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Professor Joe Stephens teaches a course Courtesy of Princeton University Humanities Council

The University Office of Communications announced last Thursday, Sept. 13 that journalism professor Joe Stephens will serve as the founding director of the Program in Journalism, effective since July 1, 2018.

“The outpouring of enthusiasm for the new program from across the nation has been amazing,” wrote Stephens in an email to the ‘Prince.’ “It's exciting to take on this role at a time when there has never been a greater need for serious, trustworthy reporting.” 

In addition to being the Ferris Professor in Residence since 2014, three-time George Polk Award winner, and three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, Stephens has been a prominent figure in the struggle to create the journalism program. Although the University has offered journalism classes for more than 50 years, it is offering a journalism certificate for the first time this year. 

The Program in Journalism will fall under the Humanities Council, whose mission is “to nurture the humanities locally and globally, engage diverse perspectives past and present, and enrich public dialogue with humanistic approaches.”

Stephens noted that he hopes the program will “emphasize public service, diversity, and the importance of verified facts in a participatory democracy,” because University students “have the ability to change the world.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to provide [students] with the tools and insights they’ll need,” Stephens said.

Stephens’s former students responded enthusiastically to his new position, including Andie Ayala ’19 and Newby Parton ’18.

“Professor Joe Stephens is not only an excellent professor, but also a very attentive and wise mentor,” Ayala said. “I think that, as the head of the journalism program, he [will] do a wonderful job at guiding students in meaningful and engaging reporting.”

“The Program in Journalism is in very good hands,” Parton added.

Parton is a former head opinion editor for the ‘Prince.’

Matt Miller ’19 also spoke fondly of Stephens as both a professor and a mentor.

“Joe Stephens is an amazing journalist, an even better man, and one of the best professors Princeton has to offer,” said Miller. “He is already responsible for leading the Princeton Journalism Program and for its successes so far, and will be a fantastic founding director.”

Prior to becoming a professor at the University, Stephens was on the Washington Post’s investigative projects team, which he joined in 1999. Stephens has written extensively on the U.S. Energy Department, political corruption, the Middle East, the federal judiciary, and drug experiments conducted on children in developing countries.

Alice Maiden ’19, another one of Stephens’s former students, was first taught by Stephens after her sophomore year, when she participated in his summer journalism seminar in Greece. Maiden recognized Stephens as a professor who left her “with the burning desire to work with journalism.”

“I think one of the coolest parts about the journalism department is that we have a rotating faculty, so we’re always getting new professors,” Maiden said. “But as journalism at Princeton is growing, I think it’s important to have that backbone as a department, and Joe is definitely that backbone.”

This fall, Stephens is teaching the journalism class JRN 445: Investigative Journalism: Accountability Reporting. His current students, including Lloyd Feng ’19, expressed immediate support for Stephens and the new program.

“As someone who is taking his first journalism class and is still really fresh to journalism at Princeton, I think that this is a super exciting time,” Feng said. “Stephens is a really captivating and inspiring teacher, and he obviously really cares about what he does and about journalism. I think that it all ties back to the mission of Princeton, which is service.”

Despite the fact that it is his senior year, Feng anticipates that the experience will be extremely rewarding. He noted that journalism classes are a great supplement to education at the University and “will be beneficial to students even after Princeton.”

The certificate program in journalism will require students to complete at least five courses in the department, participate in at least six weeks of sustained fieldwork, and present a journalism piece at an interdisciplinary colloquium at the end of their senior year.

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