Committed to Journalism Then, Now, and into the Future
Linda Winslow, ’67JN, got in on the ground floor of the creation of public television and from its inception was a producer of PBS NewsHour—one of the most-respected shows in the history of broadcast journalism. She attributes her success to the Columbia School of Journalism and one of its professors. In gratitude she has arranged to donate much of her estate to the school.
“The most important cause I believe in is trying to ensure that journalism as a profession survives and that there are practitioners who believe in the code of ethics I was brought up to believe in—and that is what Columbia teaches and produces,” Linda says.
Winslow gives to Columbia every year through her donor-advised fund, and she has arranged her estate so that most of her assets will roll into her donor-advised fund upon her passing and then be distributed to the School of Journalism. Her generous gift will be used to create scholarships that add diversity to the journalism program.
“I believe that journalism really needs a diversity of perspectives in the newsroom,” Linda says. “At the same time, we do not need diverse opinions about facts. Facts are facts, and it is our job to ferret them out. When it comes to facts, everybody should be playing by the same rule book—and Columbia supports that approach.”
Making public television history
Linda grew up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and in high school worked for the local paper, The Berkshire Eagle. Her editor encouraged her to pursue a career in journalism, and his wife was a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and encouraged Linda to go there. She solidified her decision to attend Columbia when she learned Fred Friendly, the well-known president of CBS News, was planning to leave the network to teach at Columbia. Linda enrolled in his first class.
“The year was 1967, and Fred wanted some members of that first class to become interns to work with him on a project that was called the public broadcasting laboratory (the forerunner of PBS),” Linda recalls. “I was one of four students he selected. That began my career in public television, which I have stayed with all my life. And I am very glad I did.”
When Friendly’s project ended, she moved on to the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT). It produced public television's much-lauded coverage of the Senate Watergate Committee hearings, anchored by Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, and Linda was part of that production team. Following NPACT, she was one of the original producers of the half-hour The MacNeil/Lehrer Report until she left, in 1978, to become vice president of news and public affairs at WETA-TV in Washington, D.C. When The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour was created in 1983, Linda became deputy executive producer. In 2005 she became the executive producer of The NewsHour, and she successfully oversaw the transition to an award-winning, multi-platform newsroom equipped to take advantage of new technology—for which she trained or recruited a staff of multi-skilled, seasoned journalists. She also managed the selection and installation of The NewsHour's history-making anchor team of Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff when veteran anchor Jim Lehrer decided to retire. Linda retired in 2014.
Leading by example
Linda serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Visitors of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, sits on the Board of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and has been a member of the Columbia Alumni Association’s Honors and Prizes Committee. She also serves as the School of Journalism Chair for the 1754 Society Participation Drive, a University-wide initiative to encourage other volunteers and donors to consider including Columbia in their estate plans. For her volunteer work and commitment to building Columbia’s community, Linda received an Outstanding Alumni Award from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2007 and was a Columbia Journalism Alumni Medalist in 2014.
“I owe all that I’ve accomplished in my career to Fred Friendly and the Columbia School of Journalism,” says Linda. “Fred and Columbia launched me in the right direction. Now I have a nest egg, enough to keep me comfortable. Since I have no children of my own, I want to give back to students passionate about advancing the field of journalism.”
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