Sydney Schanberg

Sydney Hillel Schanberg (January 17, 1934 – July 9, 2016) was an American journalist who was best known for his coverage of the war in Cambodia. He was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards, and the Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism.[2] Schanberg was played by Sam Waterston in the 1984 film The Killing Fields based on the experiences of Schanberg and the Cambodian journalist Dith Pran in Cambodia.

Sydney Schanberg
Sydney Schanberg
Sydney Hillel Schanberg

January 17, 1934
DiedJuly 9, 2016 (aged 82)
Spouse(s)Jane Freiman[1]
ChildrenJessica and Rebecca

Early life and career

Sydney Schanberg was born in Clinton, Massachusetts, the son of Freda (Feinberg) and Louis Schanberg, a grocery store owner.[3] He was Jewish.[4] He studied at Clinton High School in 1951 before receiving a B.A. in Government from Harvard University in 1955.[5] After initially enrolling at Harvard Law School, he requested to be moved up the draft list and undertook basic military training at Fort Hood in Texas.[6]

Schanberg joined The New York Times as a journalist in 1959. He spent much of the early 1970s in Southeast Asia as a correspondent for the Times. For his reporting, he won the George Polk Award for excellence in journalism twice, in 1971 and 1974. In 1971, he wrote about the Pakistani genocide in then-East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) as New Delhi bureau chief (1969-1973). Upon becoming Southeast Asia correspondent (1973-1975), he covered the Vietnam War.[7]

Following years of combat, Schanberg wrote in The New York Times about the departure of the Americans and the coming regime change, writing about the Cambodians that "it is difficult to imagine how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A dispatch he wrote on April 13, 1975, written from Phnom Penh, ran with the headline "Indochina without Americans: for most, a better life."[8]

Writing about his experiences following the Khmer Rouge takeover, Schanberg acknowledged that "I watched many Cambodian friends being herded out of Phnom Penh. Most of them I never saw again. All of us felt like betrayers, like people who were protected and didn’t do enough to save our friends. We felt shame. We still do.", and utterly condemned the "maniacal Khmer Rouge guerrillas".[9] He was one of the few American journalists to remain behind in Phnom Penh after the city fell. He and his assistant were threatened with death, and took sanctuary in the French embassy. Two weeks later, he evacuated to Thailand by truck.[10]

After the war in Cambodia

Schanberg won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his Cambodia coverage. The citation reads; "For his coverage of the Communist takeover in Cambodia, carried out at great risk when he elected to stay at his post after the fall of Phnom Penh."[11] His 1980 book The Death and Life of Dith Pran was about the struggle for survival of his colleague Dith Pran in the Khmer Rouge regime. The book inspired the 1984 film The Killing Fields, in which Schanberg was played by Sam Waterston.[10]

Schanberg served as the Times's metropolitan editor (1977-1980) before joining the editorial pages as a columnist specializing in metropolitan New York in 1981.[12] Although he was initially considered to be a leading candidate to succeed executive editor A.M. Rosenthal after receiving his Pulitzer Prize, their relationship was soon strained by Schanberg's innovative approach to local coverage (including a proposed 1977 series on upper middle class gay professionals that was ultimately suppressed by Rosenthal) and increasingly vitriolic critiques of New York's real estate industry. In September 1985, Schanberg's column was cancelled by Rosenthal after he criticized the paper's coverage of the Westway Highway development. He refused a proposed writer-at-large post at The New York Times Magazine and resigned from the Times.[13]

Between 1986 and 1995, he was an associate editor and columnist for New York Newsday. He covered the United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs hearings and became engrossed in the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue; writing for Penthouse and later The Village Voice and The Nation, Schanberg became a leading advocate of the "live prisoners left behind" belief in that matter.[14]

On September 14th, 1987 Schanberg published a Newsday editorial entitled "Donald Trump-Public-relations master" in which he wrote, sarcastically, "The part I like best about Donald Trump is his deep and abiding concern for the homeless and the poor". He called Trump a "public-relations virtuoso", described an ongoing feud with Koch who Trump called a "moron" and "a jerk", provided numerous instances of Trump's claims of superior intellect ("It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles. I think I know most of it anyway"), and he warned "He can deny all he wants any designs on the White House, but Trump has the kind of instincts that are perfect for the age we live in-the age of stage smoke and magic mirrors and imagery...In short, he sees the kind of men we admire and elect these days and he naturally asks: Why not me?". Schanberg ended the piece with, "In an age where smoke is everything, Donald Trump can blow it with the best of them". (from: Schanberg, S. Donald Trump-public-relations master. Finger Lakes Times (from Newsday). September 14, 1987 page 4.)

In 1992, Schanberg received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award as well as an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colby College. He worked as head of investigations for that won a 1999 Investigative Reporters and Editors award.[15] He settled in exurban New Paltz, New York after serving as the inaugural James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professor of Journalism at the State University of New York at New Paltz in 2001.[16]

In 2006, Schanberg resigned from The Village Voice (where he had served as a staff writer and Press Clips columnist since 2002) in protest over the editorial, political and personnel changes made by the new publisher, New Times Media.[17]

In the July 1, 2010, issue of American Conservative, Schanberg wrote an article about his struggle to advance his position that the United States government left behind hundreds of POWs being held by North Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War.[18] He died on July 9, 2016, after suffering a heart attack in the previous week.[3]


  • Schanberg, Sydney (1980). The Death and Life of Dith Pran. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-008457-6.
  • Schanberg, Sydney (1984). The Killing Fields: The Facts Behind The Film. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0297785370.
  • Schanberg, Sydney (2010). Beyond the Killing Fields. Potomac Books. ISBN 978-1-59797-505-6.


  1. ^ "About the Author — Sydney Schanberg". Beyond the Killing Fields.
  2. ^ "Sydney H. Schanberg". April 2, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Sydney H. Schanberg Is Dead at 82; Former Times Correspondent Chronicled Terror of 1970s Cambodia". The New York Times. July 10, 2016. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  4. ^ "'Killing Fields' reporter Sydney Schanberg dead at 82". Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  5. ^ "Sydney Schanberg Biography, Pictures, Images, Videos, Relationships – FamousWhy". Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  6. ^ "Interview – Sydney Schanberg, author of Beyond the Killing Fields – HistoryNet". December 13, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  7. ^ Schumacher, Elizabeth (July 9, 2016). "Sydney Schanberg, reporter of 'Killing Fields' fame, dead at 82". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  8. ^ Jacoby, Jeff (April 30, 1998). "American leftists were Pol Pot's cheerleaders". Boston Globe. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  9. ^ "Crimes of War – Cambodia". Archived from the original on July 16, 2016. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  10. ^ a b McFadden, Robert D. (July 9, 2016). "Sydney H. Schanberg Is Dead at 82; Former Times Correspondent Chronicled Terror of 1970s Cambodia". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  11. ^ "Explore Winners and Finalists by Category". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  12. ^ Schanberg, Sydney H. "Sydney H. Schanberg – The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved August 14, 2010.
  13. ^ Post, from the Washington (September 26, 1985). "Schanberg Resigns After N.Y. Times Cancels His Column". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  14. ^ "McCain and the POW Cover-Up". The American Conservative. July 1, 2010. Archived from the original on June 2, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2010.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  15. ^ "The Official Website of Beyond the Killing Fields". Retrieved August 14, 2010.
  16. ^ "Sydney Schanberg, exposed Vietnam horrors, dies in Poughkeepsie". Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  17. ^ "Village Voice Shakeup: Top Investigative Journalist Fired, Prize-Winning Writers Resign Following Merger with New Times Media", Democracy Now, April 13, 2006
  18. ^ "Silent Treatment". The American Conservative. Retrieved January 6, 2017.

External links

1976 Pulitzer Prize

The following are the Pulitzer Prizes for 1976.

42nd Golden Globe Awards

The 42nd Golden Globe Awards, honoring the best in film and television for 1984, were held on January 27, 1985.

57th Academy Awards

The 57th Academy Awards were presented March 25, 1985, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. Jack Lemmon presided over the ceremonies.

The big winner at the ceremony was Miloš Forman's Amadeus, which had received 11 nominations and won 8 awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham. As of the 90th Academy Awards, Amadeus is the most recent film to receive two lead actor nominations.

The winner of Best Supporting Actor was also significant. Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian surgeon who survived the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, won the award for his performance as Dith Pran in Roland Joffé's The Killing Fields, despite having had no previous acting experience. Ngor and Harold Russell are the only two non-professional actors to win Academy Awards for acting.

Sally Field won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Places in the Heart. In her acceptance speech, she exclaimed, "The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!" (often misquoted as "you really like me!")77-year-old Peggy Ashcroft won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in A Passage to India, making her the oldest winner in that category.

This ceremony marked the first time that multiple black nominees would win an Oscar, when Prince and Stevie Wonder won for their respective work on Purple Rain and The Woman in Red. Additionally, it was the only time that all five nominees in Best Original Song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

One of the more notable gaffes in Oscar history occurred during the ceremony. Presenting the Best Picture award, Sir Laurence Olivier forgot to list the nominees and simply tore open the envelope to declare: "Amadeus!". Upon accepting the award on the film's behalf, Producer Saul Zaentz had the presence of mind to mention all the other Best Picture nominees during his thank you speech to make up for Olivier's flub.

Al Rockoff

Al Rockoff is an American photojournalist made famous by his coverage of the Vietnam War and of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. He was portrayed in the Academy Award winning film The Killing Fields by actor John Malkovich, although he has never been happy with this portrayal. Rockoff was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and is half Russian and half Irish. After enlisting in the Navy while under age, he subsequently became an Army photographer in South Vietnam.

Bill Plante

Bill Plante (born January 14, 1938) is a veteran journalist and correspondent for CBS News, having joined the network in 1964. His most recent work was as the Senior White House Correspondent for CBS, reporting regularly for CBS This Morning as well as for the CBS Evening News. Plante covered the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama as a national correspondent for CBS News. He also served several tours of duty in South Vietnam covering the Vietnam War, the first in 1964 and the last in 1975 during the Fall of Saigon at the end of the war. He anchored CBS Sunday Night News from 1988 to 1995. He retired in November 2016. He is the stepfather of syndicated radio talk show host Chris Plante.

Charles Chellapah

Charles Chellapah (1939 – 14 February 1966) was a Singaporean photojournalist of Indian origin who was killed on-assignment during the Vietnam War.

Charles Eggleston

Charles Richard Eggleston (November 1945 – May 6, 1968) was a photographer with United Press International who was killed in combat in Vietnam where he was covering the ongoing war.

Clinton High School (Massachusetts)

Clinton Senior High School, is a secondary school located at 200 West Boylston St., in Clinton, Massachusetts, United States.

Crimes of War

Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know is a 1999 reference book edited by Roy Gutman and David Rieff that offers a compendium of more than 150 entries of articles and photographs that broadly define "international humanitarian law", a subject that involves most of the legal and political aspects of modern conflict.

The 352-page book, published by W.W. Norton, contains 80 photographs, two maps and extensive sources.

In this A-to-Z guide, journalists, television reporters and photographers, together with leading legal scholars and military law experts, define the major war crimes and key terms of law and take a fresh look at nine recent wars using the framework of international humanitarian law.

Contributors include reporters and photojournalists. Sydney Schanberg, William Shawcross, Justice Richard Goldstone and Christiane Amanpour are among those included, with a foreword by Justice Richard Goldstone, the UN Tribunal's first prosecutor. Photographers include Gilles Peress and Annie Leibovitz.

The book is part of a comprehensive project started by Roy Gutman which includes educational initiatives and additional articles. It has been published in 11 languages, including Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, Serbo-Croatian and Chinese. A revised edition (2.0) with updated articles was published in October 2007 by W.W. Norton.

Dana Stone

Dana Hazen Stone (April 18, 1939 – c. June 1971) was an American photo-journalist best known for his work for CBS, United Press International, and Associated Press during the Vietnam War.

Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award

The Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award is an award created in honor of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. The Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards were established in 1979 to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans. Since the inception of the awards, more than 100 individuals including high school students, lawyers, librarians, journalists and educators have been honored.

Nominees have traditionally come from the areas of journalism, arts and entertainment, education, publishing, law and government, and winners are selected by a panel of distinguished judges.

Julian Pettifer

Julian Pettifer OBE (born 21 July 1935) is an English television journalist.

He was President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and is Vice President of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB. He was voted BAFTA 'Reporter of the Year' for his coverage of the war in Vietnam in 1968.

Killing field (disambiguation)

A killing field is a concept in military science.

Killing field may also refer to:

Khmer Rouge Killing Fields, a number of sites in Cambodia where collectively more than a million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979

Texas Killing Fields (location), a location in Texas which is the scene of 30+ murders, mostly unsolved

List of films based on magazine articles

This is a list of films based on non-fiction articles published in periodicals such as magazines or newspapers. See also List of films based on short fiction.

Adaptation. - "The Orchid Thief", The New Yorker, January 23, 1995 - Susan Orlean

Almost Famous - "The Allman Brothers Story", Rolling Stone, December 6, 1973 - Cameron Crowe

American Gangster - "The Return of Superfly", New York, August 14, 2000 - Mark Jacobson

Argo - "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran", Wired, April 2007 Joshuah Bearman

Bigger Than Life - "Ten Feet Tall", The New Yorker, September 10, 1955 - Berton Roueche

Biker Boyz - "Biker Boyz", New Times Los Angeles, April 2000, Michael Gougis

The Bling Ring - "The Suspects Wore Louboutins", Vanity Fair, March 2010 - Nancy Jo Sales

Blue Crush - "Life's Swell", Women Outside, September 1998 - Susan Orlean

Boogie Nights - "The Devil and John Holmes", Rolling Stone, May 1989 - Mike Sager

City by the Sea - "Mark of a Murderer", Esquire, September 1997 - Michael McAlary

Coyote Ugly - "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon", GQ, March 1997 - Elizabeth Gilbert

Dog Day Afternoon - "The Boys in the Bank", Life, September 22, 1972 - P. F. Kluge

The Fast and the Furious - "Racer X", Vibe, May 1998 - Ken Li

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", Rolling Stone, November 11 & November 25, 1971 - Hunter S. Thompson

In Cold Blood - "In Cold Blood: The Last to See Them Alive"' The New Yorker, September 25, 1965 - Truman Capote

The Insider - "The Man Who Knew Too Much", Vanity Fair, May 1996 - Marie Brenner

Into the Wild - "Death of an Innocent", Outside, January 1993 - Jon Krakauer

The Killing Fields - "The Death and Life of Dith Pran", The New York Times Magazine, January 20, 1980 - Sydney Schanberg

Ladybug Ladybug - "They Thought the War Was On", McCall's, April 1963 - Lois Dickert

Live Free or Die Hard - "A Farewell to Arms", Wired, May 1997 - John Carlin

Only the Brave - "No Exit", GQ, September 27, 2013 - Sean Flynn

Perfect -- Series of articles in Rolling Stone - Aaron Latham

A Private War - "Marie Colvin's Private War" Vanity Fair, August 2012 - Marie Brenner

Proof of Life - "Adventures in the Ransom Trade" Vanity Fair, May 1998 - William Prochnau

Pushing Tin - "Something's Got to Give", The New York Times Magazine, March 24, 1996 - Darcy Frey

Radio - "Someone to Lean On", Sports Illustrated, December 16, 1996 - Gary Smith

Saturday Night Fever - "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night", New York, June 7, 1976 - Nik Cohn

Shattered Glass - Vanity Fair, September 1998 - Buzz Bissinger

Top Gun - "Top Guns", California, May 1983 - Ehud Yonay

Urban Cowboy - "The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy: America's Search for True Grit", Esquire, September 12, 1978 - Aaron Latham

War Dogs - "The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big-Time Weapons Traders", "Rolling Stone", March 16, 2011 - Guy Lawson

Long Boret

Long Boret or Long Boreth (Khmer: ឡុង បូរ៉េត; January 3, 1933 – April 17, 1975) was a Cambodian politician who served as Prime Minister of the Khmer Republic from December 26, 1973, to April 17, 1975. Highly regarded for his honesty, he tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a peace settlement with the Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian Civil War. He was later arrested by the Khmer Rouge and executed. He is one of two Prime Ministers to die in office, the other being Chan Sy.

Peter Kalischer

Peter Kalischer (1915–1991) was an American journalist best known for his reporting of the early stages of the Vietnam War in the 1960s as a television correspondent for CBS News. He won the Overseas Press Club award in 1963 for his reporting during the Buddhist crisis that led to the fall of President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. In 1968, while covering the Tet Offensive, he had dinner on the rooftop restaurant of the Caravelle Hotel with Walter Cronkite who was preparing a special report on the war and helped to convince him that the war could not be won militarily, that a stalemate was inevitable. From 1966 to 1978, Kalischer was the Paris correspondent and bureau chief for CBS News. He covered the Korean War, writing multiple articles about it.Kalischer later became a professor of communications at Loyola University, a position he held until 1982.

Sam Waterston

Samuel Atkinson Waterston (born November 15, 1940) is an American actor, producer, and director. Among other roles, he is noted for his portrayal of Sydney Schanberg in The Killing Fields (1984), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and his starring role as Jack McCoy on the NBC television series Law & Order (1994–2010), which brought him Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards. He has been nominated for multiple Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA, and Emmy awards, having starred in over eighty film and television productions during his fifty-year career. He has also starred in numerous stage productions. AllMovie historian Hal Erickson characterized Waterston as having "cultivated a loyal following with his quietly charismatic, unfailingly solid performances."Waterston received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010 and was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2012.

The Killing Fields (film)

The Killing Fields is a 1984 British biographical drama film about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which is based on the experiences of two journalists: Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg. It was directed by Roland Joffé and produced by David Puttnam for his company Goldcrest Films. Sam Waterston stars as Schanberg, Haing S. Ngor as Pran, Julian Sands as Jon Swain, and John Malkovich as Al Rockoff. The adaptation for the screen was written by Bruce Robinson; the musical score was written by Mike Oldfield and orchestrated by David Bedford.

The film was a success at the box office as well as being an instant hit with critics. At the 57th Academy Awards it received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture; it won three, most notably Best Supporting Actor for Haing S. Ngor, who had no previous acting experience. At the 38th British Academy Film Awards, it won eight BAFTAs, including Best Film and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Ngor.

In 1999 the British Film Institute voted The Killing Fields the 100th greatest British film of the 20th century. In 2016 British film magazine Empire ranked it number 86 in their list of the 100 best British films.

Vietnam War POW/MIA issue

The Vietnam War POW/MIA issue concerns the fate of United States servicemen who were reported as missing in action (MIA) during the Vietnam War and associated theaters of operation in Southeast Asia. The term also refers to issues related to the treatment of affected family members by the governments involved in these conflicts. Following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, 591 American prisoners of war (POWs) were returned during Operation Homecoming. The U.S. listed about 2,500 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action but only 1,200 Americans were reported to have been killed in action with no body recovered. Many of these were Airmen who were shot down over North Vietnam or Laos. Investigations of these incidents have involved determining whether the men involved survived being shot down. If they did not survive, then the U.S. government considered efforts to recover its soldiers' remains. POW/MIA activists played a role in pushing the U.S. government to improve its efforts in resolving the fates of these missing soldiers. Progress in doing so was slow until the mid-1980s, when relations between the U.S. and Vietnam began to improve and more cooperative efforts were undertaken. Normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam in the mid-1990s was a culmination of this process.

Considerable speculation and investigation has contributed to a hypothesis that a significant number of missing U.S. soldiers from the Vietnam War were captured as prisoners of war by Communist forces and kept as live prisoners after U.S. involvement in the war concluded in 1973. A vocal group of POW/MIA activists maintains that there has been a concerted conspiracy by the Vietnamese and American governments since then to hide the existence of these prisoners. The U.S. government has steadfastly denied that prisoners were left behind or that any effort has been made to cover up their existence. Popular culture has reflected the "live prisoners" theory, most notably in the 1985 film Rambo: First Blood Part II. Several congressional investigations have looked into the issue, culminating with the largest and most thorough, the United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs of 1991–1993 led by Senators John Kerry, Bob Smith, and John McCain. It found "no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia."The issue has been a highly emotional one to those involved, and is often considered the last depressing, divisive aftereffect of the Vietnam War for the United States.


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