Mark Whitaker (journalist)

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Mark Whitaker (born September 7, 1957,[1] outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American author, journalist and media executive. From 2011 to 2013, he was Executive Vice President and Managing Editor of CNN Worldwide[2][3][4], where he oversaw daily news coverage and also persuaded the network to hire the food and travel writer Anthony Bourdain and to create the program "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown." After Bourdain's suicide in 2018, Whitaker praised the late chef's coverage of underreported countries such as Lebanon and said, "It's not a food show; it's journalism."[5]

Whitaker was previously Senior Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News, succeeding Tim Russert after his fatal heart attack in June 2008. In that role, he oversaw all Washington-based reporting and production for NBC and MSNBC during the 2008 election and early years of the Obama presidency, in addition to appearing as an on-air analyst. Before moving to Washington, he served as chief deputy to the President of NBC News in New York.

Before joining NBC in 2007, Whitaker was the Editor of Newsweek, the first African-American to lead a national news magazine. While he ran the magazine, from 1998 until 2006, it won four National Magazine Awards—for coverage of 9/11, the Iraq War, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the 2004 elections. From 2004 to 2006, Whitaker served as President of the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Whitaker graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Social Studies from Harvard College in 1979, where he served on the editorial board of The Harvard Crimson. He then studied International Relations at Oxford University's Balliol College from 1979 until 1981 where he was a Marshall Scholar.

Whitaker was named one of Essence magazine's 25 most influential African-Americans for 2008.[6]

In 2011, Whitaker published a family memoir, My Long Trip Home, about his turbulent upbringing as the child of an interracial marriage between a pioneering but self-destructive black scholar of Africa and a white French immigrant whose father, Edouard Theis, was a clergyman who helped save the lives of Jews during World War II in the French town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. The book won critical praise and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for African-American authors. .[7] [8] [9]

In 2014, Whitaker published a biography of Bill Cosby, Cosby: His Life and Times, that received favorable reviews for its portrayal of the social impact of Cosby's work as a stand-up comedian and TV star, with insights into how he dealt with the 1997 death of his son, Ennis, who was murdered in a botched robbery.[10][11] It also made several New York Times bestseller lists.[12] But it came under scrutiny when, shortly after the book was released, dozens of women came forward accusing Cosby of sexual assault.[13] While dealing with Cosby's history of infidelity and a paternity extortion trial, Whitaker's biography did not explore the handful of assault claims that had pre-dated his book. When multiple similar allegations came to light after publication, Whitaker issued an apology and the book was not released in paperback.[14][15]

In 2018, Whitaker published Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance, about the legacy of the African-American community of Pittsburgh, where his father grew up and his grandparents owned funeral homes. The book links stories of prominent artists who grew up in Pittsburgh—including musicians Billy Strayhorn, Billy Eckstine, Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, Roy Eldridge, Kenny Clarke, Ray Brown (musician), Erroll Garner; artist Romare Bearden; and playwright August Wilson—influential journalists for the black newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier—including Robert Lee Vann, Wendell Smith and Evelyn Cunningham—and historic figures whose careers were shaped by their interaction with Pittsburgh—including Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Duke Ellington and Lena Horne. Both scholars of black history and experts on Pittsburgh’s local history praised the book as an important contribution to the study of African-American achievement and struggle in the mid-20th Century. [16] [17] [18] [19]

Whitaker is married to Alexis Gelber, a former long-time editor at Newsweek.


  1. ^ Mark Whitaker (2011-10-14). "CNN Red Chair Interview: Mark Whitaker". CNN. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  2. ^ "Managing Editor Out At CNN". Huffington Post. 29 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "CNN drops Carville, Matalin, Erickson and executive VP Mark Whitaker". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  4. ^ "CNN names Whitaker managing editor – CNN Press Room". CNN. 28 January 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "The Most Influential African-Americans of 2008". Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (2011-11-06). "'My Long Trip Home,' by Mark Whitaker - Review". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  8. ^
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  10. ^ Drumming, Neil (2014-09-18). "Mark Whitaker's 'Cosby'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  11. ^ "COSBY by Mark Whitaker | Kirkus Reviews". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  12. ^ "Best Sellers - The New York Times". Retrieved 2015-11-28. 
  13. ^ Winton, Richard (September 30, 2015). "Former Mrs. America, others accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault". Retrieved September 30, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Bill Cosby biographer sorry for omitting sexual assault allegations". CBS News. November 25, 2014. Retrieved September 29, 2015. 
  15. ^ Walker, Tim (July 23, 2015). "Bill Cosby biography pulled as comedian accused of sexual assaults faces civil suit". The Independent. London. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
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