Journalist and novelist Ken Wells will deliver the eighth annual Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecture at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29, in the University of Montana School of Law Room 101. The event, hosted by the UM School of Journalism, is free and open to the public.

photo of Ken Wells standing on a mountain edge after a hike.
Wells also dabbles in blues and jazz guitar and songwriting and cooks a mean Cajun gumbo.

The talk, “Not Your Grandpa’s Business News: Confessions of an Accidental Business Journalist,” is part of a series of lectures honoring Jeff Cole, a 1980 UM School of Journalism alumnus who worked as an aerospace editor at The Wall Street Journal and died in a plane crash while on assignment in 2001.

According to the bio on his website (, Wells grew up in Bayou Black, Louisiana, where his father “was a part-time alligator hunter and snake collector and full-time payroll clerk for a local sugar mill” and his mother was “a homemaker and gumbo chef extraordinaire.” Wells began writing stories for his hometown paper when he was 19 years old and served as editor from 1973 to 1975. After graduating from the master’s program at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he worked as a reporter for the Miami Herald for four years and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his series on how an agribusiness drainage system was destroying the Everglades.

Wells joined The Wall Street Journal in San Francisco in 1982, covering a variety of stories across the West and writing the popular Page 1 “middle column” feature. He transferred to its London branch in 1990 and traveled extensively, reporting on the first Persian Gulf War and nonracial democracy in South Africa. Wells moved to the New York branch in 1993 and worked as both a writer and editor, with two of his reporters winning Pulitzers. While working in New York, he won the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ distinguished headline-writing award in 1994. He joined Bloomberg News in 2009.

Wells also has written five novels about Cajun culture in Louisiana and two nonfiction narratives. He has edited two anthologies of The Wall Street Journal’s front-page stories. He currently serves as an adjunct faculty at Columbia University’s graduate School of Journalism. He received an honorary doctorate from Nicholls State University and an induction as a Louisiana Legend by Louisiana Public Broadcasting in 2009.

In 2015 Wells left Bloomberg News to work on a book about the “social and cultural history of gumbo.” It is scheduled to be published in 2017. To read more about Wells, visit his website at

Founded in 1914, the School of Journalism is now in its second century of preparing students to think critically, to act ethically and to communicate effectively. They were recently named as one of the “Top Ten” journalism programs in the country by the Radio Television Digital News Association. Check out the website at

This news release is also online at:

Leave a Reply