Updegrove spent much of his career in magazine publishing including serving as manager of Time Magazine in Los Angeles. President of Time Canada, Time's separate Canadian edition and operation. And U.S. publisher of Newsweek in New York.
While at Time, he conceived Time and the Presidency, a multimedia program on modern American presidents from FDR to Clinton. He now serves as the fourth director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. Under his direction, the Library has undergone an $11 million renovation of its core museum exhibits about President Johnson and his administration.
On April 8–10, 2014, Updegrove hosted a Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. President Barack Obama, accompanied by Michelle Obama, delivered the Summit's keynote address April 10. Former Presidents Carter, Clinton, and George W. Bush also participated in the Summit, offering speeches on April 8, 9, and 10, respectively.
Updegrove's December 23, 2014, Politico article, "What 'Selma' Gets Wrong," ignited the controversy over the portrayal of Lyndon Johnson as an obstructionist on Voting Rights in the film "Selma," and touched off a debate about the importance of accuracy in films based on historical events. His fourth book, Destiny of Democracy: The Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library, was released March 15, 2015. The book reflects on the civil rights movement and President Johnson’s legacy while capturing the LBJ Library's historic three-day Civil Rights Summit.
It includes full text from all four presidential keynotes, a foreword by John Lewis, essays by Updegrove, and beautiful images from the summit. He is also reportedly working on a book on the relationship between the two Bush presidents. As an author, journalist, and director of the LBJ Presidential Library, Updegrove has interviewed five U.S. presidents: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald R. Ford.
Among others, he has also interviewed James Baker, Barbara Bush, Jeb Bush, Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Bryan Cranston, John Glenn, Mikhail Gorbachev, Richard Linklater, Sandra Day O'Connor, Robert Redford, Condolezza Rice, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein. Updegrove has written for American Heritage, The Nation, National Geographic, Parade, Politico, Texas Monthly, The Daily Beast, and Time. He is analyst for ABC News on matters relating to the presidency, including the 2013 presidential inauguration, and a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning.
Updegrove is married to Amy Banner Updegrove, publisher of Texas Monthly magazine. They each have two children from previous marriages.