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Budding reporters at Yale will soon have access to more journalism courses and funds for summer internships at newspapers through a new journalism program, Yale officials announced Wednesday.

Following a $1 million donation from CourtTV founder Steven Brill ’72 LAW ’75 to the University to fund the Yale Journalism Initiative, aspiring journalists who are accepted into the program will be required to take a seminar taught by Brill or another visiting journalist, will be given financial support for journalism-related internships during the summer, and will have access to a journalism career counselor. The program is designed to accommodate 15 to 25 students, who will be designated as Yale Journalism Scholars upon completion of the program.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said the program is designed to cultivate interest in journalism and to provide opportunities for aspiring journalists, while remaining faithful to the liberal arts basis of a Yale College education.

“We are not about to open a journalism school,” Salovey said. “We are not about to have a journalism major.”

Brill and his wife, Cynthia Brill ’72, first proposed the program to Salovey in the fall of 2004, Salovey said. Since 2001, Brill has taught an annual journalism seminar through the English Department.

Brill said he proposed the new program to Salovey as a way to encourage talented students who might otherwise be wooed into more heavily recruited careers, such as investment banking and consulting, to consider journalism as an option.

“I think it’s harder to get good people to go into journalism and succeed,” Brill said.

Bob Kaiser ’64, a correspondent for The Washington Post, said he thinks the program will potentially enhance undergraduates’ careers, but he does not think Yale Journalism Scholars will have a significant advantage getting jobs in the field upon graduating.

“It won’t be a ticket into the business,” he said. “Hiring editors are much more interested in good clips than any academic degree.”

Jon Rose ’63, chairman of the Oldest College Daily Foundation, the News’ parent organization, said the program will not eclipse firsthand experience at a Yale publication, but the added funding for summer internships will be helpful to aspiring journalists.

“I doubt that a title of Yale Journalism Scholar might have more weight in hiring than an undergraduate career on the YDN, [but] I think that anything that contributes to the possibility of what undergraduates can do in the summer is to be applauded,” Rose said.

Students enrolled in the initiative will be required to compose articles for non-Yale publications and serve on the editorial board of a Yale publication for at least two terms. Jodi Rudoren ’92, Chicago bureau chief for The New York Times, said many Yale undergraduates already fulfill the program requirements on their own.

“It seems that they are trying to put a name or a credential on the education many are already getting,” she said. “I think inviting a journalist to teach a seminar is a great idea, but it should remain about reading and writing and thinking and not careerism. That’s part of being at Yale and not a vocational school.”

While he acknowledges that Yale has a strong tradition of producing journalists, Writing Center Director Alfred Guy said he thinks the program will encourage more students to pursue journalism professionally.

“If there is a community of people who have made the decision to be journalists, our hope is that some students on the margin might make it their career,” he said.

Louise Story ’03 SOM ’06, who took Brill’s seminar and has written for The New York Times, said the additional journalism courses will be a valuable addition to the curriculum.

“When I was at Yale there was a wait-list for the journalism classes,” she said. “I think it is great that more will be offered.”

Other Ivy League universities also offer journalism programs. Princeton University regularly invites journalists to teach undergraduate journalism courses. The Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard funds up to 24 journalists from both the U.S. and abroad to study at Harvard for a year.

Salovey and the Brills said they plan to solicit funding from interested donors to ensure the continuation of the program.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey stands with Steven Brill ’72 LAW ’75 at a reception to launch the Yale Journalism Scholars program, which will be started with a $1 million gift from Brill.
Ryan Galisewski
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey stands with Steven Brill ’72 LAW ’75 at a reception to launch the Yale Journalism Scholars program, which will be started with a $1 million gift from Brill.

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