Curtis Stephen is an award-winning New York-based journalist whose work has appeared in the Daily Beast, Newsweek, Newsday, and City Limits magazine. Stephen has served as a stringer with Newsweek and a fellow with the Open Society Institute, where he wrote a series of magazine features on wrongful convictions. Currently, he’s working on a biography of the late New York radio DJ Frankie Crocker entitled CHIEF ROCKER.
Among his reports, Stephen chronicled the case of Colin Warner, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 21 years for a murder he did not commit in a 2002 cover story for City Limits magazine. The story, picked up by NPR, is now the subject of the 2017 Amazon film, “Crown Heights,” starring LaKeith Stanfield (whose credits include the FX series “Atlanta.”)
Inspired by Peter Jennings, the late ABC News anchor, Stephen aspired to a career in journalism beginning at the age of 12. “I got the news bug early and discovered it through television,” he recalls. “I often wonder what I’d be doing instead if my mother hadn’t been such a “General Hospital” fan – so thank goodness for Frisco Jones and Robert Scorpio!”
A graduate of Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus, Stephen received the Theodore E. Kruglak Award in International Reporting and worked in India with The Times of India and CNN.
Stephen has also worked for CNN in Atlanta, ABC News (“20/20” and “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings”) and WNBC-TV in New York. Stephen was a judge for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Emmy Awards (News & Documentary) and is a panelist for the George Polk Awards, which recognizes investigative journalism.
Stephen was one of the last journalists to interview New York City Councilman James E. Davis prior to his 2003 murder inside City Hall. For Newsweek, Stephen reported on the fatal 2002 shooting of Jam Master Jay, a founding member of the pioneering rap group Run-DMC.
He has interviewed everyone from ballet dancer Misty Copeland and fashion designer Betsey Johnson to the legendary writer Stan Lee and recording artist/producer Pharrell Williams.
Stephen has appeared in numerous media outlets, including Ebony, the New York Daily News and BBC Radio. He has received awards from the New York Association of Black Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists.
A Brooklyn native and resident, Stephen regularly visits New York City schools to address adolescents and teenagers. Stephen’s reporting has also taken him around the world, from London to Kingston, Jamaica.
MEDIA: In 2003, Stephen was profiled in the New York Daily News’ “Great People” column. He was also deemed “Journalist of the Year” on the blog, Brooklyn Ron in 2007. Stephen’s work also received an award in 2008 from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. In 2010, Stephen appeared on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show” to discuss his City Limits feature about the state of teens in the NYC, which can be heard here. Additionally, he was named a “40 Under 40” honoree by Caribbean Life in 2014. And The FADER magazine profiled Stephen in 2017 for its coverage of the film “Crown Heights.”