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Nicholas Lemann began his journalism career as a 17-year-old writer for an alternative weekly newspaper in New Orleans, where he was born, raised and educated.
He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1976, where he concentrated in American history and literature and was President of the Harvard Crimson. After graduation he worked at the Washington Monthly, as an Associate Editor and then Managing Editor; at Texas Monthly, as an Associate Editor and then Executive Editor; at the Washington Post, as a member of the national staff; at the Atlantic Monthly, as national correspondent; and at the New Yorker, as staff writer and then Washington correspondent.
On September 1, 2003, he became Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, at the end of a process of re-examination of the school's mission conducted by a national task force convened by the university's President, Lee C. Bollinger.
Lemann has published five books and has written widely for such publications as the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, Slate, and American Heritage; worked in documentary television with Blackside Inc., Frontline, the Discovery Channel, and the BBC; and lectured at many universities.