Sydney H. Schanberg, 1934-2016
In 2010, Potomac Books published Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings, the first-ever anthology of Schanberg’s war reporting and commentary. The book draws on more than four decades of Schanberg’s reporting at home and abroad for the New York Times, Newsday, the Village Voice, and various magazines. The centerpiece of the collection is his signature work, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” which appeared in the New York Times Magazine. This became the foundation of Roland Joffé’s acclaimed film The Killing Fields (1984), which explored the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia during the late 1970s. Although Schanberg was best known for his work on Cambodia, he also reported on the India-Pakistan war that ended Pakistan’s brutal attempt to crush the Bangladesh freedom movement in the 1970s. His striking coverage of the Vietnam conflict recounts Hanoi’s fierce offensive in 1972 that almost succeeded. Years later, citing official documents and other hard evidence that a large number of American POWs were never returned by Hanoi, Schanberg criticized the national press for ignoring these facts and called for Washington to release documents that had been covered up since 1973. The New York Times called him “a nearly ideal foreign correspondent”. As the media critic for the Village Voice, Schanberg offered a unique and searing viewpoint on Iraq, which he called America’s “strangest war.” His criticism of the Bush administration’s secrecy brings his war reportage into the present and presents a vigorous critique of what he considers a devious and destructive presidency.