Steve Shepard, Founding Dean of CUNY J-School, Steps Downs

steve-shepardLast week, Stephen B. Shepard, the founding dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, emailed departing Columbia Journalism School Dean Nicholas Lemann to tell him that he was planning to announce his resignation—just as his uptown counterpoint had emailed him last October.

“I told Nick that I was once again following in his footsteps,” Mr. Shepard told Off the Record on Monday, soon after announcing that he will leave the school he helped found in 2005. Mr. Lemann, who has been at Columbia for a decade, will leave at the end of this school year. When Mr. Shepard leaves after this year’s class graduates in December, he will have been at the school for nine years. Like Columbia, CUNY will now form a search committee to find a new dean.

Mr. Shepard came to CUNY from BusinessWeek, where he had been the editor in chief for more than 20 years. Before that, he was senior editor for national affairs at Newsweek and editor of the Saturday Review. Mr. Shepard has also taught at Columbia’s J-School.

“Running a school is very different than running a magazine,” Mr. Shepard said, explaining that everything is done by committee in academia rather than the unilateral decisions of an editor (some more unilateral than others).

Mr. Shepard said he started to think about stepping down shortly after he published his memoir, Deadlines and Disruption, last summer. He is considering writing another book and will continue to be involved with various projects at CUNY, including its recently launched e-book imprint. Perhaps he will teach. Beyond that, he isn’t sure.

“When we started in 2005, journalism was very different,” Mr. Shepard told OTR. “There was no Twitter, not that much video. Facebook wasn’t used as a journalistic tool.”

The school, which has emphasized a convergent, interactive curriculum since it started, has changed along with the times.

“Jeff Jarvis likes to say that we don’t teach any of the same interactive courses that we did when we started,” Mr. Shepard said. “And he means it in a good way.” Mr. Jarvis, a new-media early adopter, runs the entrepreneurial program at the school.

But what of attracting aspiring journalists to a profession that’s in flux? As Mr. Shepard admits, the traditional business model of journalism has collapsed.

“People who want to go to journalism school know what they are getting into,” Mr. Shepard said. “It’s a whole new ball game.” Steve Shepard, Founding Dean of CUNY J-School, Steps Downs