Emily Bell, director of digital content, will leave the Guardian to take up a new role at a US journalism school.

Bell has been named as the first director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. She will take up her new post in July, after more than 17 years with Guardian News & Media, a release from the university says. The new centre, which has received $10 million in backing, will expand the school's teaching and research in digital media reporting and production and the future of the news industry.

Having worked at the Observer for 12 years, including as business editor, Bell joined the Guardian in 2000 as founder and editor in chief of mediaguardian.co.uk. From 2001-6 she was editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited, now guardian.co.uk.

As director of the centre, Bell will teach graduate students and work on collaborations with news organisations and developing new models for distributing and funding news. She will also help oversee Columbia's new Computer Science and Journalism Masters, launched earlier this month.

"Columbia's unrivalled reputation for excellence in journalism training already attracts the cooperation and interest of the world’s leading news organizations, and the Center has the potential to play a transformative role in the future of journalism," says Bell in the release.

"Great online journalism requires an understanding that sourcing, reporting and contextualizing stories is rapidly changing. Journalists have increasing responsibility for transparency, accuracy and trust in the digital world. Teaching these skills, and being nimble as technology evolves, will be an important part of the curriculum."

At the Guardian, Bell has led digital innovations at the title and overseen the guardian.co.uk's rise to more than 30 million unique users as of last month's Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic (ABCe) report.

According to the report of Bell's departure on guardian.co.uk, she will continue to work and write for the title as a consultant. Janine Gibson, current editor of guardian.co.uk, will take on "a wider strategic role in addition to her existing duties", including responsibility for all GNM's mobile, multimedia and product development.

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