No astrologer could have predicted a better alignment of the stars shortly after Norman Pearlstine’s visit to the American Academy on his way back from Davos in early 2005.
Pearlstine’s visit was a highlight of the term, and his talk on the future of print media so sobering that the moderator, a leading German economist journalist, quit his job soon thereafter to become an investment banker. A few months later, the Academy was in search of a President to succeed Robert Mundheim, who had stepped down from his office after more than five years. We soon realized that the Academy’s newest admirer, Norman Pearlstine, was the perfect person to bring this still young institution to the next level.
When Pearlstine came to Berlin last year, he was responsible for more than 150 magazines as the Editor-in-Chief of Time Inc., from Time and Fortune to Business 2.0. His interests and expertise were broad and, as such, a perfect match – from jazz and photography to high finance, publishing, and new media. It is no coincidence that the first luminaries he persuaded to visit the Academy are the media guru Barry Diller, rock legend Lou Reed, and the publisher/writer couple Nan and Gay Talese.
Pearlstine has held many key positions in the media business. He worked for the Wall Street Journal in a variety of reporting and management positions from 1968 to 1992, with the exception of a two-year interim as executive editor of Forbes magazine. He established the Asian Wall Street Journal in 1976 and became editor and publisher of the Wall Street Journal Europe in 1982. A year later, he accepted the position of managing editor at the Wall Street Journal, and was appointed executive editor in 1991. After this, Pearlstine devoted a year to launching the magazine Smart Money for Dow Jones and Hearst. He then founded the multimedia investment company Friday Holdings L.P., which he ran as a general partner until becoming editor- in-chief of Time Inc. in 1994. Widely sought out for his media expertise worldwide, Pearlstine’s professional biography began a new chapter when he joined the media and telecommunication team of the Carlyle Group this fall.
Pearlstine’s awards are many and telling: the American Society of Magazine Editors named him the recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award. He received the National Press Foundation’s Editor of the Year Award in 1989.
Pearlstine has a history of dedication to non-profit organizations: he is president of the Atsuko Chiba Foundation, which provides scholarships to Asian journalists for study in the US. He also serves on the boards of the Carnegie Corporation, the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship Program, and the Tribeca Film Institute. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations as well as the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Pearlstine’s commitment to Berlin is underscored by his joining the board of the new Berlin School of Creative Leadership.
Pearlstine is not only admired for his intelligence, but for his judgment and integrity in the face of conventional wisdom. There is no more dramatic example than the story that led to his forthcoming book, Off the Record: The Use and Misuse of Anonymous Sources (2007). At the time he decided that Time, Inc. would abide by a Supreme Court decision in the Valerie Plame affair, to turn over his reporter’s notes to a grand jury, supporters of his carefully-reasoned position were few. It was a difficult decision of principle that is now widely accepted.
The Academy’s success owes much to the willingness of exceptional Americans and Germans to devote time to its formation and development.
The Academy is privileged to have Norman Pearlstine as President and hopes that many guests will have the chance to meet him during one of his visits to Berlin.