Steven A. Holmes '74
Class of 1974
The first try at college did not work out for Steven A. Holmes so he spent some time driving a New York City taxicab (and liking it) while he prepared to give college—a different college—another go. This time, his parents made clear, he would be paying his own way.
And so Steve Holmes went to City College, still driving that cab at night, took journalism courses and graduated with an eye on a career as a newsman. Driving a taxi was, so to speak, in his rear-view mirror. Later, he graduated from the Michele Clark Fellowship Program for Minority Journalists at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Holmes has become a well-traveled, versatile journalist whose career started in Yonkers, N.Y. — next door to his Mount Vernon, N.Y. hometown —covering the police beat. From there, he worked at United Press International in Dallas and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta before joining Time magazine’s staff. With Time, he covered national and local politics, agricultural issues, sports (including the 1984 Olympics), international finance, the Supreme Court and the Justice Department.
Holmes’s next (and longest) stop was at The New York Times, covering Congress, the presidential campaign of 1992, and the State Department. He became an editor in the Washington bureau, overseeing domestic news coverage. In 2000 he was a lead writer and editor of a multi-part series on race in America, which won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
For a conference on narrative journalism at Harvard’s Neiman Foundation in 2002, Holmes had this to say about his major piece in the series, a look at race in the United States Army: “[take] everything in, don’t let anything pass, not a thing. But don’t then regurgitate everything you see … be very selective. You may even have a really interesting anecdote, but it might not fit your point. Discard it … you will come up with another one.”
The year 2000 was a big one for him as he also published a biography of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. The book, “Ron Brown, an Uncommon Life,” was the story of a man who grew up in Harlem and became the first African-American to head a national political party when he became chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1989. Under Brown’s guidance, the Democrats returned to the White House with the election of Bill Clinton. Brown was named Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce, but he was killed in 1996 in a plane crash while in Croatia on a trade mission. Juan Williams, writing in The Washington Post, praised Holmes’s biography as a book that opens “rich vistas into American politics and the sociology of black America.”
In 2005, Holmes left The Times after almost 16 years. For the next three years he was national domestic policy editor at The Washington Post.
In 2008, he moved to the broadcast world as the executive director of standards and practices at CNN, where he runs the department that oversees and vets news stories that are considered controversial.