AUSTIN, Texas—Veteran journalist Lorraine Branham has been appointed director of the School of Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin, according to Dr. Ellen Wartella, dean of the university’s College of Communication.
Branham, who has been assistant to the publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh, Pa., since September 2000, will begin her new job at The University of Texas at Austin this summer.
Wartella said Branham was chosen following a nationwide search by an 11-member committee that included university professors, students and newspaper industry representatives.
"Lorraine Branham is a strong newspaper professional and her appointment reflects our desire to strengthen our ties with the professional journalism community," Wartella said. She said the university recently elevated the journalism program from department status by designating it the "School of Journalism."
Branham said she is "very excited for the opportunity to lead one of the best journalism schools in the country and to work with such an accomplished dean and faculty."
"This is a very challenging time in the field of journalism as the industry grapples with bottom-line issues and rapidly changing technology," Branham said. "I believe it’s essential that the School of Journalism ensure that it is preparing students who have the skills to succeed in this new environment.
"I also believe it’s more important than ever to strengthen the ties between journalism education and the profession. The School of Journalism has a strong role to play in ensuring and helping to reinforce basic ideals of the role of a free press in a democratic society and that the notion of journalism is not simply another business, but a public trust."
Rich Oppel, editor of the Austin American-Statesman and a member of the search committee, praised the decision to appoint Branham.
"Lorraine Branham is an experienced and accomplished editor and newspaper executive who will bring strong leadership to an excellent journalism program. She will be a powerful advocate to increasing diversity in enrollment, faculty selection and in the nation’s newsrooms, but as a former ranking editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer she will also have a broader influence in standing for good news, academics and civic values. UT has made a good choice," Oppel said.
Rosenthal Alves, chair of the search committee, said he is pleased with the results of a search that included many other strong candidates.
"Lorraine Branham has extensive professional experience and her move from the newsroom to the classroom will greatly enrich journalism in Texas," Alves said. "She is a public intellectual. She is someone who not only can understand journalism in the industry, but also journalism in communication as a research field that is very important to modern society."
Alves said Branham’s professional background would help the School of Journalism "extend more bridges" with the communications industry in Texas and the nation. He said the faculty in the School of Journalism welcomes Branham’s interest in diversity on campus.
Branham was senior vice president and executive editor of the Tallahassee Democrat in Tallahassee, Fla., before working at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She also has worked as associate managing editor for features and associate editorial page editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and during the mid-1980s was night metropolitan editor at the Baltimore Sun. In addition to her managerial experience, Branham’s career has included working as a newspaper reporter at several daily publications and teaching writing and reporting courses at universities, including Temple University at Philadelphia, where she received her bachelor of arts/communications degree in 1976.
Branham was a John S. Knight fellow at Stanford University in 1985-86 and a McCormick Fellow at Northwestern University in the advanced executive program in spring 2001. She is married to Melvin Williams, a safety specialist for the United States Department of Transportation.
The name of the journalism program at The University of Texas has been changed through the years as the campus has grown and new areas of communication study were added to the curriculum. The School of Journalism began in 1914 and in 1952 it was moved into its own building.
In 1965 the School of Journalism, the Department of Speech, and a newly formed Department of Radio-Television-Film became the three departments officially organized as the School of Communication.
In November 2000 the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved a request to change the Department of Journalism to the School of Journalism. The change became effective Jan. 1, 2001. Along with the name change, the title of chair of journalism was changed to director of journalism and a nationwide search was begun to fill the director position. Professor Stephen Reese, who was chair of the Department of Journalism, will return to faculty.
The School of Journalism has 800 undergraduates and 80 graduate students in the master’s and doctor’s programs. It offers a comprehensive range of journalism skills training, including programs in print, multimedia, photo and broadcast journalism. Graduates of the program have won 18 Pulitzer Prizes. Among the notable graduates are Walter Cronkite, Bill Moyers and Lady Bird Johnson.