Covering the White House is a staple of Washington journalism. But the Washington Monthly way is radically different from what you’ll find in other media.
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Many news outlets are suspicious of reporters who have worked in government, or they tolerate it from a few editorial writers. The Monthly was born of the belief that having worked in government makes government reporting better.
Three contributing editors of the Washington Monthly were presidential speechwriters—James Fallows and Walter Shapiro crafted words for Jimmy Carter, and the magazine’s editor in chief, Paul Glastris, did the same for Bill Clinton.
Other Washington Monthly editors have had extraordinary access to presidents, and they’ve used that insider knowledge to really probe deep. Taylor Branch worked with a young Bill Clinton in 1972 on a quixotic effort to win Texas for George McGovern. Of course, it was doomed, but after finishing his Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Award–winning trilogy, America in the King Years, Branch, who was among the Monthly’s first editors, had unparalleled access to Clinton that he turned into The Clinton Tapes. Jon Meacham, another alumnus of this magazine, became close to both President Bushes and President Biden during his work as a historian. (Meacham had won the Pulitzer for his biography of Andrew Jackson.) Jonathan Alter has written widely acclaimed books about three presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Barack Obama, and, most recently, Jimmy Carter. His work powered a recent Monthly cover story on the 39th president.
I really believe that having worked in government is an asset for covering government. I served on two federal panels, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and covered the presidency for much of my decades-long career in magazines, most notably as a White House correspondent for Time, where my coverage of the Bush disinformation about the Iraq War ended up in a First Amendment case that went to the Supreme Court.
When you combine inside experience with an interest in policy and solutions, you end up with great journalism.
When Glastris took over the helm of the Monthly in 2001, he commissioned some of the very best work on the George W. Bush White House—long before the disastrous Iraq War, when the rest of the press finally stopped swooning. Joshua Micah Marshall’s 2003 Monthly piece “Vice Grip,” on Dick Cheney’s incredible incompetence, was a landmark article that went against the conventional narrative of the long-time Washingtonian as a man of substance. Long before Donald Trump, Nicholas Thompson’s “Science Friction” chronicled the GOP war on science. Nick Confessore, now of The New York Times, broke down in “Welcome to the Machine” how Republicans took over K Street, making W’s election possible.
This ethos has been part of the Washington Monthly since the beginning. Charles Peters was a West Virginia state legislator who endorsed John F. Kennedy in that state’s crucial 1960 Democratic primary. Peters came to D.C., served as an executive at the Peace Corps, and started this magazine in 1969 to explain how government really works and how to make it better.
For more than 50 years, the Monthly’s mission has been to shine a light on those screwing up our government and fighting for policy ideas that benefit the nation.
We need your help to keep making it happen.
Here’s what we won’t do. We’re undistracted by the ephemera of “Who won the news cycle?” or “Is Biden having a good week?”
Instead, you’re going to get pieces on how Biden could benefit by crusading to help localities throw off the weight of red-state governors who want to trample mask mandates and minimum-wage hikes. You’ll get great articles on how reviving the civil service and doing away with many contractors is a political winner for Democrats, as well as great policy.
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