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(Boston) — Former Miami Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler, who recently chaired an external review committee that conducted an overall analysis of Boston University’s College of Communication (COM), will now lead the school, announced BU Provost David K. Campbell. Fiedler, who earned a master’s degree in Journalism from COM in 1971, becomes dean effective June 1.
Fiedler was selected from 75 applicants reviewed by a search committee composed of BU faculty and two COM students. He assumes the post held by Dean ad interim Tobe Berkovitz, a current COM associate professor of Communication, who was appointed in September 2006 after the resignation of Dean John Schulz.
Boston University President Robert A. Brown applauded the choice of Fiedler to lead COM. “I am optimistic that Tom will lead us into the innovative world of communications in the 21st century,” he said.
“Tom brings to his new position the fresh external perspective of a distinguished, visionary professional journalist,” said Campbell. “I am absolutely delighted that he is on board. He is inheriting a college that, thanks to the excellent stewardship of Tobe Berkovitz, is primed to work collectively to move COM forward to still greater levels of excellence.”
Fiedler’s external review committee, empanelled last year by President Brown and Provost Campbell, proposed a number of specific changes, including a strategic reorganization of the college aimed at increasing the visibility of the individual programs while enhancing the level of coordination and cooperation among faculty members.
Established in 1947, BU’s College of Communication offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in three major areas of study: Film and Television; Journalism; and Mass Communications, Advertising and Public Relations. The school enrolls 2,350 students taught by over 165 faculty members.
“Tom Fiedler is extremely thoughtful, very knowledgeable about the College of Communication, and collegial in his management style,” says Louis Lataif, dean of BU’s School of Management, who led the search committee. “He earned a professional reputation as a world-class journalist, a newsroom leader of impeccable integrity, and a person who leads effectively and steadfastly, not by fiat but by consensus.”
Reflecting on his two years as COM’s dean ad interim, Berkovitz said that the college “continued to refine its curriculum and to strengthen its relationship with its alumni,” which now number nearly 20,000. Berkovitz praises Fiedler as a “consummate professional, a person with strong ties to BU, and someone with a thorough understanding of the role that COM plays at this university.”
After graduating from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering, Fiedler earned his COM degree, and soon after began reporting for the Miami Herald. He would stay at the newspaper for more than 30 years, serving as an investigative reporter, a political columnist, editorial page editor, and finally, the executive editor from 2001 to 2007, overseeing a staff of nearly 400 journalists. In 1988, he received the Society of Professional Journalists’ top award for his coverage of that year’s presidential election. Three years later, Fiedler’s investigative work was part of a Herald series on a religious cult, which earned a Pulitzer Prize. The Herald‘s entire staff won another Pulitzer in 1993 for the paper’s coverage of Hurricane Andrew.
In 1987, after presidential hopeful Gary Hart challenged journalists who questioned his marital fidelity to “follow me around,” Fiedler and other Herald reporters did so and exposed Hart’s campaign-killing affair with a Miami model. As the newspaper’s executive editor, Fiedler was a stickler for journalism ethics, particularly after reporters working for the Herald’s Spanish-language sister publication, El Nuevo Herald, were caught moonlighting for a US-government-owned, anti-Castro news service in 2006.
Fiedler also pushed his reporters and editors to adopt the Internet as a critical means of news delivery, as opposed to simply serving as an adjunct to the newspaper. He has also embraced new media in his current position as a Visiting Murrow Lecturer and Goldsmith Fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, where he investigated the impact of the Web on the presidential primary system and is now teaching a graduate course on the intersection of media, politics and public policy. Additionally, Fiedler is co-director of a project, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation and the Knight Foundation, exploring the future of journalism education, which concludes next month.
In 2003, he received a COM Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2005, the college presented him with the Hugo Shong Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. He was elected a member of BU’s Board of Overseers in 2006.
“I cannot tell you how thrilled I am about this,” says Fiedler. “It was at COM that I learned the skills that set me off on a career in journalism and gave me the appreciation of what that profession meant.
“The building and the physical space at COM should be truly reflective of the professions the college serves and the technology that is part of communications today,” he said. “I want to make sure that I have access to the best thinking and to make sure that I have some consensus on whatever changes I might suggest.”