Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jonathan Capehart

Dapper, dashing, friendly but with an agreeable air of authority, he is perhaps one of the most important young men, as well as political characters in the city, and possibly the country today.

Raised in New Jersey, Jonathan Capehart (pictured with Ashley Schiff) graduated from the prestigiously brainy Carlton College in Minnesota where he majored in Political Science and was taught by Paul Wellstone (who later went on to become U.S. Senator from Minnesota until his untimely death in a plane crash just before the election in 2000).

Jonathan is the dream-come-true example of the brilliant potential of a college Political Science major, which is probably a tribute also to his personal understated charm as much as to his trenchant intellect. He came to the city right out of college in 1990 and almost immediately got himself a job working for the president of the WNYC Foundation, writing speeches and serving as liaison to the Foundation’s board as well as the New York State Legislature and the Washington-based public broadcasting organizations.

Two years later he went to work for the “Today Show” doing research and writing news. That assignment took him the following year to the New York Daily News as a member of the seven man editorial board, forming the paper’s editorial positions on city, state, national and international issues as well as doing daily reporting and writing.

In 1999, he was the key person of the Daily News editorial team that won a Pulitzer for “best editorial writing” for a campaign to save Harlem’s historic Apollo Theatre. The following year, the team won the George Polk Award for its fourteen part editorial series “New York’s Harvest of Shame” that exposed the exploitative practices and deplorable conditions facing upstate New York farm workers. The year-long campaign led to action by the NY State Legislature and the Governor.

In 2000 he joined Bloomberg News to become its National Affairs columnist. Less than a year later, in 2001, he took a leave of absence to be the first individual to join Michael Bloomberg’s campaign for mayor, serving as a policy adviser. After the election became a member of the Mayor’s transition staff.

The following year he went back to Bloomberg News as its Global Poverty correspondent, and shortly thereafter, he returned to the Daily News as its Editorial Page Editor where he now manages the seven member board. A high profile opinion maker, he’s often a guest on CNN, MSNBC and the Friday’s Reporter Roundtable on New York 1 News’ “Inside City Hall.” Oh, and he also serves as a correspondent for “In the Life, “ a gay and lesbian news magazine show on PBS.

Anything else? Jonathan is also a member of the very prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, a fellow of the Japan American Young Leaders Project, a participant in the Young Leaders Conference of the Council for the United States and Italy; and one of the 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow selected by the World Economic Forum in 2002.

If I hadn’t met the man a few times at parties, I’d find all this totally intimidating and could imagine a rather stuffy highbrow of a person (as these political and economics “advisers” can often be – to make an gross understatement). But he’s not. On the face of it, it’s surprising that he’d even have time to get around socially, but he does. Handsome and stylish to boot, always beautifully turned out, he has a modest yet outgoing demeanor on meeting and, not surprisingly, lots and lots of friends, not only among the high and mighty but as well as the just-folks and working stiffs (wrong word, right idea) who make up dynamic New York.

* Since we last spoke Jonathan has moved from the Editorial Board of the New York Daily News to an executive position of Hill & Knowlton one of the great old public relations firms. Heavy duty. Hill & Knowlton has 72 offices in 38 countries (19 here in the US) and they handle all kinds of communications projects and problems from corporate to marketing to public affairs to financial communications. They’re in Asia, in Canada, in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. And of course right here in New York.