Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

Michael Massing, USA

“The new possibilities suggested by the Internet point up the sclerosis of the old system. Even the most well-staffed newspapers seem unable to respond quickly enough to the regional crises that flare so often in the world today. The problem is not new. Back in the late seventies, for instance, when Central America erupted in revolution, few papers had correspondents in the region; most had to scramble even to find someone who spoke Spanish. Going back further, the war in Vietnam was initially entrusted to young, unseasoned correspondents plopped down in an alien and complex world.”

Journalist, writer, lecturer. Michael Massing received his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College and an MS from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In 1998, Massing published his first book entitled The Fix: Solving the Nation’s Drug Problem; a critical report on the history of the “War on Drugs” in the United States since the 1960s. That same year, the highly acclaimed book received the Washington Monthly’s Political Book Award. Arising from an article which was written for the New York Review of Books, he carried out ten years of extensive research that took him from the crop growing regions of the Andes and the militarized Mexican-American border to the abandoned American inner-city ghettos. This major journalistic undertaking demystified the disastrous failures of the U.S. War on Drugs.

In his professional career, Massing has also focussed on the relationship between media and political powers in crisis and war regions, leading him to report from Iraq, among other countries. More recently, Massing published Now They Tell Us for the New York Review of Books, an investigation of why the U.S. media failed to report properly on the Bush Administration’s pre-war preparations. Now They Tell Us is a meticulous critique of how American journalists feared to challenge a popular president in times of patriotism and war, thus utterly failing in their responsibility to report the truth.

Massing’s articles have appeared in publications such as The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, and Rolling Stone.

In 1989, Massing was awarded an Alicia Patterson Fellowship for Journalism, and in 1992 he was named a MacArthur Fellow.

He is a former Executive Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review and remains a contributing editor at that publication. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Columbia School of Journalism and at the Columbia School for International and Public Affairs. He is co-founder of the Committee to Protect Journalists and currently sits on its board of directors. He speaks English and Spanish and is a member of PEN America and of the New York Institute for the Humanities.

Michael Massing lives in New York and is currently working on a book about the rivalries between Erasmus and Martin Luther.

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"The magnitude of events, the need for information about other societies and other cultures is so great that never before has the need for journalists to do their job been greater. But at the same time, the pressures on journalists are perhaps greater than they’ve ever been. In every country, the press is very susceptible to the overall nature of opinion and the power of governments to shape agendas."Michael Massing (jury member 2004)