Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

Howard W. French, USA

I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t wrestle with Africa and attempt to bring it to the world’s attention […]
We need to re-imagine the way we think of Africa, and get it out of the cellars of our imaginations.

Journalist and writer. Howard French was born in Washington, D.C. in 1958. As he was heading off to college at the University of Massachusetts, his father, a doctor, took a job running rural clinics for the World Health Organization in Ivory Coast. Howard French spent his summers in Abidjan with his family, and then moved to Africa after graduating in 1979.

From 1980 to 1982, Howard French taught English at the University of the Ivory Coast, in Abidjan and also worked as a French-English translator. He then started writing as a freelance reporter in West Africa for a variety of publications, including Africa News, The Washington Post, The Economist, African Business, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Howard French joined the New York Times in 1986, where he was a metropolitan reporter until 1990, covering a variety of topics from police to health care to Federal Court. During the course of his career, the newspaper has awarded him its highest prize, the Publisher's Award, six times, most recently for his coverage of Pakistan in 2002.

From 1990 to 1994, Howard French covered the Caribbean, Central America and the northern tier of South America for the Times. He then covered West and Central Africa from 1994 to 1998, devoting particular attention to the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko, the late dictator of Zaire, in 1997. His work in Zaire (Congo) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and won the Overseas Press Coverage Award for best interpretation of foreign affairs.

French then became a New York Times bureau chief in Abidjan in 1994. His articles from the Ivory Coast have appeared in papers and magazines around the world, including The Economist, The Washington Post, and The International Herald Tribune.

From 1998 to 1999, French was a visiting scholar at the University of Hawaii, where he studied the Japanese language, and East Asian affairs. In the spring of 1999, he was also a Jefferson Fellow at the East-West Center, in Honolulu. He took up the position as Tokyo Bureau Chief for the New York Times in 1999, with responsibility for Japan, the Koreas and the Russian Far East.

French’s book, A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa, is a synthesis of his twenty-five years’ experience reporting on Africa. Through observation, historical narratives and anecdotes, he describes a wide range of countries, and analyses the continent’s situation, its disasters, its challenges and its opportunities.

Howard French is now a senior writer for the New York Times, and has been the newspaper's Shanghai Bureau Chief since August 2003.

Howard French lives in Shanghai, China with his wife and their two sons.

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"There is a frustrating lack of narratives, narratives as a body of words that can connect us in this part of the world, in Europe, in the West, in the North, to someone else, somewhere else, to the “other side”."Pedro Rosa Mendes (jury member 2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006)