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Communication & Media

News & Events

Times reporter named Ottaway professor


NEW PALTZ -- New York Times reporter John Darnton, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for his daring reporting from Poland, has been named the fifth James H. Ottaway Sr. professor of journalism by the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Darnton, now a senior editor at the Times, will join the journalism program staff in the fall and teach a class, titled "The News Media Under Siege." He succeeds Roger Kahn, the best-selling author and sportswriter who taught last year at New Paltz.

In making the announcement, college President Steven Poskanzer commented that Darnton "continues the tradition of bringing passionate and fearless journalism voices" to the campus. Poskanzer also noted the richness of experience Darnton brings to students. "He has been foreign correspondent, metropolitan reporter, and one of the most important cultural voices in America as the Times' arts editor," he said.

The Ottaway Professorship is named for the founder of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., which is now a coast-to-coast group of 15 dailies, 13 Sunday and more than 18 weeklies and numerous specialty publications and Web sites in nine states. The flagship newspaper of the chain is The Times Herald-Record in Middletown.

Darnton, who has also written two best-selling novels, has worked for The New York Times for 38 years. He began as a copy boy in 1966 and then worked for eight years as a reporter in New York. His first foreign assignment was to West Africa, where he was based in Nigeria. After 13 months, he was jailed and deported for articles unpleasing to the military government.

His next assignment was Kenya, where he covered a civil war in Rhodesia; anti-apartheid riots in South Africa; wars and guerrilla movements in Ethiopia, the Congo and Somalia; and the fall of Idi Amin in Uganda. His reporting from Africa won him the George Polk Award, given annually to reporters for particularly courageous reporting.

In 1979 Darnton was based in Warsaw, Poland, where he covered the birth of the Solidarity movement and the imposition of martial law. When Darnton arrived in Communist Poland, he said, the country "looked sturdy enough, but inside, in the basement, the foundation was rotting." Soon a quiet revolution overtook the country in what Darnton called "16 unbelievable months." Freedom turned to repression, however, as Darnton was forced to find ingenious ways to get his reporting to readers of The New York Times. He succeeded, and again won the Polk Award and then the Pulitzer Prize for the dispatches he smuggled out of the country.

Darnton returned to New York and became metropolitan editor before taking up another stint abroad as London bureau chief. He returned in 1996 to become the Times' culture editor, a job he held for six years. Since 1996 he has published three novels, including "Neanderthal" and "The Experiment," which were both New York Times best sellers. A fourth novel is due out next fall.

Two other Pulitzer Prize winners have preceded Darnton. Former Times investigative reporter Sydney Schanberg taught at the college in 2001 and Bernard Stein, an editorial writer with the Riverdale Press, followed him. Ann Cooper, who heads the nation's foremost advocacy group for the protection of journalists, taught in 2003 and Kahn then followed last year.

"As with previous Ottaway professors," commented communication and Media Chair Patricia Sullivan, "students will learn from John Darnton how important journalism can be in a flourishing democracy."

For more information about the James H. Ottaway Sr. Endowed Professorship, visit