A film about a man, a magazine and the media, How Washington Really Works is a 30-minute documentary about Charles Peters, the founding editor of the Washington Monthly. It was awarded a $15,000 completion grant by the Schumann Media Center, July 2013.
A native of West Virginia, Charlie Peters arrived in Washington, DC after working on John Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign in Kanawha Cty, WV. He was the Peace Corps' first director of evaluation under Sargent Shriver. In that position, Peters, who had hired journalists as program evaluators, learned that the way he was evaluating programs for the Peace Corps regular journalists were not doing such reporting on the government's programs and operations.
Wanting to examine Washington the way an anthropologist would a South Sea Island, Peters began the Washington Monthly in 1969 and served as its editor in chief for over thirty-years, retiring in 2001. The Monthly focused on the culture and politics of Washington and government operations, but also cast a skeptical eye on how the national press reported on Washington and government.
As well as being an under-the-radar journalist to the general public, Peters and the Monthly were at the forefront of the neoliberal movement that spurred the Democratic Party to re-evaluate itself. While neoliberalism has become known as an economic policy that championed unrestricted markets and non-regulatory regimes, Peters' neoliberal manifesto was about community, democracy and prosperity.
Known for having a keen eye for young talented journalists, the Washington Monthly, using a two-year tour of duty scheme borrowed form the Peace Corps, developed a stellar crops of young writers who apprenticed in what has been called "Charlie's Journalism School of Indentured Servitude." While not only experiencing financial duress, young reporters also had to endure Peters' unique editing style called "rain dancing."
Also featured in the film are Jonathan Alter, Jennifer Barrett, Taylor Branch, Matthew Cooper, Michelle Cottle, Gregg Easterbrook, James Fallows, Paul Glastris, David Ignatius, Nicholas Lemann, Suzannah Lessard, Joe Nocera, Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller, and Amy Sullivan.