Geneva Overholser

senior fellow Democracy Fund

Geneva Overholser, an independent journalist in New York City, is a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund, where her focus is on strengthening informed participation in our democracy. She was until 2013 director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. She serves on the boards of the Rita Allen Foundation, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism Foundation and Northwestern University in Qatar.

Previously she held the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting for the Missouri School of Journalism, where she was based in the school’s Washington bureau. From 1988 to 1995, Overholser was editor of The Des Moines Register, where she led the paper to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. While at the Register, she also earned recognition as Editor of the Year by the National Press Foundation and was named “The Best in the Business” by American Journalism Review.

In addition, Overholser has been ombudsman of The Washington Post, a member of the editorial board of The New York Times, a syndicated columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group, and a reporter for the Colorado Springs Sun. She was a columnist for the Columbia Journalism Review and an early blogger at She spent five years overseas, working and writing from Paris and Kinshasa.

Through the Annenberg Public Policy Center, in 2006 she published a manifesto on the future of journalism, titled On Behalf of Journalism: A Manifesto for Change. She is co-editor, with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, of the volume The Press, part of the Oxford University Press Institutions of American Democracy series.

Overholser has served on the boards of the Knight Fellowships at Stanford, the Committee of Concerned Journalists, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for Public Integrity (including as chair), the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the Women’s Media Center, the Academy of American Poets and the National Press Foundation, as well as the advisory boards of the Knight Foundation, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Poynter Institute. She was for nine years a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board, the final year as chair, and is a former officer of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. She is a fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She held a Nieman fellowship at Harvard and a Congressional fellowship with the American Political Science Association.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Wellesley College, a master’s in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a French language certificate from the Sorbonne. She has honorary doctorates from Grinnell College and St. Andrews Presbyterian College, and alumnae achievement awards from Wellesley, Northwestern and Medill.

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