The 2012 campaign marks the eighth presidential election Alter has covered. He has frequently interviewed American presidents and other world leaders and regularly breaks news. His Newsweek cover stories over the years included everything from Bill Clinton's first interview after leaving the presidency, to Barack Obama's first-ever magazine cover, to Alter's personal story of living with cancer, to the history of assassinations in America. Beyond politics and media, he has written extensively over the years about education, fiscal policy, terrorism, anti-Semitism, at-risk children, national service and a wide variety of other issues.
In his role at NBC News, Alter has appeared on all NBC broadcasts including "TODAY," "NBC Nightly News," "Meet the Press," and NBC News specials. On MSNBC, he is a regular guest on "Hardball," "Morning Joe," "Andrea Mitchell Reports," "The Ed Show" "Martin Bashir" and other programs. One of his best-known scoops came on Election Night, 2000, when Alter went on the air to break the story about confusing "butterfly ballots" in Palm Beach County, Florida that shaped the outcome of the election.
Alter has earned honorary degrees from Western Connecticut State University and Montclair State University. His many awards for his political writing include first prize from the National Headliner Awards for Special Column on One Subject for a series of columns on life after 9/11. He was also part of the teams of Newsweek reporters and editors awarded the prestigious National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 1993, 2002, 2004. He received the John Bartlow Martin Award in 2001 for his reporting on the death penalty and first place for commentary in 2007 for a story on the legacy of Martin Luther King from the National Association of Black Journalists. Alter also received the 1994 Clarion Award from Women in Communications for Best Magazine Opinion Column, and the 1993 National Headliner Award for Consistently Outstanding Feature Column.
He received the first prize Book Award from the New Jersey Council of the Humanities for "The Defining Moment" and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for "The Promise." His many awards for media criticism include the 1987 Lowell Mellett Award and two New York State Bar Association Media Awards. In 1995, Alter was selected as one of the nation's most influential media critics in a survey of leading media executives and scholars published by the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University. He also won the 1987 Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business Reporting, and a Mentoring USA Award for encouraging mentoring. Alter was a Fellow of the Japan Society in Tokyo (1993),the Ferris Visiting Professor of Press and Politics at Princeton University (1997), and the Rhodes Visiting Professor at Arizona State University(2009).
A Chicago native, Alter received his B.A. in history with honors from Harvard in 1979. Besides "The Promise" and "The Defining Moment," Alter is the author of "Between the Lines: A View Inside American Politics, Media and Culture" (a collection of 20 years of his Newsweek columns), and the coeditor of "Inside the System" (a collection of Washington Monthly articles). He is chairman of the board of the Lukas Prize Project, which provides cash awards for non-fiction authors, and serves on the board of Donors Choose, the Bone Marrow Foundation, the Blue Card, the Montclair Library Foundation and the Historians Advisory Council of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. He is married to Emily Lazar. They live in New Jersey with their children, Charlotte, Tommy and Molly.