Washington Post’s Philip Bennett to Join Sanford Faculty

Philip Bennett, who in four years as managing editor of The Washington Post helped lead the newspaper to 10 Pulitzer Prizes, has been named the new Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University, university officials announced today.

Bennett will join the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy (DWC), which is focusing its scholarship and teaching on exploring new models for news organizations in the Internet age. DWC is a program of the Sanford Institute of Public Policy, which is slated to become Duke’s tenth school on July 1.

“I am absolutely delighted at Philip Bennett’s decision to come to Duke and join the faculty at the school of public policy,” said Sanford Institute Director Bruce Kuniholm. “He brings a wealth of experience on the international front, and his peers were glowing about his extraordinary creativity as a thinker and his skills as a mentor.

“We expect that he will catalyze our effort to explore how, as developments render the old business models obsolete, the watchdog function of the press can be sustained,” Kuniholm said. “We also expect that he will nurture students with the same care that he nurtured reporters at The Washington Post.”

Bennett joined The Post in 1997 as deputy national editor, became assistant managing editor for foreign news in 1999, overseeing 20 international bureaus, and rose to managing editor in 2005. He directed The Post’s coverage of wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. During his tenure as managing editor, The Post investigated secret CIA prisons abroad and the wide influence of Vice President Dick Cheney. He also helped lead the team whose reporting on shoddy care of veterans at Walter Reed Army Hospital won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2008. It was one of six Pulitzers The Post won last year, the largest number in the paper’s history.

From 1984 to 1997 Bennett held a series of positions at The Boston Globe, including Latin America correspondent and Mexico bureau chief (1986-1990), immigration and race reporter, and foreign editor.

Bennett began his journalism career as a reporter and then editor for The Lima Times in Peru, and has a special interest in journalism in and about Latin America. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Harvard College in 1981. In recent years, Bennett has lectured at universities and conferences on subjects ranging from the press in the digital age to covering war and Islam.

“The strategic plan for the Dewitt Wallace Center describes many roles for the Patterson Chair,” said Director James Hamilton, “including being an excellent teacher and a strong contributor to debates about the future of accountability and watchdog journalism. Phil Bennett’s work as an outstanding journalist, wonderful mentor to reporters and strong champion of investigative coverage at The Post make him a perfect fit for this position.”

In accepting the appointment, Bennett said, “I am deeply honored to be selected for a professorship named for Gene Patterson, whose courage and integrity inspired readers and reporters during an earlier era of change in American journalism. Now that the news media face unprecedented trials and possibilities, Duke is an ideal place to explore journalism’s next frontier, especially journalism that serves the public interest. I’m thrilled by the opportunity to do this as part of the Duke faculty.”

Bennett will begin teaching in the fall 2009 semester and teach three classes a year, including a media ethics course, as well as two new courses he will design.

The Patterson Chair is named in honor of the former editor-in-chief and chief executive officer of The St. Petersburg Times, whose earlier work as editor of the Atlanta Constitution set a benchmark for coverage of the civil rights movement. Patterson also served three years as managing editor at The Washington Post and taught for a year at Duke.

The chair, endowed by a gift from the Poynter Fund, has been occupied since 1998 by former Time magazine writer and editor Susan Tifft, who is stepping down at the end of this academic year.

In addition to fostering research and intellectual dialogue about the media’s role in democratic society, DWC hosts international journalists for month-long sabbaticals through its Media Fellows Program and offers an undergraduate certificate in policy journalism and media studies.