Jonathan Alter is an award-winning author, reporter, columnist, television analyst and television executive producer. He spent 28 years at Newsweek, where he was a longtime senior editor and columnist and wrote more than 50 cover stories. He later became a columnist for Bloomberg View.
In his blockbuster new book, The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies (June 2013 from Simon and Schuster), Alter offers the fascinating backstory of one of the great ideological contests of our time. In this account of America at a crossroads, he pierces the bubble of the White House and of the presidential campaigns with exclusive reporting and rare historical insight. The Center Holds will deepen readers’ understanding of Obama’s presidency, the 2012 election stakes, and the future of his second term.
Alter’s story is the much-awaited first book on the 2012 campaign and it includes behind-the-scenes stories on everything from the president’s decision to go after Osama bin Laden to the struggle over Obamacare to Obama’s disastrous performance in the first debate. It contains the first account of how the Obama campaign used “Big Data” and other digital technology to win the election. At the podium, Alter traces how the analytics perfected by twentysomething geeks in a secret annex to the Obama headquarters called “The Cave” will change not only politics but American corporations and non-profits.
Alter is also at the cutting edge of the new trend toward online television. He is an executive producer of “Alpha House,” a pilot for Amazon Studios written by Garry Trudeau and starring John Goodman, with cameos from Bill Murray and Stephen Colbert, that traces the lives of four senators living in a man-cave on Capitol Hill.
The 2012 campaign marked the eighth presidential election Alter has covered. He frequently interviews American presidents and other world leaders, regularly breaking news. In 2004, Alter wrote the first cover story on Obama in a national magazine, one of several he has authored on the president.
Alter’s 2006 best-selling book, The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, earned exceptional reviews. It received fresh attention when the White House announced that it had been read by President Barack Obama and much of his team.
Alter’s 2010 book, The Promise: President Obama, Year One, jumped to #4 on the New York Times best-seller list and received unanimously rave reviews including one in the San Francisco Chronicle describing Alter as “the new Theodore White”. Offering what The New York Times called “a keen sense of what it’s like to work in the White House,” and what the Washington Post described as “brimming with fresh and judicious ideas,” Alter was called “a diligent political reporter with more sources than the Mississippi,” by The Chicago Sun Times.
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 three times a week on various MSNBC shows. Alter has appeared on The Colbert Report, as well as Late Night with David Letterman, Real Time with Bill Maher, the documentary Waiting for Superman, among others.
The recipient of more than a dozen major journalism awards and three honorary degrees, Alter served as a visiting professor at Princeton (1997) and Arizona State University (2009).
Known at the podium for his insight, wit and first-hand anecdotes, Alter offers a unique behind-the-scenes take on life inside the Obama White House, analyzing where the President has succeeded and failed. His presentation is as fresh as the day’s headlines, but informed by a deep knowledge of history and a razor-sharp analytical mind.
Prior to joining Newsweek Alter was an editor at The Washington Monthly. He has also freelanced articles for such publications as The New Republic, Esquire, Slate, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, PARADE and The New York Times.
A Chicago native, Alter received his B.A. in history with honors from Harvard in 1979. In addition to The Promise and The Defining Moment, he is the author of Between the Lines: A View Inside American Politics, People, and Culture (a collection of his 20 years of Newsweek columns), Selecting a President and the coeditor of Inside the System.
Alter lives in Montclair, New Jersey with his wife, Emily Lazar, and their children. His most exciting appearance to date? Throwing out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves game in August 2010.