By Stephany Pena
Samuel Rubenfeld chases the news.
Professor Maurice Krochmal was vacationing on Fire Island last year when he received an 11 p.m. phone call from journalism student Samuel Rubenfeld.
While reporting on the New Hampshire primaries, Rubenfeld had decided to hop a bus to Manchester. But when he arrived downtown, with little money and no local connections, he found himself stranded on a dark Elm Street with no place to stay. With Krochmal on the phone guiding him, Rubenfeld made his way to a Dunkin’ Donuts, where he spilled his predicament to a young man behind the counter, who said his friend could give Sam a mattress for the night.
The next morning, undaunted, Rubenfeld was back on the reporting trail. Krochmal, who acted as Sam’s online editor as he covered primary and national conventions, says Rubenfeld’s “prototypical journalist personality will allow him to apply his passion and quest for the truth in all places.”
Though still an undergraduate, Rubenfeld has already contributed to his hometown’s weekly newspaper, The Times of Middle Country, and interned for Newsday, The Village Voice and Dow Jones Newswires, where he edited business news as a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Intern.
Recently chosen as one of the Top Ten Journalism Scholars in the country by the Scripps Howard Foundation, he is currently senior news editor of the Hofstra Chronicle, where he’s led coverage of the 2008 presidential election, including directing live online coverage of the Super Tuesday contests. Currently, Rubenfeld interns at the Congressional newspaper, The Hill, in Washington, D.C., where he contributes to the Congress Blog.
“His ability reflects the ability of people who have been in the field a long time,” says Stephen Cooney, editor-in-chief of the Chronicle. “He is journalism.”
Covering last year’s campaigns and being present at Obama’s first, “Yes We Can” speech were the most defining moments for him, Rubenfeld says. His coverage even caught the eye of Martha Stewart, who asked Rubenfeld to appear on her show to discuss expectations for the final Presidential debate.
A political junkie since high school, Rubenfeld decided to pursue a career in journalism in the spring semester of his freshman year, when he took a journalism ethics course with Dr. Steven Knowlton and learned how journalism could be used as a force for good in the world.
“He’s certainly inquisitive, well-read, thoughtful, opinionated, loud, abrasive—just about all the things we want in a journalist,” says Knowlton, who currently teaches at Dublin City University. “As is almost always the case with 18-year-olds, particularly the best ones, we had a little trouble getting him calm and even-handed enough to be considered credible. But that is a result of a passionate commitment and a deep belief in justice and in journalism’s ability to fix things.”
Rubenfeld has investigated and reported stories ranging from Governor Eliot Spitzer and the “Truth about Troopergate,” to Rudolph Giuliani’s business ties with the man who sheltered the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Many of his investigations involved tough obstacles: sources who wouldn’t trust a young reporter or attempted to withhold information. He responded by devoting more time to his reporting.
“Everyday the hunt is different, and the battle is diverse, but journalism is not a routine job,” Rubenfeld says. “It takes drive, ambition, and vigor to navigate around those challenges and come up with the story that one is looking for.”
At a time when the media is under fire, Rubenfeld stands out as a stunning example of someone who has succeeded because of his ethical judgment and drive to present the truth. “There’s nothing like a real-world experience,” Rubenfeld tells a rookie reporter. “It puts you into a state of ecstasy so transcendent that emotionally you will not be able to handle it.”