Timothy Noah was a Nation intern in 1979. A senior editor for the New Republic, Noah is the author of The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It. In this interview, Summer 2012 intern Brett Warnke asks Noah about his career and the writers he admires.
1. What advice would you give to recent intern alumni, current interns, or future interns?
Know that while the barriers to entry in journalism are lower today than in my youth, so is the pay (when it exists at all).
2. How did you get from being an intern to where you are, senior editor for the New Republic?
Strangely, I went straight from an internship at the Nation during the summer after my junior year in college to the New Republic during the summer after my senior year. That was in 1980. I was an intern at TNR, then an unsalaried TNR staff writer who got paid by the piece. I left TNR to be an assistant Op-Ed editor on the New York Times Op-Ed page, then left that job to be an editor at the Washington Monthly, which remains a great training ground for young journalists. Subsequently I worked as a congressional correspondent at Newsweek, which I found to be a depressing assembly-line, and then as a reporter in the DC bureau of the Wall Street Journal, where I refined my reporting skills. Then US News, where I was a writer and editor working under a great journalist — James Fallows — and then to Slate, where I settled in for 12 years, and finally back to the New Republic.
3. Who are some authors whose work on inequality you admire?
Jacob Hacker, Barbara Ehrenreich, Claudia Goldin, Frank Levy, Paul Krugman.
4. What do you see as the most important legislation targeted at inequality that needs to pass?
There's no one bill that needs to be passed. There are many. But I guess I'd start with legislation to break up the big banks — an idea even some conservatives seem willing to support.
5. What's the most recent novel you read?
Skios by Michael Frayn. I'm a big Frayn fan, but this wasn't one of his best.
6. Who is a journalist today that you think everyone should be reading?
Ron Rosenbaum. Everyone should read his The Secret Parts Of Fortune.
7. What was your favorite part of the Nation's internship program?
Getting to learn from Victor Navasky and Kai Bird.