The short version is this: My name is Robert Wargas. I am a journalist who lives in New York. Currently I am Foreign Correspondent for The Catholic Herald. I am also a book critic for The Weekly Standard and a contributor to PJ Media.
My writing—articles, blogs, and reviews—has also appeared in The Daily Telegraph, the health section of The Spectator and other outlets. I cover a range of political and cultural topics, and I like to think there is something in my writing to upset everybody
You might be asking yourself, “Why should I care what he thinks?” There is no good answer to this. You might find I have some interesting things to say. If so, keep reading; if not, read something else.
If you’re interested and want to know more about me, below is the long version of who I am. This is more information than anyone would be willing to solicit from an obscure hack like me, but as someone who puts his views out there I feel it’s important to be honest about one’s background.
I was born on January 22, 1985, on Long Island, just over the border of New York City. My family at the time was blue-collar/lower-middle class. My father, a locomotive engineer, worked eight days a week to feed me, my mother, and my two brothers.
I was educated at Queens College, City University of New York, where I studied English literature and writing, earning a B.A. and M.F.A. I also did postgraduate work at Yale University, where I earned an M.A. in history and did coursework in international relations at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.
Oddly, one of my first real jobs, while I was a young college student, was working for a private investigator, assisting in cases, conducting surveillance, and serving subpoenas. This is a strange job for anyone to have, but especially for a young person. I followed clients’ cheating spouses to hotels and beach parties and did the classic stake-outs in front of houses. I have always looked younger than I really am, and my youthfulness aided in my spying: no one suspected that the fresh-faced young lad was actually the hired operative sent to document their infidelity.
After college, I got my start in journalism as a reporter and editor for a large weekly newspaper in Suffolk County, New York, covering politics and features. Local weekly newspapers are not prestigious or glamorous, but they do teach you the craft of reporting. I wrote up to ten stories a week—mostly boring things like budgets, but occasionally there was some excitement in the form of bickering local politicians, who, I learned, are every bit as career-conscious as senators and presidents.
Sadly, that paper folded unexpectedly. I soon became a stringer for Newsday, a Pulitzer Prize-winning daily, and worked in the field for a bit covering all sorts of stories. I was used mainly in the swanky Hamptons and the rest of eastern Long Island. One day I would be in the courts covering sex crimes, the next I’d be at an East Hampton mansion talking to Russell Simmons about his fundraiser. Working in the Hamptons gave me the opportunity to meet and interview people like Michael Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani, and the late actor Cliff Robertson. When you’re a lowly stringer, the editors love to assign you to the horrible stories no one else wants to cover, such as car wrecks, house fires, and tropical storms.
My career, such as it is, has been unorthodox so far, inasmuch as I’ve had my hand in several different fields. I have taught writing at the college level. While in grad school at Yale I tutored undergraduates in composition. I also worked as an archivist in the rare book library of the wonderful Yale Center for British Art, where I helped to process the personal papers of James Bruce, the 18th century Scottish explorer who traced the origins of the Blue Nile in Africa.
From 2011 to 2013, I worked as a historian at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a prominent research institution in molecular biology, genetics, and neuroscience in New York. There, I was the sole researcher on an investigative project to document the history of the lab’s involvement in the global biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
For this project, I examined thousands of documents, both in the institution’s archives and in dusty boxes and dank basements scattered throughout the campus. I also conducted interviews with many great businessmen and scientists, including Nobel laureates like Richard Roberts and James Watson.
Good interviewing skills are becoming a lost art as reporting, especially commentary, becomes based on Googling things, peeking at social media, and doing little else. Too many commentators nowadays have never actually conducted an interview. They’ve never picked up a phone, never met a source at a coffee shop, never ventured into an archive.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to contact me with questions and feedback.