NEW PALTZ — Sydney Schanberg, an internationally-known reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 1976, will discuss with students what the American public needs from the press in light of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the nation and the possible war with Iraq that hangs over the country.
His talk is titled “What We Need from the Press,” and will take place on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 3 p.m. in Faculty Tower Room 1010. It is free and open to the public.
Schanberg has worked at the pinnacle of American journalism for more than 30 years, beginning as a copy boy at the New York Times and then becoming one of the newspaper’s star international reporters. He left reporting to become an award-winning and hard-hitting columnist.
Journalism professor Robert Miraldi called Schanberg “one of the most acute observers of press behavior,” and noted that when he was the college’s first distinguished Ottaway Fellow he taught a class on “The News the Press Does Not Cover.” Miraldi said students and citizens could learn much from Schanberg since he is so “passionate about the responsibilities of a free press.”
Schanberg’s Pulitzer Prize stemmed from his reporting on the fall of Cambodia to the communist guerillas known as the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1970s. He stayed in Cambodia’s capital even as the brutal guerrillas overran the city. The Pulitzer committee cited the “great risk” involved in Schanberg’s reporting.
The movie “The Killing Fields,” which won several Academy Awards, was based on Schanberg’s dramatic and heartfelt book, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran.” The book tells the story of Schanberg’s trusted aide, Dith Pran, who he had to leave behind in Cambodia as he fled the country. Pran eventually was also able to flee to safety.
Schanberg, 68, began his work in journalism at the Times in 1959. He worked there for 26 years. After returning from Cambodia he became the newspaper’s city editor, and then turned to writing a column of opinion and reporting for the influential opinion page. The column, mostly on New York City issues and politics, was highly acclaimed and controversial. His writing often was devoted to the poor and the powerless. Eventually he clashed with the management of the Times and resigned when he was censored.
He then wrote his column for Newsday, the sixth largest newspaper in America, until 1998. Schanberg most recently worked as the chief of the investigative unit of ABP News.com, an online news service.
Schanberg’s reporting “runs the gamut,” Miraldi said, “from city-side reporting to international coverage to computer-based reporting. But through it all runs the same theme: the need of the public for vital information. He has much to say in today’s climate.”