At Izzy Awards 2015

Maura Stephens

Associate Director, Park Center for Independent Media, Department of Journalism
Staff, Roy H. Park School of Communications
Staff, Park Center for Independent Media

Maura Stephens Bio: Before PCIM

From 1997 to 2010 Maura was publishing editor of ICView, Ithaca College's quarterly magazine, bringing to a 63,000+ readership hundreds of stories about the College and its many constituents.

During her IC tenure Maura has served on committees including Diversity Awareness, Natural Lands, Traditions, and Faculty and Staff for Sustainability. Because she believes that employees of nonprofit organizations should also support those organizations financially as much as they can, she was from the time she began working at IC until recently a member of the Friends of Ithaca College institutional support group. 

Maura has been an IC student herself, taking several classes in two schools; she hopes to take more. So far she has been mentor to some 45 writing and research interns and "boss" to a dozen or so wonderful student workers. She remains in close touch with almost all of them (more regularly since the advent of Facebook!) and is proud of the work they do and the people they are. She has also been adviser or mentor to several student organizations

Before coming to IC, Maura spent 19 years learning the craft of journalism while working her way up through the editorial ranks at Newsweek and Newsweek International magazines, and later cofounded a successful early Internet startup. During these experiences she developed a passion for international affairs, investigative reporting, and the ascendance of truth and facts in reporting instead of skewing stories with a false sense of "balance." Advocacy journalism is admirable when the ones being advocated for are people, animals, and nature -- as opposed to corporations, which are not people and never will be people, no matter what the Supreme Court may rule.

While working at Newsweek in New York City three days a week, Maura spent the rest of her days on her sheep, poultry, and organic vegetable farm, raising almost all of her family’s food and trading with neighbors for what her own farm did not produce. She also provided several restaurants with lamb, mutton, poultry, eggs, and fresh vegetables. (This was in the 1980s. Maura no longer eats meat, and she avoids products made with animal body parts.)

When she had to move to New York City for personal reasons, Maura worked for the New York Botanical Garden, where she was part of the three-woman team that founded Bronx Green-Up. This project reclaimed waste-strewn urban lots, and with the active participation of community members trained by the NYBG women, turned them into beautiful green oases, with fruits, vegetables, flowers, and relaxation spaces. Bronx Green-Up became a nationally known model for urban greening and community gardening, and this short stint in Maura’s career was one of her most beloved activities.

With her husband, photographer-playwright-director-actor-teacher George Sapio, Maura first visited Iraq shortly before the March 2003 invasion of that country. After having heard for months in the mainstream media about Saddam Hussein's intentions to assault the United States and its allies with his "weapons of mass destruction," the journalist in her needed to see for herself. She found that the mainstream media were full of lies. She and George subsequently published a photo-essay book about the Iraqi people, and Maura began speaking publicly about the truths they had witnessed and opposing an invasion. She knew such a "preventive" invasion would be based on false pretenses and would harm many more innocent Iraqis -- who had already suffered untold misery and pain and death under the sanctions imposed by the United Nations at the bidding of the United States -- as well as young people serving in the U.S. military. 

Since then, Maura has continued to speak and act on behalf of Iraqi people in crisis and to share what she has learned with the people of the United States, who were duped by a huge and tragic fraud perpetrated by their government and the equally culpable corporate media. Besides writing stories for independent media about the struggle to get Iraqis out of danger (such as this one, part 1 and part 2), she has written several policy papers that were distributed to members of the U.S. Congress and the executive branch, as well as to the United Nations. She cofounded, with Rosemary Nuri, Iraqi Refugees Assistance Connection to aid Iraqi interpreters who were employed by the U.S. military, government, and humanitarians and were subsequently targeted because of this work.

After publishing a story about IC employee and Burmese freedom fighter Han Lin, Maura spent nearly four years volunteering as chief political strategist, U.S. spokesperson, and media coordinator for the International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma. During that time she met with the leaders or ambassadors of many countries, or their representatives, to pressure for international action against the brutal military regime that still holds the Burmese people and their democracy leader hostage. Sadly, Han Lin died of cancer in September 2008, but his noble spirit lives on and his fight continues.

From 2004 to 2007 Maura served as vice president of the board and speakers bureau member of Theocracy Watch, a nonprofit organization founded by Joan Bokaer that tracked and exposed the rise of the radical religious right in U.S. government.

Maura is now actively involved in the fight against dangerous mining for methane gas via toxic-chemical-laden "slick-water hydraulic fracturing," or fracking, in the Marcellus Shale region, which encompasses the Finger Lakes region. With many other concerned citizens who have taken it upon themselves to learn of the environmental, health, and economic hazards of this destructive practice, she is hoping to stop Big Gas before it can permanently destroy the region they love, as it has done to large portions of neighboring Pennsylvania and many other states. Maura is a cofounder of Coalition to Protect New York and four other grassroots antifracking organizations.

Maura has guest lectured in several disciplines at IC and other institutions and given scores of presentations, lectures, and media interviews. She has written for such independent media outlets as AlterNet, Counterpunch, OpEd News, openDemocracy,, Truthout, and Yes! magazine and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows including Democracy Now! She was one of 32 women from around the world invited to contribute to a “Women Making a Difference” dialog marking the fifth anniversary of UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security and the EU resolution that followed it, and to a dialog on "Women and the G8." In both cases the contributors' recommendations were compiled and given to UN and G8 leaders.

Maura’s Ithaca-area community involvement has included Finger Lakes Progressives; Sustainable Tompkins; the Sustainability Center; Shaleshock Action Alliance; Democracy New York; Ithaca Rape Crisis/Crime Victim and Sexual Assault Services of Tompkins County; the marketing and development committee of the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County; Bad Dog! Productions, Icarus Theatre Ensemble, Theatre Incognita, Wolf's Mouth Theatre Company, and other theater organizations; and independent media alliances. She has also taught creative writing at Lifelong, TCA, and other venues and is a theater actor, director, producer, and playwright. Her play Promise/Insh'Allah will debut in 2013, and she appears as Theresa in the Wolf's Mouth Theatre Company production of the world premiere of George Sapio's Fault Lines in March 2013 in Ithaca. 





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