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TV analyst to share insights on the presidency


January 28, 2009

Jonathan Alter, an award-winning Newsweek senior editor whose sharp insights on the presidential race have made him a familiar face on NBC broadcasts, will give a free public lecture at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Tempe Center for the Arts. 

“The New Defining Moment: Perspectives on the Presidency and Democracy” will include first-hand anecdotes of the 2008 campaign season, in which Alter was the first to predict Sen. Ted Kennedy would endorse Barack Obama after a quarrel with President Clinton. Two years earlier, Alter broke the news that Obama would seek the presidency. 

The witty journalist has been invited to Arizona State University for five days as the John J. Rhodes Chair in Public Policy and American Institutions, teaching journalism and honors classes and meeting with faculty and students. His visit is sponsored by Barrett, the ASU Honors College. 

In addition to visiting student classrooms at three ASU campuses, Alter will appear in a public conversation with Prof. Joseph Russomanno at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 24, in the First Amendment Forum. 

Tickets for the lecture are available at the Tempe Center for the Arts box office, 700 W. Rio Salado, Tempe, or online at http://www.tempe.gov/tca/Calendar.htm.  A small processing fee applies.

For nearly two decades, Alter has written a widely acclaimed column that examines politics, media and social and global issues. His 2006 book, “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triuimph of Hope,” was a national best-seller. At Newsweek, he helps shape news coverage and writes a weekly “Conventional Wisdom Watch” that uses arrows to measure and lampoon the news. 

Known as an entertaining and compelling speaker, Alter offers a view of national and world affairs and how media and politics interact. He also has written extensively over the years about terrorism, anti-Semitism, at-risk children, national service, his own battle with cancer, and a wide variety of other issues. He appears regularly as a commentator on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC broadcasts. 

He achieved notoriety on election night 2000, when he went on the air to break the story about confusing “butterfly ballots” in Palm Beach County, Florida, that shaped the outcome of the election. 

A graduate of Harvard, Alter joined Newsweek as an associate editor in 1983 and became media critic the following year. He was one of the first in the mainstream media to break tradition by holding news organizations accountable for their coverage. 

He has earned many awards, including the John Bartlow Martin Award for his reporting on the death penalty and a first-place award from the National Association of Black Journalists for his commentary on Hurricane Katrina. His teams at Newsweek won the prestigious National Magazine Award for General Excellence three times. 

The Rhodes Chair celebrates the public service career and contributions to civic life of John J. Rhodes, U.S. congressman whose career embodied personal integrity, fiscal responsibility, respect for persons and international farsightedness.