Arlyn Gajilan, deputy editor for professional news at Reuters, notes that "Editors are usually one of three things. Some are wordsmiths capable of recasting sentences and weaving together paragraphs into compelling narratives. Some are skilled strategists with the ability to deploy reporting teams just where news is about to break. Others are mentors whose news judgment, depth of experience and wise guidance shape a generation of journalists. Amy is all three. She's a rarity in our profession."
After studying literature at Yale University, Stevens earned a law degree from Berkeley. Rather than practice, though, she joined The Wall Street Journal initially as a legal reporter, quickly impressing editors with her razor-sharp legal mind, her reporting skills and her refreshingly witty writing style. Stevens' first post for the Journal was in Los Angeles as a legal affairs reporter. Her colleague at the time, David Jefferson, recalls, "When Amy first arrived in the L.A. bureau of the Journal in the early 1990s, we were all impressed and a bit intimidated by her credentials. Not only did she come with great national news experience, she was a Yale grad and had earned a law degree! So we asked ourselves, 'What kind of crazy person spends all that time training to be a lawyer, only to become a lowly paid reporter?!' Soon, Amy filed a front-page article for the Journal and we all knew the answer: Amy was indeed insane - an insanely talented journalist!" A few years later, Stevens moved to New York to launch a weekly column for the Journal on the business of law. But her skill set stretched well beyond legal reporting. She became an editor on Page One, overseeing long-form, narrative projects, including an investigation into why sub- Saharan African women who were HIV positive were being urged by UNICEF to breastfeed their babies - the opposite of the advice given to women in developed countries. The story was included in the book, "The Best Business Stories of the Year: 2002 Edition," among other honors. In January 2004, she was named editor of Weekend Journal, where she brought the rigorous reporting standards and lively writing of Page One and infused it into stories on topics from travel to tennis. She encouraged her writers and editors to treat the newspaper's main feature as a magazine cover - and relentlessly pored over drafts to make sure that readers would become irreversibly drawn in. She left the Journal after 16 years to become a deputy editor at Condé Nast Portfolio. At that magazine, in addition to editing long-form articles, Stevens edited and oversaw the front-of-the-book section, which won a National Magazine Award in 2008. "Her oeuvre spanned complex investigative pieces, sparkling features and gripping narratives. Quite a few of the articles she edited led to book contracts, including Helene Cooper's harrowing tale about her family's exile from Liberia and Lucette Lagnado's account of her Jewish family's life in Egypt," said former Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman. When the magazine folded in 2009, she took a brief detour into another medium, serving as supervising editor of the NPR program "Planet Money," before joining Reuters in 2010. Stevens joined Reuters to create a team charged with providing news for the company's legal clients and to ramp up legal coverage for financial and media clients. Her effort has blossomed into a thriving, 25-person operation that provides groundbreaking legal news for the Reuters wire and targeted news for Thomson Reuters' legal customers across several specialized areas. Stevens is a born teacher - and it's not just the greener reporters who benefit from her guidance. "I had many years of editing experience when I went to work for Amy, with some very accomplished and demanding editors, but Amy has a special ability to impart wisdom while making the experience fun," said Eric Effron, Reuters' editor in charge of company news. "'You need to place the gem in the setting,' she told me about the first story I edited after I joined the Reuters legal team in 2010. I didn't know what she was talking about, but then she explained that while the story in question contained some excellent reporting ('the gem'), readers would fail to appreciate this unless it was clearly put in context. 'Think of the readers,' she said. They need to be oriented so the value of the precious information is apparent to them and not just sparkling in our own heads." It's an anecdote that exemplifies the special qualities Stevens brings to an editor - clever and demanding, but also humor and empathy. Former colleague Mike Miller recalls that lighter side of Stevens' personality when celebrating important milestones during their time in California: "I only wish NYC had a version of Farrell's which was the destination for every kid having a birthday party in San Diego. We would pack into the Country Squire (or some version thereof), fight over a spot in the way back, and then head for the restaurant in the Fashion Valley Mall. You had to order a 'zoo,' which was a giant silver bowl full of many different flavors of ice cream with little plastic animals stuck in it, amidst the candles. "We ended up eating sweet cold slop with broken purple giraffe legs and bits of wax and ash... but YUM," Miller laughs.