Politics and social issues drive Commentary editor Mandel

Seth Mandel

By Greg Stambach — 

At Commentary magazine, a monthly periodical known for its focus on political, cultural, and social issues as well as Judaism, Assistant Editor Seth Mandel, J/MS 2004, gets to write thought-provoking articles that fall under those broad umbrellas.

At the moment, the heaviest focus of his articles is on American politics, including the 2012 U.S. presidential race, as well as international affairs and security. Politics are unquestionably his strength and primary go-to topic of choice.

“It’s a pretty broad category but one that enables me to cast a wide enough intellectual net to make sure I and our readers have a full picture of the world around us,” he said.

His frequent blog posts revolve around national matters: recently he has written several entries on Mitt Romney being the reluctant choice of Republicans and the controversial link between President Obama and former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, whose company, MF Global, is in financial meltdown over risky European debt.

Mandel has received investigative reporting awards and recognition for his coverage of conflicts in the Middle East in addition to Iran’s nuclear program and the Second Lebanon War.

He said that he puts his J/MS skills to use on a daily basis. Only a month after graduating, Mandel began working as a newspaper reporter for the East Brunswick Sentinel and held that job for two years. After gaining wide recognition in 2006 for publishing an article about Israel’s then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who had gone into (and still remains in) a coma following two subsequent strokes, Mandel was offered reporting jobs at four newspapers, The Jewish State, The Jewish Journal, The Speaker, and Jewish Life of Hudson County.

He rose to become managing editor of each.

“I stayed at that job for four years, until the papers closed,” he stated. His ambitions opened up new windows of opportunity as he went about his work.

After moving to Washington, D.C., last year, Mandel worked as a freelance writer and was named one of 16 National Security Fellows chosen at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan organization that combats terrorism and militant Islam.

Additionally, he was also a journalism fellow at the Horowitz Freedom Center, formerly the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a conservative “national security think tank,” as he calls it.

This past July, Mandel joined the staff of Commentary as the assistant editor and currently resides in New York with his wife and co-worker Bethany, a 2008 Rutgers graduate who supervises the magazine’s social media presence.

“My work involves writing both for the magazine and for the website, editing, assigning stories, working with writers, and planning layout for the print edition,” he said.

Looking back, Mandel is glad that he listened to what his professors had to offer in real-world, practical tips.

He said, “I did not pursue an advanced degree after graduating. The advice I was given was to get real-world experience first and then consider going back to school. It was good advice. The first thing I was asked by any prospective employer was: ‘What have you had published?’”

Mandel said certain classes and professors still come to mind. “Dr. Reed certainly stands out,” he recalled. “Her class was tough but fair, and Dr. Reed expected a lot from us—a sign of her confidence in our abilities.”

Mandel called the journalism program at Rutgers “impressive” and said, “Rutgers prepares its students for any and every possible journalism career path.”

Mandel’s advice to future generations of journalists is, “Learning to budget your time is invaluable, as is getting over your nerves about asking strangers pointed questions.”

With an ever-expanding knowledge of political and cultural issues in his mental dossier, Mandel is becoming one of the major American journalists of our time.