Helen Gurley Brown gives $30M to create bi-coastal institute for media innovation

Above: Helen Gurly Brown and her late husband David

It’s been a rough decade for traditional publishers, whose business models have been disrupted or eroded by the emergence of new digital platforms. Now Helen Gurley Brown, the longtime editor of Cosmo and a legend in the world of glossy magazines, is handing out a $30 million gift to create a partnership between Columbia Journalism School and Stanford’s School of Engineering, The David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation, that will try to foster creative integration of journalism and technology.

The gift was inspired by Ms. Brown’s late husband, David Brown, a graduate of Stanford and the Columbia School of Journalism. “David and I have long supported and encouraged bright young people to follow their passions and to create original content. Great content needs useable technology. Sharing a language is where the magic happens,” said Ms. Gurley Brown. “It’s time for two great American institutions on the East and West Coasts to build a bridge.”

The money will pay to endow a new professor at each school who will act a chair of the Media Institute. Columbia will get a new building to house a high-tech newsroom, and additional funding will seed grants for students working on innovative approaches to journalism.

Stanford recently dropped out of the competition to build a new applied sciences campus in New York, a bid that eventually went to Cornell and Israel’s Technion. But it seems the Big Apple will get another crack at the most venerable brand in computer science, a campus that birthed giants like Google, Yahoo, HP and Cisco.

“New York City, as the major center for the television, music, print media and advertising, is profoundly affected by rapidly evolving digital technology,” said Stanford engineering professor Bernd Girod, who will serve as the Institute’s founding director until Columbia appoints his East Coast counterpart. “The Brown Institute will bring together creative innovators skilled in production and delivery of news and entertainment with the entrepreneurial researchers at Stanford working in multimedia technology.”