While the diploma of Landon Jones ’66 may say that he graduated from Princeton with a degree in English, the St. Louis, Mo. native who claims to have actually “majored inThe Daily Princetonian.” His dedication to journalism eventually led to a career at Time, Inc., which honored Jones last week with the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award at the company’s annual Luce Awards.
On one assignment for The Prince, Jones had the opportunity to interview Malcolm X in the Firestone Library. Despite the activist’s fiery reputation, Jones found Malcolm X to be thoughtful and good-natured. “It was a lesson to me that sometimes what you expect is not what you get, and as a journalist you need to keep your eyes open to that,” he said.
After a brief stint at Life, Jones returned to Princeton to serve as the editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly from 1969-75. From writing articles to working on the layout to proofreading, Jones performed any and all roles at the magazine. Rather than just continue with business as usual, however, he applied his experience as a student journalist to more accurately capture the politicized environment of the campus.
“I took it from a fairly conservative [magazine] to reflect the way the campus was changing, from Vietnam, to female empowerment, to sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll,” he said.
After his work with PAW, Jones wrote for Time and People before becoming the editor of Moneymagazine from 1984-89, and, later, serving as the editor of People from 1989-97.
Jones’ sense for generational trends was put to use once again when he took a leave of absence fromPeople to write Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation (1980). Jones wrote the book, in which he coined the phrase “baby boomer,” after many trips to Firestone and discussions with Charles Westoff, a demographer in Princeton’s Office of Population Research.
Jones, a Princeton resident, is quick to admit how the resources of the University have fueled bothGreat Expectations and his later books: “All of my book writing has been Princeton-dependent and, frankly, Firestone-dependent.”
Jones took an early retirement from magazine editing in order to focus on book writing, although keeps his toe in the door as a freelance journalist for a variety of publications. “I like the mix,” he said. “Now I can be more of a sprinter and a marathoner.”