Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program

Columbia Journalism School

Columbia Journalism School


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Who should attend

The Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program is designed for senior and rising newsroom and business-of-news practitioners who are poised to take on more significant leadership challenges in their current organization and across the industry. Fellows come from a wide variety of news organizations, from the U.S. and internationally and from large national media to those that are small, local, nonprofit, or start-ups. Fellows are expected to have from 7-15 years of relevant experience, including some people management skills or past roles in which working across teams was key to organizational success. Titles from the past cohort include Editor-In-Chief, Managing Director, CEO, Co-Founder, Assistant Managing Editor, Executive Editor, VP of Product, Director of Growth, and Publisher.

About the course

The core of this program focuses on the projects that fellows identify at their news enterprises. We call these projects "challenges." Rather than rely on case studies and standard approaches, the Sulzberger program focuses on what is critical to the future success of the news organization and guides the fellows on how to achieve success. Fellows must articulate the goals they seek and hold themselves accountable to delivering those results during the course of the fellowship year. A fellow’s challenge is not separate from his or her daily work; rather it is a project that is essential to the sustainability and profitability of the organization.

  • The challenge should cover a project that is key to the organization's sustainability in the market.
  • The challenge should be something it would take 10 to 20 months to accomplish successfully.
  • The challenge must be "ripe" so that it makes sense to tackle it during the year the fellow is participating in the Punch Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program.
  • There is a performance expectation with each challenge. Fellows must set goals that answer the question: "What does success looks like?"
  • The challenge needs to involve people of the enterprise beyond the Fellow. Everyone involved should feel at risk when they commit to take on the challenge and succeed at it.
  • The challenge should not be "business as usual" – success at tackling the challenge should demand new abilities and ways of working.

What Sets the Program Apart

Concentrated timeline

News executives no longer have the luxury of a full year to work on a project. The Sulzberger Program serves as an accelerator for mission-critical projects delivered at a pace that maximizes project success and real-world impact. Participants experience a year's worth of executive education in a focused, concentrated 21-week timeframe.


For executives in journalism navigating an industry facing constant disruption, traditional management training won’t suffice. Media industry leaders need to build cultures and create processes within their media companies that don’t just help them come up with “the next big thing,” but enables the organization to understand and anticipate the changing needs of their audiences, experiment with emerging technologies, and seek sustainable business models as the world rapidly changes beneath their feet. They need to proactively recognize opportunities for innovation and persuade their stakeholders for the resources to pursue them. The Sulzberger Program specifically focuses on building leaders who will thrive under these conditions.

Experiential Learning with Immediate Organizational Impact Leaders learn by doing. The Sulzberger Program, redesigned in 2020, maximizes personal growth, retention, and real-world applicability through active, experiential learning. Our unique venture design bootcamp is an immersive experience that has fundamentally transformed how executives approach building and leading their organizations. Our project focus means that participants create measurable outcomes throughout the term by working on regular assignments and checking in with faculty, ensuring that what they learn in the classroom translates to their newsroom.

Leverages Columbia, Industry, and Alumni Networks

The Sulzberger Program leverages the assets of Columbia University, pulling instructors from the Columbia Journalism and Business Schools, drawing industry innovators working in one of the world’s great media capitals, and tapping into the powerful Columbia Journalism School and Sulzberger alumni networks. This community gives Sulzberger Fellows a broad perspective and powerful network as they take their place leading innovation in media and journalism.

How It Works

**Week 1: **The program begins with a five-day immersive project-based Venture Design Bootcamp at the New York City campus. The bootcamp is rooted in the program that was taught to hundreds of entrepreneurs and media executives at Matter Ventures, an early-stage media startup accelerator. In small teams, fellows are tasked with launching a new venture from scratch. Over the course of the week, fellows will focus on different facets of the venture’s design, from the end consumer to the requisite technology to the revenue model, before they close out the group work and turn the lessons learned to their own individual projects.

Week 2: In the second week on the Columbia campus, the program moves from the bootcamp model into workshops, case studies, and guest speaker events that dive deeper into concepts introduced in the first week. Taught by faculty in Columbia's Journalism and Business Schools, topics covered this week include: Leadership, Trends, Audience, Product, Business Model, Marketing, Strategy, Negotiations, and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion.

Weeks 3-20: After two intensive weeks in New York, fellows return to their newsrooms and begin to apply the lessons learned. The fellows complete two-week sprints, in which they interrogate, test and apply learnings to their own projects, using the same set of topics that they used in their group work in Week One. Fellows have a weekly virtual meeting that rotates between getting feedback on their project deliverables and having intimate conversations with industry leaders. Fellows also have one-on-one coaching sessions with the Director.

Week 21: The final week brings the fellows back to New York City for reinforcement of the tools and approaches learned and final project presentations that prepare the fellows to seek support and resources from key stakeholders at their organizations.


Corey Ford

Corey Ford is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Matter, a start-up accelerator for entrepreneurs building scalable media ventures that create a more informed, empathetic, and inclusive society. Matter invests seed capital and provides intensive support through a human-centered, prototype-dr...

Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia Journalism School

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