- Publisher, Editorial Director & co-owner of The Nation
- Director of George Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism at Columbia University
- Author of award-winning book Naming Names, a leftwing view of the anti-Communist blacklist era
- Chief after-the-fact defender of Alger Hiss and the Rosenberg spies
Victor Navasky is the Delacorte Professor of Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism, which administers the Pulitzer Prizes. He is also the Publisher and Editorial Director of The Nation magazine and a member of the Board of Trustees of The Nation Institute. He became the editor of The Nation in 1978. In 1994, while on a year's leave of absence from the magazine, he served as a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government; after that, he was a Senior Fellow at the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University.
In September of 2002, Navasky was appointed by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger to serve on a special “Task Force” to investigate, in Bollinger’s words, “how future journalists should be taught.” The Task Force made no attempt at ideological inclusiveness, and members included such stars of the leftwing journalism firmament as journalism professor Todd Gitlin, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, and Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen.
Navasky has a similar role as Chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review, a bimonthly magazine that styles itself as “America’s premier media monitor.” For a number of months after he was first hired for this position, his control and bankrolling of the school paper was kept quiet by the publication, which commonly cited Navasky on its pages as if he were an independent commentator whose views it had solicited.
Navasky’s views of the journalism world are discernibly colored by his politics, specifically his aversion to the trend of corporate ownership of media outlets. With an obvious reference to conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Navsky has inveighed against this trend as the “Murdochization” of the media, as he put it during one journalism workshop.
Navasky’s political allegiances can also be seen in his pronouncements on journalism bias. He has described conservative magazines like National Review as the products of “jingoistic, super-nationalistic values.” By contrast, he says that his Nation magazine draws its strength from “human rights values and humanist values.”
It is these self-identified values that Navasky has labored to disseminate throughout the American education system. By Navasky's own calculation, The Nation boasts special representatives on some 160 college campuses, where they distribute copies of the magazine to students and urge them to purchase subscriptions. As well, under Navasky’s stewardship, The Nation has run an ongoing campaign to expand its influence on college campuses, sponsoring speakers and debates and even launching a radio program, called “Radio Nation,” which airs on some 40 college radio stations.
Navasky is also an owner of The Nation; he is one of a handful of investors who he brought together in a for-profit partnership in 1995 to buy the magazine -- which was then losing $500,000 per year -- from investment banker Arthur Carter. This group of investors included, among others, now-Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, former Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Alan Sagner, novelist E.L. Doctorow, computer software creator of Norton Utilities Peter Norton, and actor Paul Newman.
Although Navasky teaches only one class at Columbia, a workshop called “Producing a Magazine,” his books, particularly his anti-anti-Communist polemic against the Hollywood blacklist, Naming Names (1981), are regularly assigned by leftwing university professors.
In addition to his teaching duties, Navasky serves as Director of the George Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism at Columbia University. Several times per month, the Center hosts lectures by prominent journalists, and attendance is required for students with a concentration in magazine journalism.
Professor Navasky is best known for his after-the-fact defenses of Alger Hiss and the Rosenberg spies, and for his misplaced skepticism about the veracity of the Venona decrypts -- the communications between Soviet intelligence controllers and their American agents, many of whom were members of the American Communist Party. Navasky, whose own background has deep roots in the Communist and fellow-traveling left, equates anti-Communists with the followers of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy. According to Navasky, the real agenda of anti-Communists is not to oppose Communism -- which in his mind was never a threat -- but “to discredit the left-liberal project today.”
A graduate of Swarthmore College (1954) and Yale Law School (1959), Navasky is a regular commentator on the National Public Radio program Marketplace. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, and Ferris Visiting Professor of Journalism at Princeton. Before becoming editor of The Nation in 1978, Navasky was an editor at The New York Times Magazine and wrote a monthly column about the publishing business ("In Cold Print") for The New York Times Book Review.
Navasky is also a board member of the Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF), whose mission is to "protect and advance the right of dissent in the United States" by "alerting local activists to civil liberties threats" and "educating the public, the press and policymakers as to how dissent is crucial to democracy." Other notabale (past and present) DDF board members include Chip Berlet, Gore Vidal, and Kit Gage.
Navasky, who has three children, currently lives in New York City with his wife, Anne, a wealthy stockbroker. He serves on the boards of the Authors Guild, PEN and the Committee to Protect Journalists.