Bill Kovach (Albanian: Bill Kovaçi) is a US journalist, former Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, former editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and co-author of the popular book, The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and The Public Should Expect.
Born in 1932 in East Tennessee of Albanian parents, Kovach planned after college to go to graduate school in marine biology. After four years in the U.S. Navy, a summer job at the Johnson City Press Chronicle in Johnson City, Tennessee persuaded him to go into journalism.
Kovach covered the civil rights movement, politics and Appalachian poverty for the Nashville Tennessean from 1960 to 1967. In 1965, he was involved in a fight for public access to the legislature, when he refused to leave a committee hearing following a call for executive session. The state senate passed a resolution revoking his floor privileges. The Tennessean and editor John Seigenthaler, Sr. led a successful fight to open the legislative chambers.
After Kovach spent a year at Stanford University on a journalism fellowship, Scotty Reston of The New York Times Washington bureau hired Kovach in 1968, and Kovach spent 18 years there, including serving as its Washington bureau chief.
After a tempestuous two-year tenure as editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when his staff won two Pulitzer Prizes and were finalists for several others, Kovach moved on to Harvard University in 1989 as a fellow, then curator, of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism.
He retired from Harvard in 2001 and returned to Washington, where he is senior counselor to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
He also serves on the faculty of the Missouri School of Journalism.
He founded the Committee of Concerned Journalists, which works to increase the quality of journalism.
Besides The Elements of Journalism, Kovach is a co-author of Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media and Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload, all with Tom Rosenstiel.
In 2002, when it was discovered that USA Today reporter Jack Kelley had fabricated some of his stories, USA Today turned to Kovach, along with veteran editors Bill Hilliard and John Seigenthaler Sr., to monitor the investigation.
“Journalism is the closest thing I have to a religion, because I believe deeply in the role and responsibility the journalists have to the people of a self-governing community.”
- Paula Devlin (2001). Profile of a Journalist
- Tracy Thompson. A Newsroom Hero - journalist Bill Kovach. Washington Monthly, May, 2000.
- Biography from Boston University
- Baccalaureate address by Bill Kovach at Boston University, 2007.
- A film clip "The Open Mind - American Journalism: A Critique, Part I (September 27, 2007)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- A film clip "The Open Mind - American Journalism: A Critique, Part II (September 27, 2007)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive