In order to accommodate the high demand for the oversubscribed journalism seminar of Steven Brill ’72 LAW ’75, the English Department is considering hiring a “Pulitzer Prize level journalist” to teach the class during the spring semester.
Last January, CourtTV founder Brill donated $1 million to fund the Yale Journalism Initiative, which will invite journalists to speak on campus, fund summer internships for students and offer journalism career counseling. Students accepted into Brill’s seminar are automatically considered Yale Journalism Scholars as long as they also complete a summer newspaper or magazine internship, take one of the designated Yale writing classes, and publish their articles or hold a senior editorial position at a Yale publication for at least two semesters.
Brill has taught his journalism seminar every fall since 2001.
“What Steve has done with his generosity is guaranteed a future for the teaching of journalism at Yale,” Yale Journalism Initiative Director Mark Oppenheimer ’96 said.
English professor Linda Peterson, who is heading the search committee for the spring semester’s visiting journalist, could not be reached for comment Thursday night. But Alfred Guy, director of the Yale College Writing Center, said the English Department has considered asking alumni in the general discussions for future visiting professors.
“Yale has produced some world-class journalists,” Guy said. “One thing we know about people who have been to Yale is that they are often eager to come back.”
Since Brill selects which students will be in his seminar through an application process, Guy said having different visiting journalists teach the spring course will give students an additional opportunity to be in the class.
“We will now have two different people infusing their personalities into the selection process,” Guy said. “We have a better chance of getting two very different pools.”
Since Brill’s initial gift last year, Yale has raised $126,000 for the program. Guy said that if the University reaches its $2 million goal, it is possible that more journalism seminars may be offered. But Guy said program leaders are wary of opening too many journalism seminars at the expense of a liberal arts education.
“I would be open to a few more [seminars], but I would only want a few more so that everyone could take one,” Guy said. “Brill thinks that journalists need to know something about the world and not just study the craft of writing journalism articles.”
Since Brill’s class is capped at 15 students, each graduating class will have no more than 30 journalism scholars. But Oppenheimer said the additional staff support and services funded by the YJI will enrich the wider academic community. A YJI Web site that will list upcoming speakers is also being developed.
“Some of the people who come to campus may give talks that are open to a wide range of people,” Oppenheimer said. “And on my own time, after taking care of people in the program, I certainly hope to be available to any students that are interested in journalism.”
Although seniors cannot qualify for the YJI summer journalism internships grants, which are capped at $3,000, they can still be named journalism scholars. Yale Literary Magazine Managing Editor Russell Brandom ’07 said he is confident that the program’s connections to Yale alumni already in the profession would help him find a job.
“The new initiative is very good for journalism connections that UCS generally passes over,” Brandom said.
The Class of 2007 will include the first students to receive the Yale Journalism Scholar distinction on their transcript.