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Communication & Media

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Advocate for journalists named Ottaway Professor of Journalism


NEW PALTZ -- Award-winning reporter Ann Cooper, who currently heads up the foremost advocacy group in the world that seeks to protect endangered journalists, has been named the third James H. Ottaway Sr. Professor of Journalism at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Cooper will take a leave of absence as executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York City, where she has been executive director since 1998. She will join the college's Journalism Program in late January.

In making the announcement, Interim College President Steven Poskanzer cited "the worldwide scope" of Cooper's work and noted that the issues she will address "cut to the very heart of journalism and the free exchange of ideas."

Cooper, he said, will be a "unique and valuable resource on our campus."

Before her work at CPJ, Cooper was a newspaper reporter and then an award-winning correspondent in Moscow and South Africa for National Public Radio (NPR).

In accepting the teaching position, Cooper noted that young journalists' "future commitment" might be deepened "by taking a global look at the press, the importance of press freedom, and particularly the critical role that an independent press plays in newly emerging democracies."

Cooper will teach a course titled "Risky Business: Where the Press Operates Without Press Freedom." It will examine press freedom around the globe and methods used to suppress independent reporting. CPJ regularly lobbies on behalf of journalists whose lives are often threatened as they try to report the news.

The first two Ottaway professors at SUNY New Paltz were also award-winning journalists. Sydney Schanberg, the 2001 fellow, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his courageous reporting from Cambodia for The New York Times. And last year's fellow, Bernard Stein, editor of The Riverdale Press in the Bronx, won a Pulitzer for his elegant and passionate editorials in 1998.

The James H. Ottaway Sr. Professorship is named for the founder of Ottaway Newspapers Inc. of Campbell Hall, N.Y., now a coast-to-coast group of 13 daily, 11 Sunday and more than 30 weekly newspapers with a total circulation of 387,224. Its flagship newspaper is The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y.

The donation to create the professorship was made by his son, James Ottaway Jr., who succeeded his father as the company's chief executive officer in 1976. James Ottaway Sr. died in January 2000 at the age of 88. Ottaway Sr. was a founder of the American Press Institute, an industry education center in Reston, Va., and received its first lifetime achievement award in 1996.

Ottaway Jr. called Cooper "an experienced and fearless journalist who has become the leading defender of journalists around the world who are censored, sued, attacked, jailed and murdered for doing their jobs, for telling the truth." She will be "a role model for future reporters and editors," he said.

Cooper, who has worked for more than 25 years as a journalist, has also taught journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Cooper has reported for The Louisville Courier-Journal, the Capitol Hill News Service, the Congressional Quarterly and The Baltimore Sun.

Lynn Spangler, chair of the college's Communication and Media Department, called Cooper an "important bridge" between the college and the world of professional journalism. "Learning about her work as an international journalist and her role in protecting journalists across the globe will help our students examine the importance of their profession and what their place will be in it."

Cooper's voice is well-known to listeners of National Public Radio (NPR). Cooper was NPR's first bureau chief in Moscow in 1987. She worked there for five years. She also worked for NPR in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 1992-95. Cooper's coverage in South Africa won her the esteemed Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award in broadcast journalism, one of the highest honors in broadcast journalism.

For more information on the James H. Ottaway Sr. Professor of Journalism program, visit