John Affleck


John Affleck

Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society, Professor

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  • College Football
  • Journalism Ethics
  • Paralympics
  • Sports Business
  • Sports Journalism
  • Track and Field


  • Bachelor's: Notre Dame
  • Postgraduate Diploma: University of Dundee (Scotland)
  • Master's: Northwestern




John Affleck, a veteran journalist with a long record of success as a national manager in both sports and news at The Associated Press, joined the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications faculty in August 2013 as the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.

Affleck leads the Penn State sports journalism program, with more than 100 undergraduates earning an academic certificate from the Curley Center at any given time. The center emphasizes not only traditional reporting skills and ethical practices, but also mastery of social media, reporting on off-the-field issues, and in-depth enterprise. Affleck's goal is to develop students who think critically, communicate effectively and are prepared to take over as leaders in the world of sports media, whatever the platform.

Work toward that goal begins in the classroom, where Affleck focuses on providing students with an experience that will prepare them to step right into a newsroom and perform well. But he also pushes undergraduates with real-world projects that have an impact on professional journalism even as the students are earning their degrees.

Through special projects classes that Affleck developed, Curley Center students have covered major sporting events for professional publications both in the United States and abroad, producing content that captures both the events themselves and their cultural significance. Coverage examples include: Penn State football in Ireland in 2014 for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA); Penn State baseball in Cuba in 2015 for the PNA; the Rio Paralympics in 2016 for The Associated Press; the NFL in London in 2017 for the Miami Herald and Sports Business Journal; and, the Little League World Series in 2017 and 2018 for the AP.

Affleck also created a class in 2017 that made an award-winning sports documentary about European fans of American football. Titled "Quiet Sundays," the film was developed by a student crew that located fans to interview, then shot the film over 10 days in London, bookended by coverage of the scene around two NFL games at Wembley Stadium. The film premiered in October 2018 at the Southampton International Film Festival, in England, where it won an award for best editing in a documentary, with film festival screenings planned into 2019.

Students under Affleck's mentorship also have won multiple national and regional journalism honors, including the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation Scholarship for opinion writing (three students); top five Hearst Journalism Awards Program finishes (four students); and, top five finishes in the Associated Press Sports Editors’ competition for student journalists (two students). Affleck himself won the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2015 from the college's Alumni Society Board.

On campus, Affleck has served since 2014 as the faculty advisor to the Penn State chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media, which was selected by the national group as its student chapter of the year for 2017-18. He also is the faculty partner to Penn State's highly regarded track and field team (both men and women).

During his 22-year career at the AP, Affleck served as a reporter, editor and national manager, working regularly with all of the organization’s major editorial departments. In his final role before joining the University faculty, he helped manage day-to-day operations for the roughly 70-member domestic sports team. He also directed coverage of the Lance Armstrong saga, ran the Sport Department’s enterprise work, and coordinated efforts with the news department as the Jerry Sandusky case unfolded.

Affleck also directed coverage of college football, including the last five Bowl Championship Series national title games. He also oversaw the wire service’s 2013 Final Four coverage and was a key editor at the World Cup in South Africa, and at the Summer Olympics in Sydney and Athens.

On the news side, reporters and projects under Affleck’s direct supervision were honored in dozens of regional and national contests, and earned awards from a wide array of groups, including the nation’s education writers, religion reporters and the lesbian and gay journalists association. Work under his guidance captured the AP’s top internal prizes for news enterprise, sports enterprise and sports features.

Affleck grew up in Syracuse, New York, and has been a competitive runner for most of his life, finishing in the Top 500 in his only appearance at the Boston Marathon and earning Master's All-American honors in the mile. He is married to Jessica Ancker, an associate professor at the Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.


In the News



Why can’t the NCAA get its act together? Oct. 31, 2017

College football solution: Add one round, cut one regular-season game. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jan. 4, 2018.

Why winning the Super Bowl won’t boost your city’s economy. Jan. 26, 2017.

How the FBI’s investigation could change college sports as we know them. March 8, 2018.

As states legalize sports betting, will sports media go all-in? The Conversation. June 26, 2018.

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John Affleck
308 Willard Building (Bellisario Media Center)
University Park, PA 16802