Jonathan Alter

Jonathan Alter

Author and Columnist
Jonathan Alter

The 2016 campaign marked the ninth presidential election Alter has covered in print and on television. On MSNBC and in the Daily Beast, he brings broad historical knowledge to analyzing politics and to holding President Trump to account. He has covered Trump on and off since the early 1990s, when Trump threatened to sue him.

A specialist in the American presidency, Alter has interviewed President Richard M. Nixon, President Gerald R. Ford, President Jimmy Carter, President George H.W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, as well as many other heads of state. He has written three New York Times bestsellers: “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope” (2006)  (Also a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); “The Promise: President Obama, Year One” (2010); and “The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies” (2013). His Newsweek cover stories over the years included everything from Bill Clinton’s first interview after leaving the presidency, to Barack Obama’s first-ever magazine cover, to Alter’s personal story of living with cancer. Beyond politics and media, he has written extensively over the years about education, fiscal policy, terrorism, anti-Semitism, at-risk children, national service and a wide variety of other issues.

Alter has earned honorary degrees from Western Connecticut State University and Montclair State University. His many awards for his political writing include first prize from the National Headliner Awards for Special Column on One Subject for a series of columns on life after 9/11. He was also part of the teams of Newsweek reporters and editors awarded the prestigious National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 1993, 2002, 2004. He received the John Bartlow Martin Award in 2001 for his reporting on the death penalty and first place for commentary in 2007 for a story on the legacy of Martin Luther King from the National Association of Black Journalists. Alter also received the 1994 Clarion Award from Women in Communications for Best Magazine Opinion Column, and the 1993 National Headliner Award for Consistently Outstanding Feature Column.

He received the first prize Book Award from the New Jersey Council of the Humanities for “The Defining Moment” and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for “The Promise.” His many awards for media criticism include the 1987 Lowell Mellett Award and two New York State Bar Association Media Awards. In 1995, Alter was selected as one of the nation’s most influential media critics in a survey of leading media executives and scholars published by the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University. He also won the 1987 Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business Reporting,  a Mentoring USA Award for encouraging mentoring, and a New Jersey Council of the Humanities “Book of the Year” Award (2007). . Alter was a Fellow of the Japan Society in Tokyo (1993), the Ferris Visiting Professor of Press and Politics at Princeton University (1997),  the Rhodes Visiting Professor at Arizona State University (2009), and visiting professor at Montclair State University (2016).

A Chicago native, Alter received his B.A. in history with honors from Harvard in 1979. Besides “The Center Holds,” “The Promise” and “The Defining Moment,” Alter is the author of “Between the Lines: A View Inside American Politics, Media and Culture” (a collection of 20 years of his Newsweek columns), and the coeditor of “Inside the System” (a collection of Washington Monthly articles). He is chair of the board of the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project, which provides cash awards for non-fiction authors, and serves on the boards of Donors Choose, the Century Foundation, the Bone Marrow Foundation, the Blue Card, and the Historians Advisory Council of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. He is married to Emily Lazar and they live in New Jersey.

National Advisory Board for Public Service