Meet the Donors: Gerould and Jewell Kern

Jewell and Gerould Kern (Courtesy photo)
Jewell and Gerould Kern (Courtesy photo)

After serving as a pioneer in journalism for more than 50 years, Gerould Kern is using his success to invest in the next generation of trailblazers.

Gerould and his wife, Jewell Bleeke, established the Kern Scholarship for Innovation in Journalism, an award for students interested in media management and innovation in journalism.

As executive vice president and editor of the Chicago Tribune, Gerould Kern led the newspaper into the digital age. He preserved the Tribune’s legacy of investigative reporting while developing new digital tools to reach audiences.

Gerould Kern graduated in 1971 with a degree in journalism and graduate work in radio and television. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award in Journalism from IU in 2012 and is a founding member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for The Media School.

“With the help of my colleagues across five decades, we watched over the public welfare and held accountable our leaders and institutions,” he said. “We did our best to ensure that the playing field was level for all. The journalism we practiced was not driven by political or economic ideology, but by a sense of civic duty because we too belonged to the communities we covered.”

These values are reflected in the scholarship, which will fund graduate students’ projects supporting research and experimentation in journalism, with a focus on public affairs.

Jewell Bleeke Kern earned a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature and Germanic studies in 1972 and a Master of Arts in teaching from the School of Education in 1974. She worked as an educator in Indiana and Illinois, teaching Germanic languages and developing interdisciplinary cultural education programs while participating in community affairs and raising the couple’s three children.

Gerould and Jewell Kern credit their educations at IU as the foundation for their success.

“Indiana University is the place where I learned my first lessons as a journalist,” said Gerould Kern. “There I was taught about journalistic values and the profession’s public service mission. IU was the place that Jewell learned to be an educator and began her journey preparing young people to take their place in the world. Together the work of journalism and education play essential roles in the life of our democracy.”

The Media School represents the intersection of their passions for journalism and education. In his time at the Tribune, Kern emphasized the importance of watchdog reporting and coverage of public affairs. He stresses that to continue serving the public, journalism must continue to undergo changes.

“Our profession is in the midst of a profound transformation driven by technological advancement and rapid demographic, cultural and behavioral change in our society,” Gerould Kern said. “The traditional media revenue model is under enormous stress, and we must find new ways to pay for and convey journalism to these audiences. Research and experimentation in new models is one of the aims of this scholarship.”

Gerould Kern has paved the way for future journalists to innovate and continue transforming the industry.

“Gerry Kern has been at the top of the field and an innovator in journalism,” said James Shanahan, dean of The Media School. “He’s also been one of our school’s best friends, as this new gift exemplifies.”

The Kerns’ gift to The Media School qualifies for a match by the Indiana University Foundation as part of the Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.

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