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Brief History of the Newmark J-School

J-School ribbon cutting
Former CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and Founding Dean Stephen B. Shepard at the opening of the J-School in 2006

The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY opened its doors in August 2006 as the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Its creation had been authorized two years earlier by then-Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and the CUNY Board of Trustees with the goals of expanding diversity in newsrooms across the nation and providing an affordable, publicly supported graduate journalism school in the New York region.

Stephen B. Shepard, the veteran editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek magazine, was named dean in early 2005 after a brief search. Shepard, along with Judith Watson, a special assistant to the Chancellor who later became associate dean, and a group of CUNY undergraduate journalism professors devised a three-semester program combining the best of journalism’s traditional values with cutting-edge practices and tools of the digital age. The demanding curriculum of 45 credit hours (since reduced to 43) included a unique required paid summer internship.

The core format remains in place all these years later, while dozens of new courses have been added. Since 2006, entering cohorts have grown from 49 to more than 100 students, over half of whom are students of color. The school offers two master’s degrees: a Master of Arts in Journalism, which includes among its many subject specialties a unique bilingual (English/Spanish) concentration, and an M.A. in Engagement Journalism. More than 1,000 students have graduated from our master’s degree programs, going on to work for some of the biggest names in media as well as community outlets and innovative startups.

The school has gained a reputation for innovation in its curriculum and outlook. In 2010, the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism was founded with the aim of ensuring a sustainable future for news. In 2012, the school opened its Center for Community and Ethnic Media (since renamed the Center for Community Media) to support community and ethnic news outlets in New York City and across the nation. With a $3 million grant from the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation, the school established the McGraw Center for Business Journalism in 2014 to fund investigative projects of veteran business reporters and help train young journalists entering the field.

In January 2014, Sarah Bartlett, a charter faculty member of the school, succeeded Shepard as dean. Under her leadership, the school established a foundation to assist in raising funds for student scholarships and advise the school on industry developments. In addition to launching the Engagement Journalism and bilingual M.A. degrees, she oversaw the creation of an Executive Program in News Leadership and an online entrepreneurial certificate program for independent journalists.

In 2018, she started the Ida B. Wells Scholarship Program to help train more investigative journalists of color. That same year, in recognition of a $20 million gift from media entrepreneur Craig Newmark, the school changed its name to the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.

At the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester, Bartlett announced her intention to retire in June 2022. Shortly after, CUNY began the process of searching for her successor.