Geneva Overholser bio


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Geneva Overholser is a journalism consultant and adviser.  A former editor of the Des Moines Register now living in New York City,  Overholser speaks and writes about the future of journalism. She advises numerous organizations, including the Trust Project, Report for America, SciLine, the Democracy Fund and the Public Face of Science project at the Academy of American Arts and Sciences. She serves on the boards of the Rita Allen Foundation, Northwestern University in Qatar and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism Foundation.

Overholser was until 2013 director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. Prior to that post, she held the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting for the Missouri School of Journalism, based in the school’s Washington bureau.  She was for seven years editor of the Des Moines Register, leading the paper to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.  While at the Register, she 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 has been a columnist for the Columbia Journalism Review and was an early blogger for  She spent five years overseas, working and writing in 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 also 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 Carnegie Endowment, the John S. Knight Fellowships at Stanford, the Committee of Concerned Journalists, the Center for Public Integrity and the National Press Foundation, and on the advisory boards of the Knight Foundation 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.

She is married to David Westphal, also a journalist.  They have three children and two grandchildren.


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