David Boardman has been a print journalist for more than 30 years. He has overseen the takedown of U.S. Senator Brock Adams, managed the muckraking of both the University of Washington’s football squad and the Boeing aircraft company, won an Ethics in Journalism award from the Society of Professional Journalists and had a direct hand in winning four Pulitzer Prizes with the Seattle Times.
He also just quit his job.
Boardman, 56, stepped down as the executive editor of Seattle’s flagship newspaper in July after agreeing to cross coasts and take the reins as the dean of Temple’s School of Media and Communication on Sept. 1. He’d been at the Times since 1983.
The new dean currently splits his time between honing his skills at SMC, heading the American Society of News Editors and sitting on Poynter Institute’s National Advisory Board. In 2014, the man is also set to take over as acting president of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Boardman’s hiring comes hand in hand with the decentralization of Temple’s budget, set to take effect on July 1, and represents an overall shift toward greater autonomy between the colleges and schools within Temple. According to a report by The Temple News, revenue will now flow directly into Temple’s schools and colleges under the restructured system rather than being controlled and distributed by Temple’s central governing body. Schools will pay the university some minor overhead costs and otherwise control the excess cash themselves, leaving the colleges free to purchase whatever infrastructure upgrades they find necessary, be it extra HD video cameras for students or a troop of domesticated foxes to patrol Alter Hall.
In essence, once the last minutes of 2013 die out, Temple’s mother owl is figuratively kicking its schools and colleges out of the nest. Schools will be micromanaged more akin to businesses, and programs that aren’t hauling in cash or churning out top-notch graduates will be forced to put up or shut up.
In the School of Media and Communication’s case, it’s apparent the school needed stronger leadership to secure its future moving forward. This isn’t to say former Interim Dean Thomas L. Jacobson had been actively burning down Annenberg Hall in any way, but according to Jacobson’s online biography, the man seemingly brought little more to the deanship than a lifetime of work in academia and no relevant experiences in media production, which remains the school’s bread and butter, so to speak.
Jacobson received a Ph.D. in Communication Theory from the University of Washington and spent his career conducting media research and publishing scholarly articles rather than living out the first phase of his career as a disc jockey or beat reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
SMC needed a leader with real-world experience, and it seems to have found him and then some in David Boardman.
“I hope my greatest value is that having worked in [journalism], I certainly have a very current and clear sense of what challenges are in media these days and what employers are looking for in the way of graduates,” Boardman said. “But frankly, I think the greatest asset I bring isn’t really whether I come from the industry or [academia]. I’m just somebody who has had a lot of experience as a leader, and I really think that’s probably my greatest asset.”
During Boardman’s stint as the Seattle Times’ executive editor, his staff printed four Pulitzer Prize-winning stories, a number that’s especially admirable considering that when Boardman joined the Times’ staff, the paper had only five to its name. Boardman left one award shy of doubling the Seattle Times’ entire Pulitzer total from the award’s inception in 1917 through his arrival in 1983.
David Boardman’s character as a leader cannot be questioned. When Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen decided to utilize advertising space within the Times to endorse a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2012, potentially jeopardizing the journalistic integrity of the paper, it was Boardman who wrote the column setting the record straight, vowing to remain steadfast to the principles of impartial reporting.
“Independence is a core value of The Seattle Times, a concept driven home to me since I began here as a cub journalist 29 years ago,” Boardman wrote on Oct. 20 of last year. “Balance is not a value we stress, as it is a largely artificial construct that can amplify foolishness. But impartiality is a fundamental goal, and we make every effort to check and challenge our own beliefs and biases as we seek out facts and truth.”
These are morals that any mother would be proud to see in her son or daughter. Boardman’s handling of the affair directly led to his aforementioned Ethics award.
“I’m calling [this semester] my ‘listening and learning tour,’ and every single day I’m spending almost the entire day in meetings with people,” Boardman said. “I’m just learning, listening, hearing what their challenges are, hearing about their ideas. We’ll turn the corner early in 2014 in the spring semester to really work on a strategic plan together to come up with a very clear vision for the future.”
Very few people are more equipped to instill practical knowledge into SMC than a man like Boardman.
There are no hard and fast guarantees here. There is no doctrine that says Boardman’s newsroom skillset will translate overnight into classroom success, or one that assures students that turning Temple’s colleges into a federation of European Union-style powers will be a net positive for everyone involved. But it’s nearly impossible to argue against the hiring of a man with Boardman’s résumé to lead one of Temple’s flagship schools into the future. If his hiring does work out, it’s highly likely that Temple may see an influx of new deans that have yet to write doctoral dissertaions.
David Boardman is certainly not a professor, but that’s the best thing about him.
Jerry Iannelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jerryiannelli.