Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and journalism professor collaborate on book
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sydney Schanberg, working together with State University of New York at New Paltz journalism Professor Robert Miraldi as editor, have produced a book that collects the best of Schanberg’s war reportage over his 50-year career in journalism.
“Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings,” published by Potomac Books, is the first collection of Schanberg’s reporting and commentary about wars in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Iraq.
One early review of the book called it a “grim reminder of the brutality of war.”
Schanberg won the Pulitzer Prize and other awards for his New York Times coverage “at great risk” of the fall of Cambodia in April 1975. His reporting on Cambodia is also known from "The Killing Fields," the Academy Award-winning film based on his New York Times Magazine article chronicling the search for his captured Cambodian colleague, Dith Pran, and Pran's escape to freedom in 1979.
Schanberg was the first James H. Ottaway Sr. Distinguished Professor of Journalism at New Paltz, in 2001, where he worked closely with Dr. Miraldi, who first conceived the idea of the anthology and proposed it to Schanberg.
The book follows Schanberg as he chronicles the slow deterioration of life in Cambodia while the Communist Khmer Rouge moved closer to the country’s capital, finally seized it, and then emptied it in brutal fashion, herding millions of Cambodians into the countryside to enforce their plan of an agrarian revolution. Nearly two million Cambodians died.
The book’s centerpiece, however, is “The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” the remarkable story of how Pran survived the genocide that followed.
Schanberg’s personal story of his search for Pran – who was forced to stay behind and feared lost in the chaos imposed after the takeover – solidified Schanberg's reputation as one of the nation’s premier war correspondents.
“There is a biblical quality to this story,” commented Russell Baker, also a Pulitzer Prize-winner and former columnist for The New York Times. “What you have in this book is a tremendous, bone-chilling piece of eyewitness war correspondence.”
David Rohde, the prize-winning foreign correspondent for the Times, called the book “a chilling historical document that lyrically captures some of the darkest periods in American – and human – history. It is both great journalism and great art.”
After his years as a foreign correspondent, Schanberg went on to become a highly regarded columnist for the Times, New York Newsday and the Village Voice.
Miraldi, who has edited two other anthologies and written two books, said the hardest part of producing this anthology was deciding on the contents. Schanberg, he commented, “has written so passionately and so eloquently for many years, this volume just scratches the surface.”
“We Americans are notoriously deficient about taking lessons from our own history. So perhaps this book will remind people what war is really like,” Schanberg writes in the Preface. “Slaughter is no less bestial now than it has been through recorded history.”
Miraldi’s last book, “The Pen Is Mightier: The Muckraking Life of Charles Edward Russell “(St. Martin’s Press, 2004), was named the best book in the country in journalism and mass communication. He has taught journalism at New Paltz since 1982 and was a Fulbright Scholar in the Netherlands in 1991.
Miraldi lives in Stone Ridge, N.Y., with his wife, Mary Beth Pfeiffer, an investigative reporter and a New Paltz adjunct who played a key role in retrieving much of Schanberg’s work.
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