Why They Write: Three Masters of Non-Fiction on Poverty, Propaganda, and Lies.
Three adventurous journalists discuss tough assignments, from ordinary life in North Korea to Russia’s culture of disinformation, to the human cost of US drone strikes in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. And why Orwell still matters — a lot.
Moderated by Ilya Marritz, NPR and ProPublica reporter.
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Barbara Demick is an author and foreign correspondent. Her most recent book is Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town (published in 2020), shortlisted for the Orwell among other awards. Previous books are the best selling Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood. She has worked out of China, Korea, the Middle East, Berlin and Sarajevo for the Los Angeles Times and Philadelphia Inquirer, and is also a contributor to The New Yorker. Demick grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Yale College. Demick’s writing has won many awards including the U.K’s Samuel Johnson prize (now the Baillie Gifford prize) for non-fiction, the Polk, the Robert F. Kennedy, the Overseas Press Club award for human rights reporting and she has been a finalist for the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She periodically teaches a course at Princeton University, Covering Repressive Regimes.
Peter Pomerantsev is the award-winning author of Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: Adventures in Modern Russia, and This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality. He is a Senior Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, where he directs the Arena Program, dedicated to investigating the roots of disinformation and what to about them. He has testified on the challenges of information war to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the UK Parliament Defense Select Committee
Azmat Khan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter whose work grapples with the human costs of war. Her multi-part series in the New York Times, The Civilian Casualty Files, was based on more than five years of reporting, including ground investigation as the sites of more than 100 civilian casualty incidents in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, more than 1,300 formerly secret military records she obtained in a legal battle with the Pentagon, and scores of interviews with military and local sources. Khan is an investigative reporter with the New York Times Magazine and is the Patti Cadby Birch Assistant Professor at Columbia Journalism School, where she also directs the Simon and June Li Center for Global Journalism. Khan’s investigations from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have prompted widespread policy impact and won more than a dozen awards, including the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, two National Magazine Awards, two Overseas Press Club awards, the Polk Award, and the Hillman Prize.
Ilya Marritz covers democracy for ProPublica and Trump Legal matters for NPR. In the fall of 2023, he will be a fellow of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He co-hosted the podcasts “Will Be Wild” about the January 6 Capitol riots, and the duPont silver baton-winning “Trump, Inc.”