The First Person with Michael Judge

The former WSJ editor’s independent newsletter featuring conversations with—and essays by—writers, thinkers, and doers around the globe.

In today’s hyperpolarized political and media environment, meaningful conversations are, sadly, few and far between. With his independent newsletter, The First Person (TFP), Michael Judge has in-depth talks with his guests, exchanging ideas, stories and common experiences that, hopefully, bring us all a little closer. 

In a career spanning 30 years and three continents, Judge, a former Wall Street Journal editor and writer, has interviewed scores of newsmakers from all walks of life, including filmmaker Clint Eastwood, Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina (murdered by a Russian missile attack), Canadian journalist Diane Francis, America’s first Native American poet laureate, Joy Harjo, Pulitzer Prize winning poets Carl Phillips and Robert Hass, memoirist Tobias Wolff, former World Chess Champion and chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative, Garry Kasparov, political philosopher Francis Fukuyama, and the only writer ever to win all three of the Big “Ps” of journalism—the Pulitzer, Peabody, and Polk Award—Laurie Garrett.

He’s also braved Arctic storms in Iceland, driven the great African-American “prison poet” Etheridge Knight across Iowa, and played pool in a dive bar called the Foxhead with writers like Denis Johnson, Frank Conroy, and James Tate.

With each interview, Judge seeks to find the heart and soul of his subjects, to understand their point of view and how they arrived at it. “We learn by listening,” says Judge. “Conversation, like music, teaches us to be human—and to recognize and understand the humanity in others.”

TFP also publishes guest essays from award-winning writers in a variety of genres, including historian and author Tiya Miles on how honestly addressing the past helps us fulfill the promise of America, and Scott Newstok’s brilliant piece on Bob Dylan, James Baldwin, and Shakespeare that—we’re proud to say—put TFP on the Substack featured publication list for 2022 after just three months of publishing.

Lastly, thanks to TFP’s close ties with the world-renowned International Writing Program—which, since 1967, has welcomed over 1,500 writers, including two Nobel laureates, from more than 150 countries—the conversation will be global. “We hope you join the TFP conversation,” says Judge. “For as the poet René Char rightly pointed out, ‘The grace of the stars resides in their compelling us to speak.’”

About Michael Judge

Michael Judge, a poet and freelance journalist, is a former deputy editorial features editor at The Wall Street Journal, deputy editorial page editor at The Asian Wall Street Journal, and more recently a contributing editor at The Dallas Morning News. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, Politico Europe, NPR, Wire, The Dallas Morning News, The Chicago Tribune, The Japan Times, The Far Eastern Economic Review, The Literary Review, The Iowa Review, Poet Lore, and Smithsonian magazine, among other publications.

Photo Credit: Maximilian Judge

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Subscribe to The First Person with Michael Judge

The former WSJ editor's independent newsletter featuring conversations with—and essays by—writers, thinkers, and doers around the globe.


Michael Judge is a poet, journalist, and former WSJ writer and editor. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, Politico, NPR, and The Literary Review, among other publications.