Alexander Susong Jones—author, broadcaster, winner of the Pulitzer Prize—is a Tennessee native. This fourth-generation journalist remains active in the ownership and management of his family’s newspapers, a business they have relished since 1916.
Jones graduated from Washington and Lee in 1968, following in the footsteps of his father, John M. Jones III, W&L class of 1937. From 1968 to 1971, he served as an officer in the United States Navy. He began his journalism career at the Daily Post-Athenian (in Athens, Tennessee), after which he joined the Greeneville (Tennessee) Sun, becoming editor in 1978.
From 1983 to 1992, he worked for The New York Times, covering the press. In 1987, he received a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the collapse of the Bingham family’s newspaper dynasty in Louisville, Kentucky.
This work led to a new career, as the author of books, starting with The Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty, co-authored with his wife, Susan Tifft. Published in 1991, the book was named one of the ten best business books of the year by Business Week magazine. Jones and Tifft’s second book, The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind The New York Times, was published in 1999 and became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography. Such esteemed publications as Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Business Week named it one of the year’s best books. His new book, Losing The News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy, will be published by Oxford University Press in August. No less an authority than William Safire, the famed New York Times columnist, calls it “the sleeper book of the year.”
From 1993 to 1997, Jones concentrated on his radio career. He hosted National Public Radio’s On the Media, a live, two-hour program that examined all aspects of news coverage and media issues. He has also served as host and executive editor of PBS’ Media Matters.
In 1998, he and Tifft took on a joint venture in academia, a post as the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism at Duke University. In 2000, Jones joined Harvard University, where he had held a Nieman Fellowship in 1981, as the director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is also the Laurence M. Lombard Lecturer in the Press and Public Policy. The Shorenstein Center explores the intersection of press, politics and public policy in theory and practice.
Jones is considered one of the nation’s authoritative voices on media issues. His op-eds have been published by The New York Times and The Washington Post, and he appears on television public-affairs programs ranging from the News Hour with Jim Lehrer to The O’Reilly Factor. He serves on the boards of many professional organizations, including the Committee of Concerned Journalists, the Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists, and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. Over the years, he has returned to W&L to share his experiences with the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, and in 2007, he made a gift to the University to support two summer journalism interns for three years. In 2008, W&L recognized him with a Distinguished Alumnus Award.
We are pleased and proud to recognize our alumnus for his achievements and his sterling career as an award-winning journalist and author. Washington and Lee University hereby confers upon Alex Jones the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.