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From newsroom to classroom: Filipino journalist Maria Ressa becomes a professor at Columbia University

Maria Ressa Columbia University
One of the Philippines’ most esteemed journalists, Rappler’s Maria Ressa was recruited to teach at the prestigious Columbia University. Rappler photo.

Filipino journalist Maria Ressa is set to join the Ivy League’s Columbia University as a professor in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

The announcement made by Columbia last June 28 said Maria Ressa will at first be lecturing as a distinguished fellow at the Institute of Global Politics (IGP) in Fall 2023 and will begin teaching at SIPA in July 2024.

“At the IGP, which will launch this fall, Ressa will lead several projects related to the role of artificial intelligence in democracy. These include projects to examine online harassment, coded biases in algorithms, and the effects of AI on human rights across the globe,” Columbia’s SIPA said.

Ressa’s courses are in alignment with SIPA’s forward-looking goal to tackle global policy challenges. Particularly, her work will discuss the midpoint of democratic norms, institutions, and new technology.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger noted how Maria Ressa’s work as an advocate of press freedom will contribute to knowledge about challenges to democracy. “Maria Ressa has devoted her life to promoting freedom of expression, exposing corruption, and battling disinformation,” stated Bolinger. “We will benefit immeasurably from her presence on our campuses and from her thoughtful analysis of the complex challenges confronting democracies around the world, in particular the threat of online disinformation.”

SIPA Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo added, “I’m thrilled to welcome Maria Ressa to SIPA and Columbia. She embodies what it means to be an ‘academic activist’ and will be integral in making SIPA’s scholarship more impactful and global in focus. Her passion for seeking the truth and long history of holding those in power accountable are invaluable assets for our students as they grapple with how new digital technologies are reshaping the global order.”


In a Columbia SIPA News interview, Maria Ressa said, “I’m looking forward to consolidating our work on these critical issues at SIPA. The solution in the long term is education; in the medium term, it’s legislation. But right now we need to move in as thoughtful way as possible to match the exponential speed of technology.”

Ressa will continue her journalism work in the Philippines with Rappler while teaching at SIPA. “I will still be working with Rappler because the best foundation to teach at a time of exponential change is to work in the industry. Plus, [it] gives me an anchor on both sides of the world!” she shared with Good News Pilipinas.

Before the announcement, Maria Ressa spoke at the May 2023 SIPA graduation rites. Referring to the critical junction between democratic backsliding and social media, she advised the graduates, “We need your energy, your optimism, your commitment to justice…. Don’t complain about your government or corporate bureaucracy, or the UN moving slowly. They do. You’ve got to jump in and change it.”

Maria Ressa is the first Filipino to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She was recognized by the Nobel Foundation in 2021 due to her “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”. She has received numerous international awards for her journalism and advocacy for press freedom in the era of the Internet, social media, and “fake news”.

A media practitioner for over 37 years, she is no stranger to the Ivy League network of prestigious schools — graduating Cum Laude at Princeton University where she later taught courses in politics and the press in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, Maria Ressa also taught broadcast journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Maria Ressa more recently rose to international recognition due to her work at Rappler, an independent digital media company she co-founded in the Philippines. Her team’s investigative reporting on the Rodrigo Duterte administration’s drug war and human rights abuses has subjected her and her organization to widespread repression which they continue to fight up to today – as chronicled in her book, How to Stand Up to a Dictator, and the News Emmy-winning documentary, A Thousand Cuts.

Maria Ressa was born in the Philippines and was 10 years old when her family moved to New Jersey. After graduating from Princeton University, she received a Fulbright fellowship that sent her back to the Philippines. She moved back shortly after the People Power uprising against the Marcos government. It was in the second half of the 1980s when Ressa collaborated with Cheche Lazaro and Luchi Cruz to set up the pioneering Filipino investigative news magazine television program “Probe” while leading CNN’s Manila bureau. She later set up the CNN Jakarta bureau and led the news team of the Philippines’ oldest television network, ABS-CBN, before co-founding Rappler in 2012.

Earlier this year, Ressa presented a 10-point plan to combat big tech at the Nobel Prize Summit on Truth, Trust, and Hope. In 2022, she was appointed to the United Nations’ Internet Government Forum Leadership Panel.

Maria Ressa joining the Columbia University faculty is a testament to the continuing world recognition of her work as a journalist and as a champion of democracy, raising Filipino pride across the seas.

Good News Pilipinas is a Lasallian Scholarum Awardee. TELL US your good news story tips by messaging GoodNewsPilipinas.com on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, or e-mailing editor@goodnewspilipinas.com

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Summer Sanares
Summer Sanares
Summer is a political science student with a twin passion for journalism. Her hobbies include watching geography documentaries, searching the metro for plant-based food, and free-falling through Wikipedia rabbit holes. Her works have previously been featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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