November 25, 2023

Longtime journalism legend Charles Peters passes away at age 96

Charles Peters, a longtime journalist and a prominent figure in the neoliberal movement, passed away on Thursday at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 96 at the time of his death.

Peters served as John F. Kennedy's state campaign manager and then as a Peace Corps administrator. In addition to his work as a liberal and conservative critic, he also founded and edited the Washington Monthly, as PBS reported.

Peters founded Washington Monthly in 1969 and ran it until 2001, earning the reputation as a legend in the nation's capital, according to Politico's coverage of his passing.

Peters' Life Work

The publication referenced the late Peters as a "lovable rascal from West Virginia," among other colorful descriptions, including that he could be a "tad challenging to work for."

It was also noted that he was famous for "rain dances," which were editing suggestions delivered "with love, though at a high volume."

According to Politico's Playbook entry from Nov. 24, lovingly titled "Remembering Charlie Peters," the late legend "took 20-something aspiring journalists and put them through a two-year boot camp running a small national magazine read by the Washington elite."

"The pay was paltry and not everyone survived, but those who did were prepared to step into jobs in the upper echelons of political journalism."

The Pay Off: What His Mentees Had to Say

Former employees of Peters "filled the ranks of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, the Atlantic, the (old) Newsweek and Time, and they spread out from there," giving the late editor a wide and sweeping legacy.

It has been said that Peters' trained writers and editors "had a profound and disproportionate influence on American media."

Many of those individuals offered fond commentary after their famous mentor's passing.

Jon Meacham, the Canon Historian of the Washington National Cathedral, said of Peters, "Charlie saw through to the essence of things. If a draft of a piece was unnuanced and strident ... he would call from his lair in Northwest Washington and say something like: ‘It might not be the worst thing in the history of literature for you to consider that not everyone is a total SOB. A partial SOB, maybe. So you might show the awareness of that.’"

Gregg Easterbrook, who is a contributing editor of both The New Republic and The Atlantic Monthly and author of ten books said, “Charlie once reduced me to tears, an incident much discussed among the alumni. This taught me a lesson I have never forgotten: really, really care about writing.”

Bloomberg Opinion columnist and New York Times writer Joe Nocera remembered Peters, saying "The thing Charlie taught that has stayed with me always is that it should never matter whether something you’ve written is embraced by ‘the other side.’ What matters is whether you’ve told the truth, no matter whose ox it gores."

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