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Long Island University Appoints John Darnton Curator of the George Polk Awards in Journalism

Polk Award- and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist and Best-Selling Novelist to Take the Helm of Prestigious Awards Program


Kim Volpe-Casalino,University Director of Public Relations
University Center,
Long Island University

The George Polk AwardsBrooklyn, N.Y. – Long Island University has named John Darnton curator of the George Polk Awards in Journalism, effective September 1, 2009. The appointment was announced at the annual George Polk Awards Luncheon, which was held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan on April 16, 2009. Mr. Darnton, who has received two George Polk Awards and a Pulitzer Prize in recognition of his outstanding work in the field of journalism, will succeed Sidney Offit, who has served as curator for 32 years and will become curator emeritus.

Now in their 60th year, the Polk Awards were established by the University in 1949 to memorialize George Polk, a CBS reporter who was killed while covering a civil war in Greece. And John Darnton is uniquely qualified to lead the Awards into a new era.

“At a time when America’s newspapers are in freefall and investigative journalism is, therefore, at risk, John Darnton is the ideal choice to provide leadership for the Polk Awards,” said Dr. David J. Steinberg, president of Long Island University. “The son of a war correspondent who was killed in the line of duty, investigative journalism is part of his pedigree, and excellence and integrity are the hallmarks of his illustrious career.”

Mr. Darnton’s journalistic career has spanned more than four decades—all with a single employer, The New York Times. He joined the paper as a copy boy in 1966 and was promoted to city staff reporter two years later. After producing award-winning coverage of the fiscal crisis at City Hall, he received his first overseas assignment, which took him to West Africa.

After 13 months in Nigeria, Mr. Darnton was thrown in jail and deported for articles that displeased the military government. He went on to cover the civil war in Rhodesia, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the fall of Idi Amin in Uganda, winning his first George Polk award for foreign reporting in 1979.

His next assignment brought him to Eastern Europe, where he served as Warsaw bureau chief and covered the rise of the Solidarity movement and the imposition of martial law. For his coverage, including dispatches smuggled out of the country during a communications black-out, Mr. Darnton was awarded a second George Polk Award and the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.

After serving as Madrid bureau chief and filing reports across Europe and the Middle East, he returned to New York as deputy foreign editor. Mr. Darnton then served as metropolitan editor and news editor/weekends before accepting the position of London bureau chief in 1992. Four years later, he returned from London to become culture editor, a post he held for six years. Mr. Darnton now serves as editorial director for special projects.

He is also a novelist with five books to his credit: the best sellers, “Neanderthal” and “The Experiment”; “Mind Catcher”; “The Darwin Conspiracy”; and “Black and White and Dead All Over.” He is currently at work on a nonfiction book about his father, the newspaper world of the 1920s and ’30s, and his own career.

"I'm honored by this appointment. The George Polk Award has a long and prestigious tradition and is highly regarded by journalists, including those in the dwindling cadre of foreign correspondents,” said Mr. Darnton. “We hope to use the award program to help tackle the crisis in American newspapers."

Mr. Darnton, who attended Phillips Academy Andover, holds a diploma from the Searing School; a language diploma from Alliance Francaise in Paris, France; and a B.S. in experimental psychology from the University of Wisconsin.

About The George Polk Awards in Journalism
The George Polk Awards, conferred annually in recognition of special achievement in journalism, were established by Long Island University after Polk’s death in 1948. Polk, a CBS correspondent, was murdered during a Greek civil war while trying to reach the guerrilla leader Markos Vafiades for an interview. Some of the most respected names in journalism have won George Polk Awards including Christiane Amanpour, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. The Awards are presented each spring at a luncheon in Manhattan attended by news executives, journalists, educators and students. The ceremonies are preceded the night before by the Polk Seminar, which features a panel of winners discussing relevant topics in journalism.

Posted 04/17/2009

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