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Graphic for Distinguished Speaker Series

Senior Newsweek Editor, award-winning columnist, television analyst and best-selling author

Jonathan Alter

April 29, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
McKenna Theatre, SUNY New Paltz

» View photo highlights from his appearance

Jonathan Alter is an award-winning columnist, television analyst, and author. For nearly two decades, the Newsweek Senior Editor has written a widely acclaimed column that examines politics, media, and social and global issues. For more than a decade, he has worked as a contributing correspondent to NBC News. His 2006 book, "The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope," was a national best-seller. He is an originator and author of the weekly "Conventional Wisdom Watch," which uses up, down and sideways arrows to measure and lampoon the news. As editor, he helps shape the magazine's overall news coverage.

The 2008 campaign marks the seventh election Alter has covered for Newsweek. He frequently interviews American presidents and other world leaders, regularly breaks news and has authored more than 50 Newsweek cover stories on everything from shrinking confidence in the American news media, to Bill Clinton's first interview after leaving the presidency, to Barack Obama's first magazine cover before he arrived in the U.S. Senate, to Alter's personal story of living with cancer. Beyond politics and media, he has written extensively over the years about terrorism, anti-Semitism, at-risk children, national service and a wide variety of other issues.

Among his exclusives in the 2008 campaign season were that Barack Obama would seek the presidency (October, 2006), that Mike Huckabee would be a factor in the GOP contest (August 2007) and that after a quarrel with President Clinton, Sen. Edward Kennedy was likely to endorse Obama. (January, 2008).

In his role at NBC News, Alter has appeared on all NBC broadcasts including "TODAY," "NBC Nightly News," "Meet the Press," NBC News specials, MSNBC and CNBC. He appears twice weekly on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on MSNBC. On Election Night, 2000, Alter went on the air to break the story about confusing "butterfly ballots" in Palm Beach County, Florida that shaped the outcome of the election.

Known at the podium for his insight, wit and first-hand anecdotes, Alter offers an incisive, entertaining and always compelling view of national and world affairs and how media and politics interact. His presentation is as fresh as the day's headlines, but informed by a deep knowledge of history and a razor-sharp analytical mind.

Alter joined Newsweek as an associate editor in the National Affairs section in 1983 and became media critic the following year. He was named a senior writer in 1987 and a senior editor in 1991. For two years prior to joining Newsweek, Alter was an editor at The Washington Monthly. He has also been a freelance writer for such publications as The New Republic, Esquire, Slate and The New York Times.

Alter has earned many awards for his political columns. He was part of the Newsweek teams of 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 Hurricane Katrina 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.

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, and a Mentoring USA Award for encouraging mentoring. In 1993, Alter was a Fellow of the Japan Society in Tokyo and in 1997 he was the Ferris Visiting Professor of Press and Politics at Princeton University.

A Chicago native, Alter received his B.A. in history with honors from Harvard in 1979. In addition to "The Defining Moment", he is co-author of "Selecting a President" and the co-editor of "Inside the System." He and his wife live in New Jersey with their children.


Arrangements for the appearance of Jonathan Alter made through Greater Talent Network, Inc., NY, NY