The Mason Spirit

His Two Cents: Alumnus Shares His Opinions at One of America's Most Respected Newspapers

By Meghan Smith

Brendan Miniter, B.A. History '98, is the fifth of seven children. He grew up in upstate New York just outside the village of Rosendale. His father was the chief of police, his mother the town clerk. His first job, at 14, was on an apple farm, pruning trees in the winter and digging irrigation ditches in the summer. At 26, just two years after graduation, he was hired by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

It was at Mason that Miniter - who is assistant editor of, the web site for the Journal's editorial page - discovered his passion for writing. After publishing his first article in American Enterprise magazine as a junior and then following that with subsequent pieces in the Broadside student newspaper and other local newspapers, he realized that he wanted a career that involved a lot of writing. "It's almost depressing when I go a few weeks without writing something," says Miniter. "I guess if I wasn't in journalism, I would be in business, but I would have to be able to write."

Mason was also the place where Miniter gained a respect and enthusiasm for economics, something he credits as being essential to his career today. "Journalists cringe when they have to have anything to do with math. The same can be true for economics," he continues. "Economics is really critical and significant. It affects everything in our lives. It's the most important class in school you can take. I had a professor, Karen Vaughn, who wrote a book about Austrian economics. If I hadn't read that book, I would never have been turned on to economics."

After graduating from Mason, Miniter edited the Forum section of the Commentary pages for the Washington Times. While there, he started a weekly feature on the editorial page, "Nobles and Knaves," which spotlighted often-unknown individuals behind major events. He joined the Wall Street Journal in September 2000.

But since Sept. 11 of last year, Miniter hasn't had an office. On that day, the Wall Street Journal's building was damaged from debris from the World Trade Center towers, which were literally "across the street." A backup power generator serving the World Financial Center, where his office was located, caught fire later that day.

"It was so intense," says Miniter of the days following the attacks. "I wasn't eating really; I was barely sleeping at all. No one else was really eating or sleeping either. My parents were on vacation in Oregon and were comforted by my byline in the paper the day after it happened - that's how they knew I was alive."

"The thing was, about the actual day, I was running late," he continues. "I'm always running late." On Sept. 11 he was in his Brooklyn apartment when the first plane hit and on the Brooklyn Promenade overlooking lower Manhattan when the second plane struck. It was clear to everyone that it was no accident. Yet Miniter walked up to the Clark Street station and got on the subway heading into Manhattan anyway. "I remember the intercom on the subway saying that they weren't going to stop at the World Trade Center 'because of an emergency,' he recalls. At about that time his roommate - Jeff Law, also a Mason graduate who works for Goldman Sachs, was sending him an e-mail that read "do not come to work today. A plane hit the World Trade Center." A minute later another e-mail followed: "Two planes. Definitely not an accident." It would be two hours before he got those messages.

This spring, Miniter was the William Randolph Hearst Professional in Residence visiting fellow at the University of Texas­Austin. The fellowship provides time for communication professionals to reflect, conduct research, and work with students and faculty members. One of the things Miniter was doing during that time was researching different religions and how they affect objectivity and awareness in journalism.

"People get all bent out of shape about religion," he said. "This recent Virginia Military Institute case with the controversy over prayer before dinner was ludicrous. It's certainly not how the founders intended it. The Constitution states that 'Congress shall make no law' respecting the establishment of religion," Miniter said. "The fight is going to continue. This is really a civil rights issue for our generation."

For now, Miniter continues to write and edit for the opinion page and continues his work and research wherever the Journal sends him. "My job is really flexible in allowing me to do what I want to do, and that's nice. I like writing, so I don't really consider what I do work."