Over the course of the past four decades, few individuals can say they have have contributed more to the success of Baruch College’s exceptional journalism program than Professor Roslyn Bernstein.
Having written for the acclaimed Esquire magazine by the time she was hired as an adjunct in January 1974, Bernstein was a natural candidate to expand Baruch’s small journalism program, which only offered a few basic journalism courses.
“Journalism at the time was housed in the department of English … and at the time only had one full-time person [teaching],” said Bernstein, who received her master’s and Ph.D. from New York University in 1973. “By the Fall of 1974, I was [working] full-time at Baruch as an assistant professor teaching journalism in the department of English.
With the help of her colleagues, Bernstein quickly rose to the challenge of instituting more varied journalism courses, such as the internship course and a new business journalism program. She has played a huge role in developing some of Baruch’s award-winning news publications. In 1979, she launched Dollars and Sense, a magazine reported and edited by students with the support of faculty advisers.
“[Dollars and Sense] was first created on my dining room table and was inspired by my Esquire experience,” explained Bernstein, who has also served as an unofficial adviser and mediator for The Ticker and its staff for over fifteen. “I loved the idea of us doing a creative magazine—business, but creative … so we launched as an innovative business magazine with a sort of Esquire creativity,” she added.
During her 16 years as chair of the journalism program, Bernstein realized a parallel between the rapid development of the journalism program at Baruch and the expeditious growth of the industry as a whole.
“Business journalism blossomed, internships developed, course offerings expanded and those early issues of Dollars and Sense were typed on a typewriter and cut and pasted with glue.” said Bernstein. “We, as a program, evolved the way the profession was evolving, becoming increasingly technical and digitized … all of the changes that were happening in journalism were happening in a microcosm at Baruch.” Since 2009, Dollars and Sense has operated in an online format through Baruch Blogs, adjusting to the growing use of multimedia technology and allowing for students to publish their work more frequently.
Bernstein cites the creation of the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program as one of her greatest achievements. Bernstein served as the director of the program for 16 years. “When Matthew Goldstein, the former chancellor [of CUNY] was President of Baruch, he asked me to work as a faculty fellow in the College Advancement Office, the fundraising arm,” explained Bernstein, who was fortuitously asked to attend a talk by an alumni, Sidney Harman, at the Century Club. Bernstein assumed if Harman was interested in making a gift to Baruch, it would be to the business school. “Lo and behold when they sent me up, there was Sidney Harman standing at the podium and talking about the fact that we should have more poets as managers, quoting poetry and quoting all the famous writers he loved by heart.”
The event inspired Bernstein to propose another program to serve as an outlet to nurture students aspiring to write: the Harman Writer-In-Residence Program.
Launched in the fall of 1998, the program has invited nearly 30 highly regarded writers to teach a semester at Baruch. The list includes poet Yehuda Amichai, novelist Paul Auster, playwright Edward Albee, and many more who were brought on campus to enrich Baruch with courses, workshops, community events and creative writing competitions. For many, Baruch’s esteemed reputation only applies to Zicklin, but the Harman Program rivals master’s programs for its influence on the arts
The future growth of journalism is not at all lost on Bernstein, whose advice encapsulates her undying passion for the industry. Bernstein herself continues to write for several online publications, including Guernica, The Huffington Post, Artcritical and Tablet Magazine. In the past, she has written numerous articles for publications such as The New York Times, Newsday, The Village Voice and New York Magazine, among others.
In addition to teaching a features writing class at Baruch, the Long Beach-native is the author of two books, Boardwalk Stories and Illegal Living: 80 Wooster Street and the Evolution of SoHo (co-written with her husband), and is in the process of writing a novel pertaining to the Adolf Eichmann trials. In her spare time, Bernstein also enjoys gardening and traveling and hopes to be involved in literacy projects and nonprofit work in the future.
Like the writers of the pre-Internet era, Bernstein believes that young journalists should know how to report. “What is different now is for young journalists to default to the Internet, to believe as truth everything on Wikipedia. Too much is accessible too easily, which sometimes brings on a certain laziness. I think young journalists should be a little better at doing their own research, at asking the hard questions … But over and above that, they have to be independent thinkers, researchers and very skilled writers.”