USC journalism school loses new leader after just two days

The search for a new director of USC’s journalism school has taken a confusing turn after a Northwestern University professor accepted the job but then suddenly withdrew two days later.

Douglas Foster’s reversal and decision not to head up USC’s undergraduate and graduate journalism programs “was disappointing,” according to Ernest J. Wilson III, dean of the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.

But Wilson predicted it would turn out to be “a bump in the road” in the life of the journalism school, which is one of Annenberg’s two academic units.

Foster last Friday had accepted the offer to succeed Geneva Overholser as journalism school director but on Sunday said he had changed his mind due to personal and professional reasons, Wilson said.

Foster could not be reached Tuesday at his office in Illinois and did not respond to an email request for an interview. 

Foster is a former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, television correspondent and documentary producer who teaches feature writing at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and oversees that school’s program in South Africa, according to the Medill website.

Overholser, who has been journalism director since 2008, announced last November that she would leave the position in June.  And school officials were eager to have a successor in place on July 1.

Michael Parks, the former editor of the Los Angeles Times and director of USC’s journalism school for the six years before Overholser, has agreed to serve as interim director starting in mid-June. Parks, who remains an Annenberg school professor, will continue in the interim job until another candidate is hired, said Wilson, who added that he did not know how long it would take to find a new director. Parks won a Pulitzer Prize  in 1987 for his reporting in South Africa.

Meanwhile, construction is underway for a new campus building for the Annenberg school that is expected to open in fall 2014, with up-to-date facilities for digital, broadcast and print journalism, officials said.

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