edith Kinney Gaylord started the Oklahoma City-based foundation in 1982 to foster high ethical standards in the industry. Ms. Gaylord, the daughter of Daily Oklahoman Publisher E.K. Gaylord, launched her journalism career at her father’s newspaper in 1937 after graduating from college. In 1942, she joined The Associated Press in New York. The following year, she went to the AP’s Washington bureau, where she covered the Roosevelt administration and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II.
Bordeleau will be the 10th Gaylord Professor at Cronkite. Past Gaylord Professors include former Orange County Register Publisher and CEO Christian Anderson III, Detroit Free Press Executive Editor Caesar Andrews, former Oregonian editor Peter Bhatia, former Washington Post Senior Editor Milton Coleman, former Akron Beacon Journal Publisher Jim Crutchfield, former San Francisco Examiner Managing Editor Sharon Rosenhause, former Oregonian editor Sandra Mims Rowe, and former St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editor Ellen Soeteber, among others.