From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
Jonathan Alter (born October 6, 1957) is an American journalist and author who was a columnist and senior editor for Newsweek magazine from 1983 until 2011. He is currently the lead columnist for Bloomberg View, a new commentary website. He is also a contributing correspondent to NBC News, where since 1996 he has appeared on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC. Alter was one of the first magazine or newspaper reporters to appear on MSNBC. When the shows were on the air, he could often be heard on Imus in the Morning and The Al Franken Show on Air America Radio.
Alter is the author of The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, a national bestseller published by Simon & Schuster in 2006, and Between the Lines: A View Inside American Politics, People and Culture, a collection of twenty years' worth of his columns published by Borders Books. His 2010 book is The Promise: President Obama, Year One, published by Simon & Schuster, a behind-the-scenes look at Obama's eventful debut. The Promise was a New York Times Best Seller reaching #3 on the list at its peak. Alter's new book on President Obama is scheduled for release in May of 2013.
A veteran of Chicago politics, Alter has known President Obama and his closest confidantes for as long as nearly any national columnist, something which has helped with his reporting as well as led to criticism from certain media critics.
Alter was raised in a Jewish family in Chicago, the son of James, who owned a refrigeration and air-conditioning company, and Joanne (née Hammerman) who was an elected commissioner of the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago and and a member of the Democratic National Committee. His mother was first woman in the Chicago area to be elected to public office. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1975 and Harvard University in 1979.
For a decade in the 1980s, Alter was Newsweek's media critic, where he was among the first in the mainstream media to break tradition and hold other news organizations accountable for their coverage, a precursor to the role later played by blogs. When Newsweek launched his wide-ranging column in 1991, it was the first time the magazine allowed regular political commentary in the magazine, other than on the back page. After the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, during which Alter was a consultant to MTV, he was among a small group of reporters and columnists who had regular access to Clinton, though he was far from a reliable supporter, particularly during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. "Alter bites me in the ass sometimes, but at least he knows what we're trying to do," Clinton was quoted as saying in the book Media Circus by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.
Alter gained international notoriety on election night 2000, when on NBC with Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw, he claimed that the election would be settled in court. He was the first pundit to predict the months long recount process.
Two months after the September 11 attacks, Alter wrote an article for Newsweek called "Time to think about torture" which became one of his best known[by whom?] articles. In the column, he suggested that the U.S. might need to "rethink ... old assumptions about law enforcement." Stating that "some torture clearly works," he suggested the nation should "keep an open mind about certain measures to fight terrorism, like court-sanctioned psychological interrogation," and consider transferring some prisoners to other countries with less stringent rules on torture.
Alter was a fierce critic of President George W. Bush, emphasizing what he considered Bush's lack of accountability and his position on embryonic stem cell research. Alter, a cancer survivor, has written about his own bout with lymphoma and experience with an autologous adult stem cell transplant. On NBC's Today Show, Alter was the correspondent for several stories about the effect of the Iraq War on returning veterans. The Defining Moment, which was reviewed respectfully, surprised some critics with its analysis which concluded that the United States had come very close to dictatorship before Franklin D. Roosevelt became president, painting him as the savior of American democracy and capitalism. During an interview with 60 Minutes on November 14, 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama said he had recently been reading The Defining Moment and hoped to apply some of Roosevelt's strategies that were outlined in the book into his own administration.
A longtime proponent of education reform, Alter played a major role in the Academy Award nominated documentary "Waiting for Superman." 
In 2009, Alter was the commencement speaker at Western Connecticut State University, which awarded him an honorary doctorate. He also has received honorary degrees from Utica College (2008) and Montclair State University (2009).
In April 2011, Alter left Newsweek," joining Bloomberg days after. 
Alter lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife Emily Jane Lazar, a producer of the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, and their three children Charlotte (b. 1990), Tommy (b. 1991) and Molly (b. 1993).
Alter's family has had wide-ranging influence in politics. His mother, Joanne, was the first woman elected to public office in Cook County, Illinois. His sister Jamie Alter Lynton and brother-in-law Michael Lynton, the CEO of Sony Corporation of America, are two of the most politically active fundraisers in California, one cousin Charles Rivkin is one of the creators of the "Muppets" franchise and the current United States Ambassador to France and another cousin Robert Rivkin is Chief counsel for the US department of Transportation. Alter serves on the Board of Directors of DonorsChoose, which allows teachers to post online proposals for classroom materials, and The Blue Card, a national Jewish organization assisting Holocaust survivors.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Jonathan Alter|