Shalit graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University in 1992. Early in her career she wrote for GQ and the New York Times Magazine before becoming an associate editor for The New Republic at the age of 24.
Shalit's reporting first brought controversy in the fall of 1995, after she wrote a 13,000-word piece about the growing backlash against affirmative action at The Washington Post. Shalit admitted to "major errors" in the article, such as an assertion that a DC contractor who had never been indicted had served a prison sentence for corruption; misquoting a number of Post staffers; and numerous factual errors, such as mistakenly claiming that certain jobs at The Post were reserved for black employees.
Ruth Shalit is the sister of author Wendy Shalit. She married internet executive Robertson Barrett in September 2004, becoming the stepdaughter-in-law of Edward Klein. She now lives in Westport, Connecticut, with her husband, Rob, and her two kids, Cora and Nate.