By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers.
After 17 years inside the beltway as the Washington Post's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr. has decided to head west, where later today he will be named a faculty member of Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Downie, who won more Pulitzer Prizes under his reign than any other editor in history, will begin teaching in August at the school's new downtown Phoenix campus. It's a major coup for school president Michael Crow and Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan, who have recently pushed competing J schools away to snag hot properties like former CNN anchor Aaron Brown, Minneapolis Star Tribune editor Tim McGuire, former BET vice president Retha Hill, and syndicated Chicago Tribune columnist Andrew Leckey.
In a release going out later today but provided in advance to Washington Whispers, Downie says, "I look forward to working with them to prepare tomorrow's professional journalists at a time of extraordinary change and challenge in the news media. I hope to play a role in ensuring that enterprising and ethical journalism that holds the powerful accountable will survive and prosper in the new media age. As a state university graduate who owes much to public education, I am also pleased to help carry on that mission for a new generation of students at ASU."
Downie, an Ohio State University grad, will be the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the school named after the legendary CBS anchor. ASU Prez Crow says Downie represents "the very best of American journalism." Callahan called Downie "simply the finest newspaper editor of our era."
Callahan, Whispers readers will recall, took the job a few years back after being wooed away from the University of Maryland by Cronkite himself. And full disclosure: Callahan and I came to Washington on the same day to work for the old States News Service in 1983 and drove to many Baltimore Orioles games in "Blue," his V-8 junker, when the team was good.