Elizabeth B. West, class of 1973


In these interviews, Elizabeth B. West, Brown University class of 1973, discusses her experiences at Brown University during the Pembroke-Brown merger, the Vietnam War, and the Women’s Movement. She also talks about her thirty-year career in network news, her path to becoming a full-time documentary filmmaker, the inauguration of President Joseph Biden, and getting her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In part 1, West begins by describing her childhood in Hebron, Maine, her father’s time at Brown University and in World War II, and her decision to attend Brown. West explains that the emerging new curriculum enticed her to continue the Brown family legacy. She remembers participating in the Brown Film Society and writing film reviews for the Brown Daily Herald. She also recalls anti-Vietnam War efforts on campus as well as the energizing push of the Women’s Movement. She talks about the Pembroke-Brown merger, the sexual revolution, and access to birth control on campus.

West goes on to explain her decision to pursue graduate school at Syracuse University during the emergence of cable television and describes her internship at a local news radio station. She recalls the intensity of the Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs and how she felt when King won. West talks about getting her first job for ABC News in 1975 and recalls feeling as though the new opportunities for women in media would lead to more equitable representation today. She describes her career trajectory from ABC News to CBS News, then teaching at Columbia University, and eventually making documentaries about influential women. West closes part 1 by mentioning the 8-minute introductory documentary that she and her professional partner, Julie Cohen, produced for Dr. Jill Biden and the 2020 Democratic National Convention. She also shared some memories of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and discussed the impact of her death.

In part 2, West reminisces about meeting her second husband, Oren Jacoby, Brown University class of 1977, and their shared experiences in Robert Scholes’ classes. She goes on to elaborate on the making of Dr. Jill Biden’s introductory documentary and shares details from the weekend she spent with the Biden family. West describes Inauguration Day 2021, watching the continuous new stories, and feeling excited about the new administration. She also talks about getting her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that same day and addresses some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine. West closes her interview by explaining that one of the best events to come out of 2020 was the “reassessment of our history and the honesty about our history,” and the turn to highlighting marginalized people who have profoundly impacted the course of history.

Part 1

Part 2


Recorded on January 13, 2021 via Zoom
Interviewed by Amanda Knox, Pembroke Center Assistant Archivist

Suggested Chicago style citation: West, Elizabeth B. Interview. By Amanda Knox. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. January 13, 2021.


Elizabeth B. West grew up in Hebron, Maine, before moving with her family to Providence, Rhode Island. She graduated from The Wheeler School in 1969 and went on to study English at Brown University. During her time at Brown, West participated in the Film Club and wrote film reviews for the Brown Daily Herald. She graduated from Brown in 1973 and went on to earn a Master’s in Communications from Syracuse University.

West spent nearly three decades working in network news. As a producer and executive at ABC News, she received 21 Emmy Awards and two duPont-Columbia Awards for her work on “Nightline” and “PrimeTimeLive” and the documentary program “Turning Point,” where she served as executive producer from 1994-1998. As Senior Vice President at CBS News from 1998-2005, she oversaw “60 Minutes” and “48 Hours,” and was executive in charge of the CBS documentary 9/11, winner of the Primetime Emmy Award in 2002. In 2009, West joined the Columbia Journalism School faculty from which she retired in 2020.

West was executive producer of the MAKERS documentary and digital project (AOL & PBS, 2012); the feature documentary The Lavender Scare (2017), and the short doc 4%: Film’s Gender Problem (Epix 2016.) Along with her husband, filmmaker Oren Jacoby, Brown University class of 1977, she is a principal at Storyville Films where she co-produced Constantine’s Sword (First Run Features, 2007.) Most recently, she directed RBG (CNNFilms, Magnolia, Participant) – a theatrical documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – along with Julie Cohen.

West married her husband in 1992 and they have one daughter, Jane Jacoby, Brown University class of 2017. West served two terms on the Brown Corporation and sat on Board of Directors of The New 42nd Street. She and her husband live in New York.