Hamilton to Depart for Stanford

After 23 years at Duke, James T. (Jay) Hamilton will leave at the end of this semester for Stanford University in California, where he will become the Hearst Professor of Communication and direct the school’s graduate program in journalism.

Hamilton, the Charles S. Sydnor Professor of Public Policy and professor of economics and political science at Duke, has directed Sanford’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy since 2008. He also co-leads the undergraduate Policy Journalism and Media Studies Certificate program.

In 2012, Hamilton received Sanford School’s Susan E. Tifft Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring Award, in recognition of teaching that exemplifies hands-on, integrated learning. He taught more than 2,000 Duke students, many in the core course “Political Analysis for Public Policy,” which he taught 25 times. Hamilton also mentored 81 students though honors theses, master’s projects and independent studies.

Hamilton said the new professorship will give him the opportunity to continue his research in the emerging field of computational journalism in a region ideally matched for it -- Silicon Valley. Ninety percent of Stanford’s freshmen take an introductory computer science course, he noted.

“I’m hoping the journalism program will become a larger hub that attracts new tech companies to the field of journalism,” he said. Hamilton will continue pursuing a renewal of “accountability journalism,” which has suffered due to major economic shifts in the media industry. He has two related books in progress.

The Stanford communications department has about 65 undergraduate journalism majors, a technology-focused master’s degree program and the nation’s top-ranked PhD program. Hamilton spent a sabbatical year at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 2007-08, led two workshops at Stanford and has collaborated with future colleagues, including co-author Fred Turner. The department’s faculty includes veterans of The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Under Hamilton’s direction, the DeWitt Wallace Center hired leading journalists as professors of the practice, sought new economic models for news, and aimed to create new tools to lower the cost of investigative reporting – the mission of the center’s Reporters’ Lab, launched by Sarah Cohen in 2011. Closing the gap in data and news available to low-income people has been another area of focus for the center.

Hamilton served as a consultant to the Federal Communications Commission and pursued other media policy engagement projects, while also forging new interdisciplinary connections on campus. A Duke lecture series on computational journalism will begin next year in partnership with the computer science department.

 “The opportunity to go to Stanford was a great opportunity for Jay,” Dean Bruce Kuniholm said in an email message to Sanford School faculty and staff, “and the prospect of a leadership position in one of the top journalism programs in the country, at a school whose resources dwarf Duke’s, was one that was impossible for him to pass up…

“Jay has been one of very few who have made Sanford what it is over the last 20 years and we owe more than I can recount here for what he has done for us.”

Hamilton was assistant director of the Sanford Institute in 2001-02 and revamped the undergraduate curriculum during the time he served as director of undergraduate studies (2004-07). He was a candidate for dean of the school during its first search in 2011-12, but did not seek the position when a new search began last fall.

Founding director of the Sanford Institute Joel Fleishman, professor of law and public policy, told The Chronicle he was heartbroken to learn of Hamilton’s decision.

“This is truly an extraordinary loss for Sanford and Duke,” he said.