His father, Guido, was the youngest and one of the most successful Yale Law School professors in history. But Massimo Calbresi ‘89 chose journalism instead. And despite the cynicism — and low pay — associated with the job, he is loving it.
“Washington is a very intense place for a journalist to be,” said Calabresi, Time’s White House bureau chief, in a Branford College Master’s Tea Friday. “There is a constant attempt to get inside your head, to shape what you think. While the experience should produce cynicism, in a way, it is oddly enlightening.”
Calabresi’s speech and the ensuing discussion focused on his coverage of the final days of the Bush administration and on the evolving role of the media in the 21st century. Organized by Branford Master Steven Smith, the event was held in the college’s common room to accommodate the large Parents’ Weekend audience.
Through regular interactions with more than 250 sources, Calabresi said he covers Washington D.C. with a focus on Congressional investigations of the White House, George W. Bush ‘68’s handling of the “enormous problem” that is the Iraq war and what he said he sees as Bush’s desperate search for his own legacy.
In one of the more pointed moments of the evening, Calabresi suggested the world outside Yale is full of people with a “very low level of analytical skill.”
Following his initial remarks, Calabresi fielded questions from audience members, addressing the role of the media today, its accountability to the public and the future of print journalism.
“There is an underlying sense of crisis in all print media,” Calabresi said.
Calabresi also addressed the changes occurring in the Bush administration since the departure of Karl Rove, the potential long-term effects of Bush’s policies and the broader political climate in Washington. Calabresi said he is still able to find optimism in the midst of what he termed “unethical morass.”
Calabresi said his academic experiences as an undergraduate at Yale prepared him well for his career as a journalist, although he was not involved in any publications at Yale.
“There’s a training in rigor of thought and capacity of argumentation that you get just by showing up,” he said.
Calabresi’s talk elicited mixed responses: Many parents said they found the event insightful and were glad it was held over Parents’ Weekend, while some students pointed out what they saw as an biased approach to reporting.
“You rarely get a chance to meet someone on the scene,” said Craig Archibald, the father of Kate Archibald ‘11.
Some audience members interviewed said they were struck by Calabresi’s candidness.
“I was surprised to hear what Calabresi said about interacting with the public after leaving Yale,” said Paul Broomfield, father of Liz Broomfield ‘08. “Basically, he was saying that outside Yale, everyone is pretty stupid.”
Others interviewed at the talk said they were surprised by Calabresi’s criticism of the state of American politics.
“It was interesting that he had not one positive thing to say about the Bush administration,” Erica Newland ‘08 said.
Smith said he enjoyed having a chance to reconnect with Calabresi, who was in his Directed Studies section as a freshman. Ruth Marcus, professor emeritus of philosophy and another of Calabresi’s Directed Studies instructors, also attended the tea.
Calabresi said he was particularly excited to be invited to a Master’s Tea, since during his time at Yale he organized Master’s Teas for his own Silliman College.
Calabresi’s father, Guido Calabresi, a judge on the U.S. court of appeals, is the former dean of Yale Law School.