Mark Whitaker

Stories by Mark Whitaker

  • Civil Rights

    Reporters at the Barricades

    How a band of idealistic journalists changed the civil-rights movement. By Mark Whitaker
  • The Editor's Desk

    For 18 months six years ago, Richard Wolffe, then with the Financial Times, spent nearly every day following George W. Bush as the Texas governor ran for president of the United States. And Charles Ommanney was a fixture on Bush's campaign plane, taking pictures for NEWSWEEK. So as President Bush prepared to travel to St. Petersburg for the G8 summit of world leaders several weeks ago, we approached the White House with the idea of allowing Richard and Charles to travel with him and conduct a series of rolling interviews. The president's aides agreed--not knowing that our reporters would be behind the scenes as one of the biggest crises of Bush's presidency erupted.A day after Bush left Washington, the Middle East exploded, and Richard and Charles were there to observe--and photograph--as the president and his team juggled schmoozing with world leaders and responding to a savage tit for tat between Israel and Hizbullah radicals that threatened to escalate into all-out war. In our...
  • THE EDITOR'S DESK

    Was George W. Bush right all this time about how to produce more democracy in the Arab world? That's the question even many critics of the administration have been asking themselves as they've watched the recent moving events in the Middle East. Iraqis casting their first free vote in decades. Palestinians electing a leader who is taking steps to make peace with Israel after the death of Yasir Arafat. Egypt's one-party ruler committing himself to multiparty democracy. And the people of Lebanon rising up to demand Syria's withdrawal after their former prime minister was killed in a terrorist attack widely linked to Damascus. In our cover story, Fareed Zakaria argues that Bush's post-9/11 campaign for political freedom in the Muslim world has clearly helped drive the wave of progress, though it doesn't excuse multiple missteps in the run-up to and aftermath of the Iraq war. Looking ahead, Christopher Dickey sees heartening signs, too, but also evidence that people power may not always...
  • THE EDITOR'S DESK

    Most hours of the working day, Anne Underwood can be found busily toiling away in her NEWSWEEK office, surrounded by Post-it notes and a half-eaten lunch. But every so often, she takes time out to calm herself by lighting a candle, turning on her multicolored mood lamp and listening to recordings of Tibetan gongs and Native American flutes. Chicago correspondent Karen Springen recharges by walking several miles every day and taking bike rides with her young daughters. On a yearlong Knight Fellowship at Stanford several years ago, Claudia Kalb took a course on "mindfulness-based stress reduction"--a meditation technique based on detaching from thoughts of the past and future and focusing on the here and now--and today she still breaks for "mindful moments" whenever deadline anxiety gets to be too much.These three veteran NEWSWEEK health reporters are all putting into personal practice what they document in this week's cover story: science now shows more conclusively than ever that...
  • THE EDITOR'S DESK

    "Money is the mother's milk of politics." It was true in the 1960s, when those wry words were uttered by Jesse Unruh, the legendary speaker of the California Assembly. And it's even more true today, given the ever-soaring cost of TV political advertising. That's why with each election cycle, we ask our investigative reporters Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball to "follow the money." In the '90s, Mike and Mark broke several major stories about Bill Clinton's questionable fund-raising practices. And in 2000, they were among the first reporters to call attention to the growing use of a loophole in Section 527 of the tax code that allows nebulous activist groups to skirt "soft money" scrutiny and run political ads without revealing their donors ("The Secret Money Chase," June 5, 2000). But for all NEWSWEEK's commitment to covering the money game, even we couldn't have predicted how big a factor "527s" would become in this year's race.As Isikoff, Hosenball and Holly Bailey report this...
  • The Editor's Desk

    Sometimes we know we're on to a great story by the length of time we spend discussing it in our weekly Wednesday cover meeting. Several months ago, Senior Editor David Noonan pitched a project on "Generation Excess"--about how kids today grow up wanting and getting more than ever in history. Half an hour later, staffers at the table were still talking about how they've confronted the materialism issue in their own homes. And as we continued mulling during the following weeks, it dawned on us that the real issue isn't why kids covet so much, but why parents have such a hard time saying no. In our cover story, Peg Tyre, Julie Scelfo and Barbara Kantrowitz talk to psychologists about the emotional costs of overindulgence, profile families trying to figure out what to do about it and offer smart, practical advice on how to draw the line. We hope concerned parents will find it helpful--and take some comfort that they're not alone.For months, major figures in both political parties have...
  • THE EDITOR'S DESK

    Every summer, my wife and I take our kids to a little cabin in the Catskill mountains that we purchased as newlyweds almost two decades ago. It's a time for us to relax, see old friends--and hear what people are thinking outside the bubble of New York City. Since our house is near Woodstock, of '60s rock-and-roll fame, we come across a lot of old-fashioned liberals. But I've also made friends with a fair number of conservative Republicans who like to hunt deer in the fall and play golf at the local nine-hole course. This year, when talk turned to the election, what I heard from folks of both stripes was a lot more disdain for the candidate they oppose than affection for the guy they support. And again and again, I heard people say: I wish there was someone else I could vote for. (And no one was referring to Ralph Nader.)As I listened to my vacation focus group, it also became clear that this election will be as much a referendum on Bush's personal style as it will be about the state...
  • From the Editor

    When the great black-out of 2003 struck, we knew immediately that we'd be ripping up our cover to crash a special report. But first, we had to worry about how to put out a magazine with no electricity. Like 50 million other Americans, we lost our power shortly after 4 p.m. on Thursday. Staffers calmly made their way down darkened stairwells, heading to hotels or home on foot, and waited for the lights to go back on. But by late morning on Friday, our block on West 57th Street still wasn't back up. With less than 36 hours left before our Saturday deadline, we couldn't afford to waste more time. So some 60 editors, writers, art directors, photo and makeup staff piled into buses and headed to our emergency site in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, where they produced everything in this issue except the cover story. "Usually, we scramble the jets," quipped President Harold Shain, citing our favorite in-house expression for jumping on a big news story. "This week we scrambled the buses."By...
  • The Editor's Desk

    On Thursday, Oct. 3, Washington correspondent Pat Wingert was at her desk when cable-TV news started reporting a string of deadly shootings in Montgomery County, Md. A former courts reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, Pat immediately grabbed a notebook and started covering the story. For the next three weeks, she stayed on the case--all the while worrying about the safety of her three kids, two of whom were in "lockdown" at schools near the Maryland border. Last week, when the suspected snipers were finally arrested, her 6-year-old son, Jack, asked, "Did they catch the bad man?" Yes, his relieved mom replied. "So I'm playing soccer on Saturday?" Jack said.From the very beginning, NEWSWEEK's coverage of the most deadly serial-crime case in a decade has been a remarkable team effort. On the ground, Wingert was joined by T. Trent Gegax and Suzanne Smalley, who worked police contacts made during the Chandra Levy story to break exclusive details of a law-enforcement-strategy meeting....
  • The Editor's Desk

    All last week I kept thinking of the summer of 1977. I was a 19-year-old college student working as a summer intern in NEWSWEEK's San Francisco bureau. But I was transfixed by a crime story unfolding 3,000 miles away. For a year, a serial killer wielding a .44-caliber revolver had been gunning down attractive young women around New York City, eluding police while taunting them with bizarre notes saying he was "Sam's Creation." While cops searched in vain, the rest of us tried to figure out who the killer might be. Was he a local or an out-of-towner? Was he motivated by lust or jealousy? And who was Sam?Of course, when he was finally captured, Son of Sam turned out to be a pudgy, porn-addicted lunatic named David Berkowitz who claimed that Sam was a 6,000-year-old man who spoke to him through his neighbor's dog. In the end, it was hard to believe such a pathetic psycho had managed to kill six innocent people and paralyze the world's biggest city with fear.It's human nature to try to...
  • The Editor's Desk

    After months of heated debate, our leading public-health officials made a startling announcement last week. The bioterror threat brought home by September 11, and the looming showdown with Iraq, have led them to favor eventually giving all Americans the option to be vaccinated against smallpox. It was only two decades ago that we thought this horrific disease had been eradicated forever, and 30 years since kids stopped receiving routine inoculations. But now the top doctors are recommending a three-phase plan that by 2004 could allow anyone who wanted a smallpox shot to get one.It was front-page news--but not news to us. Weeks after September 11, we reported that of all the terror threats, smallpox is the scariest, given how lethal it is and how quickly it spreads once a fully contaminated victim comes into contact with other people. And last month, we began digging into the government's emergency plan to treat America within days in the event of a smallpox attack. Debra Rosenberg...
  • The Editor's Desk

    Teenagers are moody. They like to keep their bedroom doors shut. They often don't want to talk at the family dinner table. They can take temporary setbacks very hard. And all that's normal--even healthy. After all, they're learning emotional independence, all while wrestling with the pressures of schoolwork, friends and sexual development. So how are kids, and their parents, to know when the expected ups and downs of adolescence give way to the chronic lows of depression?As Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert report in this week's cover story, until recently they often didn't. But now everything from research on the teenage brain to increased sensitivity to mental-health issues is helping identify the some 3 million American kids who suffer from symptoms of depression. They also have more options for treatment than ever, from antidepression drugs to cognitive-behavior therapy. That's the good news. But we also explore some hard, unanswered questions. What effect do antidepressants...
  • The Editor's Desk

    How smart does George W. Bush have to be? Remember that debate during the 2000 election? Supporters said he only had to be shrewd enough to run a "CEO presidency"--to appoint strong advisers, lay out a vision and delegate details. Critics argued that governing was more complicated. History shows, they noted, that aides inevitably end up disagreeing, particularly on the most fateful decisions. It's then that a president must rely on his own intelligence and judgment to mediate, to choose and to calculate the fine points of timing, consultation and message once he's made up his mind.We've arrived at that point in the debate over Iraq. Although they may agree that Saddam Hussein poses a threat, Bush's top foreign-policy advisers are clearly at odds over how to deal with it. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, backed by Vice President Dick Cheney, would like to see the U.S. military take Saddam out, with or without direct provocation or global support. Secretary of State Colin Powell...
  • The Editor's Desk

    For months, there were hints that something awful had happened. In early December, as Taliban prisoners who surrendered at the battle of Konduz were arriving at Sheberghan prison in northern Afghanistan, a New York Times correspondent reported that dozens had died en route. Then U.N. and human-rights officials showed up to investigate, but their findings were never released. Next a British documentary shown in Europe alleged that U.S.-backed Afghan forces had deliberately killed many of the prisoners, and that U.S. Special Forces had helped bury them. But American officials denied any atrocities, noting that the film had funding from former communists.Still, NEWSWEEK's Pentagon correspondent John Barry was troubled by the reports and urged us to launch our own investigation. In three trips to the Sheberghan region, Babak Dehghanpisheh interviewed drivers, villagers and surviving prisoners who told a horrifying story: that forces under an American ally, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, had...
  • The Editor's Desk

    You may think you know Jane Bryant Quinn. If you're a longtime subscriber to NEWSWEEK, you've followed her wise financial advice for 25 years. You've read her syndicated columns and seen her ageless picture (she really is that ageless) in papers across the country. You've watched her on TV, from her appearances on morning shows to the days when she was a contributor to the "CBS Evening News." And if you follow business journalism, you know about her many awards: the two John Hancocks, the Gerald Loeb Lifetime Achievement Award--not to mention World Almanac's naming her one of America's 25 most influential women.But there are some things about Jane you may not know. She has a wild streak: as she revealed recently in Tip Sheet, she drives a bright red Mercedes convertible. She can be sentimental: every Christmas she and her husband, David, invite friends over to do a reading of Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," complete with costumes and spooky lighting. And for someone who doles out...
  • The Editor's Desk

    We don't do "Hollywood covers" very often, and we don't always get them right. In retrospect, we've done some that were pretty silly. ("Can a Movie Help Make a President?" was our line for the 1983 astronaut epic, "The Right Stuff." Within months the candidate in question, John Glenn, withdrew from the race.) We've also lived to regret putting a movie our reviewers didn't like on the cover because we thought it would have big box-office--and newsstand-- sales. (Remember "Pearl Harbor"? Disappointing on both counts.) But we've done many show-business covers we're proud of, and they usually have one of two things going for them. They tap into meaty social, political or historical debates ("JFK," "Saving Private Ryan," "Malcolm X"). Or they introduce our readers to an actor or director who is particularly promising--well ahead of the media pack.Jeff Giles sensed that about M. Night Shyamalan as soon as they met in 2000. Then only 29, Shyamalan had directed the sleeper hit "The Sixth...
  • Whites V. Blacks

    IT WAS JUST AFTER 1 P.M. EAST COAST time last Tuesday, the moment when America stopped. At a small midtown Manhattan law firm, the managing, partner had invited the entire office to the conference room to watch the O. J. Simpson verdict. Delaying lunches, holding calls, some 50 lawyers and 25 support staff gathered around the TV. About a dozen of them were blacks or other minorities, but it was the kind of place where people thought that skin color wasn't a big deal. One attorney had conducted an e-mail poll; 33 lawyers predicted "guilty," 11 "not guilty." But it was office-pool, spectator-sport stuff. Then the clerk began reading the verdict-" . . . we the jury . . . find the defendant Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of the crime of murder . . . upon Nicole Brown Simpson, a human being . . . " and the air of professional detachment evaporated. From the corner where the black lawyers and assistants had gathered came loud whoops and yells of approval. Throughout the rest of the...
  • Malcolm X

    X ... X ... X ... X ... X / Now that Malcolm's dead ... / We all love Malcolm; / Malcolm's alive ... / Though His body's been Dead / Damn near Thirty Years Now ... / Yes ... I"m sure Malcolm loves / His name scrawled all over / Drug peddlers backs / X ... X ... X marks the spot/ X ... Gang Violence/ X ... Babies having babies / X ... literacy is kool / I'm sure Brother Malcolm loves / The way his philosophy / Is held in those young black fists / Delivering fiery resolve / To trivial issues ... ..MR0- ...
  • A Crisis Of Shattered Dreams

    Decades of racial progress have given way to growing resentment on both sides of the color line. A look at what divides blacks and whites--and what might be done to bridge the gap ...
  • Mandela2

    Free!

    In a high-stakes wager, de Klerk releases Mandela. Now the president and the prisoner face a tough negotiation for South Africa's future.