Joan Konner, an award-winning producer, documentarian and trailblazing dean of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has died. She was 87. She died April 18 of leukemia in Manhattan.
Konner was known for numerous documentaries and television series. She was born on Feb. 24, 1931, in Paterson, NJ, and started her professional media career after she graduated with a master’s from Columbia’s school of journalism in 1961.
She began writing for New Jersey’s The Bergen Record after she graduated and shifted gears in 1977 when she became the executive producer for national news and public affairs for PBS outlet WNET/Thirteen in New York. She then became the executive producer of Bill Moyers Journal in the ’80s. It was there when she would become the president and executive producer of Public Affairs Television, Moyers’ production company. While at Bill Moyers she also helped produce the acclaimed six-part docuseries Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth With Bill Moyers.
During her time in public broadcasting and at NBC, Konner produced more than 50 documentaries and television series that focused on ideas and beliefs. Her work earned two Primetime Emmy nominations and won 16 News & Documentary Emmys, a Peabody Award and an Alfred I. du Pont Award.
In 1988 she went back to the Columbia, where she made history as the first female Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, a post she held for eight years. She also served as the publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review.
In 2001, she worked with CNN as one of three experts to examine their coverage of the night of the 2000 presidential election. Konner and the team came to the conclusion that CNN’s coverage was a “news disaster” and recommended that exit polls no longer be used to project winners before the voting was over.
Konner was also an acclaimed author, writing and editing books that fell under the umbrella of ideas and beliefs including The Atheist’s Bible in 2007 as well as You Don’t Have to Be Buddhist to Know Nothing.