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

The best plan (your) money can buy (your Congressman) All those new congressmen are making a delightful discovery: Their new office entitles them to what Mike Causey of The Washington Times calls the best health plan in the nation. It covers all federal employees and, writes Causey, cant drop you or turn you down because… Read more »

Tilting at Windmills

The executive ranch For a glimpse into the mindset of the Bushies, I offer the example of Dr. Richard Carmona, the man the president chose to be his Surgeon General in 2002. Carmona left that post in July for a new position where I can continue my work as Surgeon General to promote and advance… Read more »

Tilting at Windmills

Determined to fail Did you know that for 18 months after we defeated the Taliban in December, 2001, the United States-led coalition deployed no peacekeepers outside Kabul, according to David Rohde of The New York Times, leaving the security of provinces like Helmand to local Afghans? Rohde quotes Richard Haas, the former director of policy… Read more »

Tilting at Windmills

Lessons from TR Karl Rove recently wrote an essay for Time magazine on the lessons to be learned from the life of Teddy Roosevelt. One lesson was not mentioned by Rove. Roosevelt not only served in the Spanish-American War, leading the famous charge up San Juan Hill, but offered to serve in World War I…. Read more »

Tilting at Windmills

One of my favorite columnists, Molly Ivins, points out that after roundly condemning Democrats as a bunch of cut-and-run sissies, the administration proceeded to announce its own version of cut and run when Gen. George W. Casey Jr. unveiled his plan to reduce the number of combat brigades in Iraq from 14 to five or… Read more »