Wilson Center Experts

David Greenberg

Fellow
United States Studies

Expertise:
North America
;
United States
Affiliation:
Associate Professor of History and of Journalism and Media Studies, Rutgers University
Wilson Center Project(s):
"The Story of Spin: Presidential Persuasion from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush"
Term:
Sep 01, 2010
-
Jul 31, 2011

I am a historian and journalist. I write on American politics, media and history for scholarly and popular publications, including most often the online magazine Slate, where I contribute a semi-regular column about history and current affairs. I teach at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where I am an associate professor in both the Department of History and the Department of Journalism and Media Studies. I have written two books. My first, Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 2003. A study of Richard Nixon's image as seen by different groups of Americans, it won the Washington Monthly's annual political book award and the American Journalism History Association book award. My second book, Calvin Coolidge, published by Times Books in 2006, was part of the American Presidents series of biographies edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. I also wrote the text and introduction to Presidential Doodles (Basic Books, 2006) and have published chapters in collections from Next: Young American Writers on the New Generation (Norton, 1994) to The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment (Princeton University Press, 2010). I am at work on a history of presidential spin.Before becoming an academic, I worked as a journalist full-time. In 1996 I shared the title of Acting Editor of The New Republic magazine, where I am now a contributing editor. I had previously served at The New Republic as Managing Editor and as a reporter-researcher. I worked from 1991 to 1994 for Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, where I worked on The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House (Simon & Schuster, 1994) and other projects. I earned my B.A. from Yale University in 1990, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and my Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2001, where my dissertation won the Bancroft Dissertation Prize. I taught at Columbia and Yale before joining Rutgers. In 2002-2003 I was a visiting scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in 2008 I won the $50,000 Hiett Prize in the Humanities from the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, "presented to a person whose work in the humanities shows extraordinary promise and has a significant public component related to contemporary culture."Among the popular publications I have written for are The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Dissent, and Foreign Affairs. The scholarly journals to which I have contributed include Daedalus, Raritan, The Journal of American History and Reviews in American History. I have been a commentator and adviser to various historical documentaries and on radio programs such as "On Point," "Talk of the Nation," and "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."In Washington for the academic year 2010-11, I, with my wife, Suzanne Nossel, who is deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations in the Obama administration, otherwise reside in Manhattan with our two children, Leo and Liza.
 

Education

B.A., History, Yale University, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa; M.A., History, Columbia University; Ph.D., History, Columbia University
 

Experience

  • Associate Professor, Rutgers University, 2008-present
  • Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, 2004-08
  • Lecturer, Yale University, 2003-04
  • Visiting Scholar, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2002-2003
  • Journalistic positions include editor and columnist at Slate (1996-present) and Contributing Editor (2006-present) Acting Editor (1996), Managing Editor (1994-95), and Reporter at The New Republic

Expertise

American political and cultural history; contemporary politics, media, and culture

Project Summary

"The Story of Spin"—the title is tentative—describes the rise in 20th-Century American presidential politics of the tools and techniques of presidential persuasion, or what we now call "spin." From the Progressive Era onward, it shows how politicians and their aides built the vast apparatus of speechwriters, pollsters, public relations gurus and consultants that now shapes their daily decisions about governance. Simultaneously, it describes the responses to spin's development from journalists, intellectuals, and others who celebrated or worried about the changes that our political system and culture were undergoing. The interplay of these political innovations and the critical responses to them reveals an ongoing concern throughout the century about spin's effect on democracy—attesting, perhaps, to audiences' continued ability to resist being taken in by spin for very long.

Major Publications

  • Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image (W.W. Norton, 2003).
  • Calvin Coolidge (Henry Holt, 2006).
  • Numerous book chapters, journal articles, book reviews, essays in The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Daedalus, Raritan and other scholarly and popular publications

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