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New Knight Professor in Media Ethics Named at W&L

Aly Colón, director of standards and practices at NBC News and assigned to Telemundo Network News, will become the next John S. and James L. Knight Chair in Media Ethics at Washington and Lee University.

Colón is a veteran journalist and former ethics group leader at the prestigious Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he taught and oversaw ethics training for young and mid-career journalists.  He has also consulted for and trained journalists in numerous newsrooms throughout the United States.

“Aly Colón will make a strong program stronger,” said Journalism Department Head Pamela K. Luecke. “Ethics has been a cornerstone of our department for four decades, and we look forward to the rich learning opportunities Aly will offer our students.”

At Washington and Lee, Colón will teach the required Journalism Ethics and Media Ethics, as well as other courses. He will also organize and lead the department’s semiannual Ethics Institutes, at which visiting journalists, other mass communications professionals and students discuss ethics case studies from the professionals’ own careers. Many undergraduates cite the Institutes as among their most rewarding learning experiences at Washington and Lee.

“Aly Colón arrives at Washington and Lee at a perfect moment of convergence,” said Dean of the College Suzanne Keen. “Our University’s emphasis on ethics will receive a boost from Professsor Colón’s teaching and his Ethics Institutes just as the Mudd Center for Ethics opens its doors, and Professor Colón’s considerable international experience will advance W&L’s strategic initiative for global learning.”

The Knight Chair and Program in Journalism Ethics at Washington and Lee was established in 1997 by a generous endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the leading funder of journalism and media innovation. The program’s scope has since been expanded to explore ethical standards in accountability, credibility, privacy and other areas for all mass media professions.

“Knight Chairs advance journalism excellence in the digital age, in the classroom and beyond,” said Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at Knight Foundation. “Congratulations to Aly as he joins two dozen other top journalists in the Knight Chair network.”

In addition to his broad experience teaching, writing and consulting in media ethics,  Colón has served as a diversity coach and consultant at Poynter and for Public Radio International, the American Society of News Editors and several other organizations.

“I am excited about joining the faculty in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, and I welcome the opportunity to contribute to its fine tradition of outstanding undergraduate teaching and professional outreach,” Colón said. “I am especially eager to work with the University’s new interdisciplinary Mudd Center to explore the connections and challenges of applied ethics in several professions.”

At Telemundo, the second-largest Spanish-language network in the United States, Colón is responsible for applying ethical decision-making to the news operation, providing ethics training to reporters and producers, and reviewing scripts, video and digital news coverage.

“Journalism and media ethics have been inextricably linked for me in both my professional and educational careers,” Colón said of his work at Telemundo and the Poynter Institute. “Media without ethics become media without trust. I believe that ethical decision-making processes and skills lead to excellence.”

Colón was selected after a nationwide search to succeed Edward Wasserman, who left in January 2013 to become dean of the graduate journalism program at the University of California, Berkeley. The Knight Program has been led this year by interim Knight Chair Arthur Brisbane, former publisher of The Kansas City Star and public editor of The New York Times. Brisbane concludes a one-year appointment in May.

Colón is a native of Santurce, Puerto Rico. He lived in Germany, the Panama Canal Zone and 10 U.S. states growing up. He has traveled through most of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean.

He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University of New Orleans and a master’s in journalism from Stanford University. He began his newspaper career with Fairchild News Service in Seattle and worked at three daily newspapers, including The Seattle Times, where he was assistant metro editor and diversity reporter and coach.

Colón will join the faculty July 1.