Pearlstine, Norman 1942–

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Pearlstine, Norman 1942–


Born October 4, 1942, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Raymond (an attorney) and Gladys Pearlstine; married first wife, Charlene (divorced); married Adele Wilson (divorced); married Nancy Colbert Friday, July 11, 1988 (divorced, 2005); married Jane Elizabeth Boon (a writer and researcher), April 19, 2005. Education: Haverford College, B.A., 1964; University of Pennsylvania, LL.B., 1967; Southern Methodist University, postgraduate study.


Home—New York, NY. Office—The Carlyle Group, 520 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. E-mail—[email protected].


Journalist. Wall Street Journal, reporter in Dallas, TX, Detroit, MI, and Los Angeles, CA, 1967-73, Tokyo, Japan, bureau chief, 1973-76, managing editor of Asian edition, 1976-78, national news editor, 1980-82, editor and publisher of European edition, 1982-83, managing editor, 1983-91, executive editor, 1991-92; Forbes, executive editor, 1978-80; founded Friday Holdings (media investment group), 1992; Time, Inc., New York, NY, editor-in-chief, 1995-2005; Carlyle Group, Washington, DC, senior advisor to Telecom and Media team, 2006—. Member of advisory board, Annenberg School of Communications, University of Southern California. Consultant, Selling, 1993. Board member of various organizations, including the Carnegie Corporation, the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship Program, International Center for Journalists, and the Tribeca Film Institute. Member of advisory boards, including Nieman Foundation and Annenberg School of Communications.


American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Committee to Protect Journalists, Council on Foreign Relations, Atsuko Chiba Foundation (president), American Academy in Berlin (president and chief executive officer).


Editor of the Year Award, National Press Foundation, 1989; Loeb Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, 2000; Lifetime Achievement Award, and induction into Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame, American Society of Magazine Editors, 2005.


Off the Record: The Press, the Government, and the War over Anonymous Sources (nonfiction), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.


Norman Pearlstine has held some of the most influential positions in the world of magazine publishing. Pearlstine was editor-in-chief of Time Inc., the world's largest magazine publisher, for eleven years. Before that, he worked at the Wall Street Journal for more than twenty years, including serving as its managing editor and its executive editor. Pearlstine's understanding of the media world eventually led to his involvement as a consultant with the Carlyle Group, a powerful private equity firm.

During his tenure as editor-in-chief of Time Inc., Pearlstine evoked controversy when he gave notes from correspondent Matthew Cooper to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a special prosecutor involved in the investigation of the Valerie Plame case. Plame was a covert agent for the Central Intelligence Agency, married to a U.S. Ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson. On July 6, 2003, an op-ed piece was published in the New York Times, written by Wilson, criticizing the Bush administration's rationale for sending troops into Iraq. On July 14, Washington Post contributor Robert Novak publicly identified Plame as a CIA agent in his weekly syndicated column, provoking the investigation into how that information was leaked and why. Cooper himself had been asked to hand over the notes, and when he refused, he was held in contempt of court, as was his employer, Time Inc. As editor-in-chief, Pearlstine took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, but the court refused to review it. Continuing to resist handing over the notes would incur a jail sentence for the reporter and financial penalties for Time Inc. Pearlstine decided to give up the notes, despite a strong tradition among journalists of protecting sources at any cost. As a result of his actions, Pearlstine was denounced by many in the journalism world.

In his book Off the Record: The Press, the Government, and the War over Anonymous Sources, Pearlstine defends and explains his decisions related to the Plame case. Although he was widely thought to have given in to the special prosecutor's demands to avoid undue problems and expense for Time Inc., he states that money had nothing to do with it, nor did pressure from Time Inc.'s management. ‘Raised in a family of lawyers and trained as one himself, he says he made the decision entirely on legal principle,’ reported William Powers in the New York Times. ‘As the case moved through the courts, he methodically studied the judicial history of confidential sources, a learning process he recounts with impressive cogency and clarity."

As the book progresses, Pearlstine explains the legal strategy followed by Time Inc. This ‘sounds boring but isn't,’ according to Powers, who added that Pearlstine's years as a journalist are evident in the ‘clean, engaging’ style in which he tells his story. Pearlstine's initial refusal to surrender the notes, followed by his eventual compliance, was viewed as proof by some that he had simply caved in to increasing pressure, regardless of his principles. Pearlstine himself tells a different story, explaining that as months went by and the case unfolded, he had a sincere change of heart. Having fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court, he decided that continuing to resist would be on a level with defying the U.S. legal system in its entirety, something that, in his opinion, should only be done in the most extreme instances. ‘Pearlstine's central argument is compelling,’ said Powers. A Publishers Weekly reviewer also felt that Pearlstine ‘raises some cogent points.’ A Kirkus Reviews writer believed it was obvious that Pearlstine ‘wishes to report what happened; he also wishes to burnish his tarnished armor.’ The reviewer further noted: ‘To his credit, Pearlstine quotes his severest critics—and usually resists the urge to counter."



Pearlstine, Norman, Off the Record: The Press, the Government, and the War over Anonymous Sources, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.


Entertainment Weekly, January 13, 2006, ‘Leading Men: John Huey Takes the Role of Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief as Norman Pearlstine Concludes an 11-year Run,’ p. 9.

Euroweek, July 21, 2006, ‘Time Man Joins Carlyle,’ p. 13.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2007, review of Off the Record.

Library Journal, June 1, 2007, Leigh Mihlrad, review of Off the Record, p. 127.

National Post, July 7, 2007, Margaret Carlson, review of Off the Record, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, April 30, 2007, review of Off the Record, p. 145.

Variety, July 24, 2006, ‘Media Maven Heads to Wall Street,’ p. 2.


Carlyle Group Web site, (October 25, 2007), biographical information about Norman Pearlstine.

Columbia Journalism Review, (October 25, 2007), Neil Hickey, interview with Norman Pearlstine.

NewsBios, (October 25, 2007), biographical information about Norman Pearlstine.

New York Times, (June 29, 2007), William Powers, review of Off the Record.

NNDB, (October 25, 2007), biographical information on Norman Pearlstine.

Norman Pearlstine's Home Page, (October 25, 2007).

PBS Web site, (April 24, 2006), transcript of interview with Norman Pearlstine.