Charles Peters’ Bio

For 32 years, Charles Peters nurtured The Washington Monthly, a small but extraordinarily influential political magazine that changed the policy debate in Washington and spawned a generation of talented journalists. He retired as editor in 200l.The Washington Monthly is a magazine that specializes in helping people understand how to make our system work. Michael Beschloss, the prominent biographer and historian, writing in The Chicago Tribune says the Monthly “holds up a deadly accurate mirror to the Washington political culture, exposing its hypocrisies, stupidities, and unexpected triumphs.” Victor Navasky writing in The Nation calls the Monthly “an indispensable decoder and deconstructer of the men and myths governing our nation’s capital.”

One reason Russell Baker called Charles Peters “a great editor in an age that’s not producing great editors” is the writers who came to The Washington Monthly as young unknowns and went on to such publications as The Atlantic, The NewYorker, Harper’s, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and Slate.

They included people like Jonathan Alter, Taylor Branch, Nicholas Lemann, James Fallows, Jason DeParle, Katherine Boo, Michelle Cottle, Timothy Noah, Gregg Easterbrook, David Ignatius, Amy Waldman, James Bennet, Suzannah Lessard, Mickey Kaus, Jon Meacham, Michael Kinsley, Scott Shugar, and Walter Shapiro. When The Chicago Tribune picked eleven all-stars of the “New Journalism,” eight had gotten their start at The Washington Monthly. In 2000, Monthly graduates won two of the highest honors in journalism: Katherine Boo received the Pulitzer Prize for public service and Jason DeParle received the George Polk Award for national reporting. Earlier, Taylor Branch won a Pulitzer Prize for Parting the Waters, a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peters has a BA and a MA from Columbia University and a law degree from the University of Virginia. He is author of three books, Five Days in Philadelphia, which Jon Meacham called “a great work of history” and the Wall Street Journal said is “wonderfully readable”, How Washington Really Works which John Leonard of The New York Times called “Sensible, straightforward, wise, funny” and Tilting at Windmills about which Robert Christopher of The New York Times wrote “no one.will come away from this book without the sense of having encountered an engaging and admirable man-one to whom both his profession and his country are indebted.” He is the co-author of five other books – Blowing the Whistle: Dissent in the Public Interest, The System, The Culture of Bureaucracy, Inside the System, and A New Road for America: The Neoliberal Movement.

Peters was born in Charleston, West Virginia, practiced law there, served in the West Virginia legislature and managed John Kennedy’s 1960 campaign in his county. He then worked as Director of Evaluation for the Peace Corps from 1962 to 1968. Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corp’s first Director, said of Peters “I relied on him because he was smart, fearless, honest and accurate.”

In 1999 Peters became president of Understanding Government, a foundation that is dedicated to better journalism and scholarship about executive branch agencies.

Peters was named the recipient of the first Richard M. Clurman Award in 1996 for his work mentoring young journalists. He also received the Columbia Journalism Award in 1978 and was a Poynter Fellow at Yale University in 1980, the Delacorte Lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in 1990 and 2003 and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in 1994. In 2001, he was elected to the Hall of Fame of the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Hall of Fame of the D.C. Society of Professional Journalists. In 2002 he was the Times Mirror David M. Laventhol Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. In 2003 he received the Carr Van Anda Award, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University. He was a Public Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, September 2002 through April 2003.

“Charlie Peters’ editorial vision has been inflexible and unyielding in all the right ways,” says James Fallows, the national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly. “The scores of people who have worked with him directly will always be marked by the experience of close supervision with someone who, with the loving attention of a veteran drill sergeant, reminded them every day of what journalism was supposed to be about.”

“Charlie changed journalism, he changed government and he changed the way writers-and many of his readers-see the world. That’s quite a legacy,” says Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter.