Volume 25/1996-1997 contents | Duke Policy News Online | Sanford Institute

"The two of them have formed a distinctive team." --Eugene Patterson


Tifft and Jones are Patterson Chairs

Two award-winning journalists, commentators and press historians, who co-authored an acclaimed biography of the Bingham newspaper family, have been named the Eugene C. Patterson Professors of the Practice of Journalism at the Sanford Institute's DeWitt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism.

Alex S. Jones, former press reporter for The New York Times, and Susan E. Tifft, former national writer and associate editor for Time magazine, will begin teaching at Duke in January 1998.

The pair, a married couple, are now collaborating on an exhaustive biography of the Ochs and Sulzberger families, who have owned and actively managed The New York Times for a century. The book will be published by Little, Brown and Co. in 1998.

"Susan Tifft and Alex Jones will bring to Duke an extraordinary record of insight into the print and broadcast news media," says Ellen Mickiewicz, director of the DeWitt Wallace Center. "Their press commentary, their biography of the Binghams, and the research they are doing now on the Ochs and Sulzberger families constitute a profound understanding of the American press, and the influences that shape it."

The professorship--which Tifft and Jones will share--is named in honor of the former editor-in-chief and chief executive officer of The St. Petersburg Times, who has followed and encouraged both of their careers. Tifft, a 1973 graduate of Duke, was a top student in Eugene Patterson's public policy class on press and politics at Duke during 1972. Patterson recommended Jones for a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 1981-82.

"The two of them have formed a distinctive team," Patterson said in endorsing their appointment. "Both are as splendidly qualified to teach together as they are to write together. Each brings reinforcing strengths. I would expect their differing areas of expertise in communications and journalism to give them strong and separate voices in teaching, while their common values would ensure integrity."

"We have a lot to live up to." --Alex Jones Jones, who reported on the press for The New York Times from 1983 to 1993, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for his coverage of the collapse of the Bingham dynasty behind The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal and the Louisville Times. Before joining The New York Times, Jones was editor of his family's daily newspaper in Tennessee.

Tifft, who was a press secretary for the 1980 Democratic Convention and a speechwriter for the Carter-Mondale campaign, was a staff writer and associate editor for Time magazine from 1982 to 1991. She wrote major articles on politics, economics, foreign affairs and education. The two met during post-graduate studies at Harvard in 1981-82.

In 1990, the pair collaborated on The Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty (Summit Books 1991), which The New York Times Book Review called "an engrossing social document" and a "prodigy of research." Business Week named the biography one of the top-10 business books of the year and said it "serves as a capsule history of the newspaper industry in this century." The success of the Bingham book gave Tifft and Jones unique access to the Ochs and Sulzberger families. The two are the only writers to have unrestricted use of The New York Times Co.'s extensive archives.

Jones is currently host of "On the Media," a live two-hour weekly show on National Public Radio, produced by WNYC in New York and co-produced by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. He is also host and executive director of "Media Matters," funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which uses a "60 Minutes" format to examine media issues.

"Alex Jones and Susan Tifft are among the few practicing journalists who are exploring the role of media in the policymaking process and the ethical responsibilities of journalists," said William Ascher, former director of the Sanford Institute. "They will greatly complement the strengths of the Sanford Institute and the DeWitt Wallace Center."

Tifft and Jones, who will continue to reside in New York, will teach two classes at Duke each semester. They are interested in the impacts of corporate ownership of the media, new media technologies and the changing demographics of the newsroom.

"I am deeply honored to share the Eugene C. Patterson professorship, named for a man who inspired my career and continues to shine for us both as a beacon of journalistic courage and integrity," said Tifft.

"Media issues have never been more critical or more in need of thoughtful scrutiny," added Jones. "Gene Patterson stands for the best in journalism; we have a lot to live up to."

The Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences is endowed by a gift from the St. Petersburg Times Scholarship Fund.

Volume 25/1996-1997 contents | Duke Policy News Online | Sanford Institute