Kelley Benham French to join IU's new Media School as a professor of practice

  • Feb. 26, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Kelley Benham French, a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist and a longtime writer and editor for the Tampa Bay Times, will join the faculty of the Indiana University Media School on Aug. 1 as a professor of practice. The Media School, which unites faculty from the School of Journalism and the departments of telecommunications and communication and culture, launches July 1.

French, a former high school journalism teacher, was an award-winning reporter, feature writer and editor at the Tampa Bay Times from 2002 to 2013 and has been a visiting faculty member at The Poynter Institute, a journalism school founded by IU journalism graduate Nelson Poynter, since 2003. The institute owns the Tampa Bay Times. French also has taught at the University of Florida and has spoken about writing at universities, workshops and conferences around the country.

“I’ve spent my career in a newsroom stocked with brilliant journalists who periodically break out into the IU fight song, so I’m well aware of the rich tradition of excellence at Ernie Pyle Hall,” French said of working with numerous IU alumni who have been on staff at the Times. “I’m thrilled to be joining The Media School at this pivotal moment, when the teaching of reporting, writing and thinking has never been more important. IU already is developing some of the best young journalists in the country, and I am eager to work with them.”

Larry Singell, executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he was delighted to welcome French, whom he called a “gifted and deeply committed journalist,” to the faculty of The Media School. The school will be part of the College.

“In her role as professor of practice, she will bring invaluable veteran expertise to preparing young journalists to enter their careers with a working knowledge of best practices in their field and a deep sense of journalistic integrity,” Singell said.

French earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Florida and a master’s in journalism from the University of Maryland. From 1998 to 2001, she taught journalism, mass media, film, newspaper, yearbook and photojournalism classes at Deerfield Beach High School, a magnet journalism high school in Deerfield Beach, Fla. She helped produce the school’s first online newspaper and was named the Florida Scholastic Press Association’s district teacher of the year in 1998.

French joined the Tampa Bay Times, then the St. Petersburg Times, as a reporter in 2002. She became a feature writer in 2003, deputy editor of Floridian, the Times’ feature section, in 2006, and enterprise editor in 2008. For the past two years, she was a writer and editor for the Times. As a reporter, she covered several hurricanes and an execution, and she wrote the obituary of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman with brain damage who died after a right-to-life legal battle that received national attention.

At the Times, French helped create and lead the enterprise team and edited two stories that became Pulitzer Prize finalists. One of those, “For Their Own Good” by Ben Montgomery and Waveney Ann Moore, revealed decades of abuse at a state-run reform school, leading to its closure.

French also was founding editor of tb-two*, a weekly tabloid newspaper produced by a staff of about 50 high school journalism students.

After returning to writing, French was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing for “Never Let Go,” a series about the premature birth of her daughter, and the ethical and medical dilemmas involved in saving the lives of premature babies. She has won numerous other state and national awards for her work, including the Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Writing, the National Headliner Award, the Green Eyeshade Award, and the American Association of Sunday and Feature Writers awards for general feature and short feature.

Her husband, Tom French, a 1981 graduate of the IU School of Journalism, is a professor of practice in journalism at IU. He won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1998.

The Frenches are co-authors of a book, "The Zero Zone," to be published in 2015 by Little, Brown. 

Kelley Benham French

Kelley Benham French | Photo by Cherie Diez, Tampa Bay Times

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