THE DOCUMENTARY SPECIALIZATION
The students selected for this prestigious program are trained to be independent film producers and directors. Under the direction of Professor June Cross and a distinguished group of long form storytellers, including Professor Betsy West, they undertake courses in journalism production, visual storytelling, camerawork, editing; and receive one-on-one coaching from a faculty advisor. Students also learn the business side of documentaries - negotiating partnerships, rights and clearances, and how to develop a winning production trailer. Their Master's project, the capstone of their studies at Columbia Journalism School, is a short documentary expected to be of professional quality.
June Cross is an award-winning producer and writer with over thirty years of television news and documentary experience. Wilhemina's War, a story about women fighting HIV stigma in South Carolina, aired on PBS' Independent Lens in 2016, and was nominated for an Emmy in Government and Political Affairs Reporting.. Her last work, The Old Man and the Storm, which followed a New Orleans family struggling to rebuild post-Katrina, aired on PBS' Frontline in 2009.
June was an executive producer for This Far by Faith, a six-part PBS series on the African-American religious experience, which broadcast in 2003. During her thirty-five year career, she completed eight documentaries for PBS’ Frontline, CBS News, and PBS’ MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Her reporting for NewsHour on the US invasion of Grenada won the 1983 Emmy for 'Outstanding Coverage of a Single Breaking News Story'. Secret Daughter, an autobiographical film which examined how race and color had affected her family, won an Emmy in 1997 and was honored that same year with a duPont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. She is also the author of a memoir, Secret Daughter published by Viking in 2006.
June has covered the defense industry, the Middle East, and the intersection of poverty, politics, and race in the US and in Haiti. She received her B.A. from Harvard, and was a fellow at Carnegie-Mellon University's School of Urban and Public Affairs, and the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Studies at Harvard. She has taught at Columbia Journalism School since 2001.
Betsy West is an award-winning producer and executive with over 30 years of experience in television news and documentaries. Most recently, she was executive producer of MAKERS: Women Who Make America, MAKERS the online video archive, and the PBS documentary about the women’s movement which aired nationwide in February, 2013.
At ABC News, Betsy was a field producer based first in Chicago, then New York and London, where she traveled extensively covering international stories for Nightline. Her work at Nightline and as co-creator and executive producer of Turning Point earned her 21 Emmy Awards and two duPont-Columbia Awards. As senior vice president at CBS News from 1998-2005, she oversaw 60 Minutes and 48 Hours, and was executive-in-charge of the PrimeTime Emmy award-winning documentary 9/11. In 2006, Betsy co-produced Oren Jacoby’s theatrical documentary Constantine’s Sword for Storyville Films. She is currently producing The Lavender Scare, a documentary about the origins of the gay rights movement.
Betsy has a B.A. from Brown and a M.S. from Syracuse University. She has taught video and documentary at Columbia Journalism School since 2007, and was appointed the Fred W. Friendly Professor of Media and Society in 2015.