Charles Peters

Charles Peters is the Founding Editor of Washington Monthly

Charles Peters, founder and former editor-in-chief of the Washington Monthly, was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ (ASME) Hall of Fame on May 2, 2001.

“Charlie Peters rewrote the rules for political coverage, and his influence is felt throughout American magazines,” said Cyndi Stivers, past president of ASME and editor-in-chief of the Columbia Journalism Review. “The only thing more impressive than the tough standards he has set for himself and his magazine is the list of writers and editors he has mentored.”

In the 32 years since he launched the Washington Monthly, Charles Peters has epitomized the crusading, public-spirited editor envisioned by the nation’s founders as a bulwark of democracy. Working on a shoestring budget and minuscule salaries for himself and his skeletal staff, Peters created a small but extraordinarily influential political magazine that has changed the policy debate in Washington and spawned a generation of talented journalists such as Jonathan Alter, James Fallows, and Michael Kinsley, who now occupy top positions at most major newspapers and newsmagazines.

Rejecting the shibboleths of both left and right, Peters established a set of principles for his magazine–for instance, refusing to accept cigarette advertising–that he has stuck to at great cost to his bottom line. Every month, he combines seriousness of purpose in explaining the foibles of politics and government with a sense of fun and adventure in the reporting of public affairs. With few resources, Peters has consistently been months, even years, ahead of the mainstream press in covering stories of government and corporate abuse. And he insists on an analytical rigor and aversion to conventional and ideologically rigid thinking that has shaped the world view of countless political reporters, not to mention his astonishingly loyal readers.

Peters helped pioneer what is sometimes called “explanatory” journalism, which combines incisive reporting with pointed analysis. Because he worked in theater, advertising, law, politics and the federal government before coming to journalism, Peters brings a unique perspective to his “Tilting at Windmills” column and to every story he edits. His trademark blend of liberalism and conservatism–called “the gospel” by his many acolytes–and volcanic and eccentric editing sessions (called “raindances”)–have made him a legend in Washington, where he has worked behind the scenes to improve the system. But unlike many powerful editors, Peters never pulls punches or adopts trendy ideas. Instead, he routinely afflicts the powerful, rejects the fashionable and embodies the finest traditions of the small magazine press.

During his tenure as the Monthly‘s editor, Peters has accrued numerous journalistic and literary credits and awards of his own. In addition to Tilting at Windmills, he authored How Washington Really Works and co-authored Blowing the Whistle: Dissent in the Public InterestInside the System, and A New Road for America: The Neoliberal Movement. Peters has also written for The New York TimesThe New RepublicHarper’s Magazine and The Washington Post, among others. He has appeared on numerous TV shows, such as NBC’s “Today Show,” “Donahue,” “CBS This Morning,” “Ted Koppel’s Nightline,” and “Larry King Live.”

Most recently, Peters was the recipient of the first Richard M. Clurman Award for his work with young journalists. He also received the Columbia Journalism Award in 1978. Last November, Brill’s Content included Peters in its “Influence List 2000.”


Tilting at Windmills

TB or not TB When reporters asked what had happened to the border agent who let Andrew Speaker into this country by ignoring a clear instruction not to do so, they were told he had been reassigned. The level of accountability in our public life is, to put it as gently as possible, not high…. Read more »

Tilting at Windmills

After hearing Alberto Gonzales uttering the words I dont recall, I have no recollection, or I have no memory sixty-four times during his April 19 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and pondering the fact that Gonzaless former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, had said I dont remember 122 times before the same committee three… Read more »

Tilting at Windmills

Veterans Defend VA Care was the headline over a recent article by Kate Long in my hometown paper, the Charleston Gazette . You couldnt be treated any better than they treat you here, a local veteran told Long, describing the treatment of patients at the Charleston Veterans Health Administration Clinic. Another veteran said: They treat… Read more »

Tilting at Windmills

You will not be surprised to learn that materialism is increasing. Still, you may be astonished to learn just how great its growth has been. In 1966, 42 percent of UCLA freshmen said it was essential or very important to be very well-off financially. Today, nearly three-quarters of the freshmen agree with them. And if… Read more »

Tilting at Windmills

Bag ladies Some years ago, I wrote about how the shoulder bag that most women were now wearing caused their bodies to tilt in a way that made their walk distinctly less sexy. For understandable reasons, this item found little favor among my female readers. But now I can say Im just thinking about their… Read more »