Sydney Schanberg

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Sydney Schanberg
Born Sydney Hillel Schanberg
(1934-01-17) January 17, 1934 (age 90)
Clinton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Journalist
Spouse(s) Jane Freiman[1]

Sydney Hillel Schanberg (born January 17, 1934) is an American journalist who is best known for his coverage of the war in Cambodia. He has been the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards, and the coveted Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism.[2] Schanberg was played by Sam Waterston in the 1984 The Killing Fields film based on the experiences of Schanberg and the Cambodian journalist Dith Pran in Cambodia.

Early life and career

Sydney Schanberg was born in Clinton, Massachusetts and studied at Clinton High School in 1951 before receiving a B.A. in Government at Harvard University in 1955.[3] After initially starting Harvard Law, he requested to be moved up the draft list and undertook basic military training at Fort Hood in Texas.[4]

Schanberg joined The New York Times as a journalist in 1959. He spent much of the early 1970s in Southeast Asia as a correspondent for the Times. For his reporting, he won the George Polk Award for excellence in journalism twice, in 1971 and 1974. In 1971, he wrote about the Pakistani genocide in then-East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Upon being transferred to Southeast Asia, he covered the Vietnam War.

Following years of combat, Schanberg wrote in The New York Times about the departure of the Americans and the coming regime change, writing about the Cambodians that "it is difficult to imagine how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A dispatch he wrote on April 13, 1975, written from Phnom Penh, ran with the headline "Indochina without Americans: for most, a better life."[5]

However, when the truth about the Khmer Rouge came out, Schanberg readily acknowledged that, "I watched many Cambodian friends being herded out of Phnom Penh. Most of them I never saw again. All of us felt like betrayers, like people who were protected and didn’t do enough to save our friends. We felt shame. We still do." and utterly condemned the "maniacal Khmer Rouge guerrillas".[6] He was one of the few American journalists to remain behind in Phnom Penh after the city fell.

The Khmer Rouge communists took over Cambodia in 1975 and killed approximately two million people.

After the war in Cambodia

He won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his Cambodia coverage. The citation reads; "For his coverage of the Communist takeover in Cambodia, carried out at great risk when he elected to stay at his post after the fall of Phnom Penh."[7]

He was New York Times Metropolitan Editor, and Op-Ed columnist.[8] His 1980 book The Death and Life of Dith Pran was about the struggle for survival of his colleague Dith Pran in the Khmer Rouge regime. The book inspired the 1984 film The Killing Fields, in which Schanberg was played by Sam Waterston.

In September 1985 he resigned from the New York Times following cancellation of his column, after he criticised the paper's coverage of the Westway Highway development.[9]

Between 1986 and 1995, he was an associate editor and columnist for New York Newsday. He covered the United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs hearings and became engrossed in the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue; writing for Penthouse and later The Village Voice and The Nation, Schanberg became a leading advocate of the "live prisoners" belief in that matter.

In 1992, Schanberg received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award as well as an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colby College. He worked as head of investigations for that won a 1999 Investigative Reporters and Editors award.[10]

In 2006, Schanberg resigned as the Press Clips columnist for The Village Voice in protest over the editorial, political and personnel changes made by the new publisher, New Times Media.[11]

In the July 1st, 2010 issue of American Conservative, Schanberg wrote an article about his struggle to reveal the truth about the United States government leaving behind hundreds of POWs being held by North Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War.[12][13]


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