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John F. Burns, the premier war correspondent of his generation, senior foreign correspondent for The New York Times, and current chief of the newspaper’s Baghdad bureau, will receive the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award as well as an honorary doctor of laws degree from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, in September, President William D. Adams announced in June. The 2007 Lovejoy Convocation will take place on September 30 at 8 p.m. in Colby’s Lorimer Chapel, and the public is invited to hear Burns’s 2007 Lovejoy address that evening.
Given annually to a courageous journalist, the award honors the memory of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, an early Colby valedictorian and a revered abolitionist publisher who was killed in Alton, Ill., in 1837 by a pro-slavery mob.
Burns has been arrested in China and Mozambique for his reporting activities and had to hide from Saddam Hussein’s secret police after escaping arrest in Iraq. He covered the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the end of apartheid in South Africa and was the Times’s first Islamic affairs correspondent, from 1998 to 2001.
“John Burns has fashioned a distinguished career in journalism, a career marked by a courage that makes him an outstanding recipient of this important honor,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, editor and senior vice president of the Chicago Tribune and chair of Colby’s Lovejoy Selection Committee. “John’s work from Beijing to Baghdad has often put him in harm’s way, and his dedication to the story in the most threatening of circumstances sounds a poignant echo to Elijah Parish Lovejoy’s work. We are happy to link the Burns and Lovejoy names and to honor the unbroken dedication of such journalists across the generations.”
Burns is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize: in 1993 for “his courageous and thorough coverage of the destruction of Sarajevo and the barbarous killings in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” and in 1997 “for his courageous and insightful coverage of the harrowing regime imposed on Afghanistan by the Taliban.” He has covered China’s Cultural Revolution, the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and, since September 12, 2001, the war on terrorism. Beginning July 1 he will be the London bureau chief for the Times, extending his run as the longest-serving foreign correspondent in the history of the paper.
Lovejoy, for whom the award is named, was a native of Albion, Maine, and an 1826 graduate of Colby whom John Quincy Adams called “the first American martyr to the freedom of the press.” Colby established the annual award in 1952 for an editor, reporter, or publisher who has contributed to the nation’s journalistic achievement. Recent recipients include civil rights crusader Jerry Mitchell, columnist Ellen Goodman, Bill Kovach, the late David Halberstam, and Daniel Pearl, who received the 2002 award posthumously.
Burns was selected by a committee of distinguished newspaper editors chaired by Lipinski and including Rebecca Corbett (Colby ’74), deputy bureau chief of The New York Times Washington bureau; Greg Moore, editor of The Denver Post; and Mike Pride, editor of the Concord (N.H.) Monitor. The committee also includes Colby President William D. Adams; Chair of the Board of Trustees Joseph F. Boulos, and Professor L. Sandy Maisel, director of Colby’s Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement.