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Reporting from Darfur in 2006, reporter Paul Salopek was imprisoned for five weeks. He endured beatings and brutal jail conditions but declined offers of freedom until he knew his Chadian driver and Sudanese translator would also be freed. A journalist who has reported from more than 50 countries in the developing world and more than 20 conflict zones, Salopek will receive the 2009 Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism from Colby College on Sunday, Oct. 18, in Waterville, Maine, Colby President William D. Adams announced Sept. 10.
Salopek will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree along with the award and will give a public address in Colby’s Lorimer Chapel at 8 p.m. A panel of journalists including Salopek will participate in a panel discussion, “Covering the World with a Shrinking Newsroom,” at 4 p.m.
As a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, Salopek won the Pulitzer Prize twice for individual work, including in 2001 for reporting by dugout canoe from the civil war in Congo. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine and, beginning in the fall of 2009, will be in residence at Princeton University as a McGraw Writing Fellow. He is currently writing a book about Mexico.
Ann Marie Lipinski, chair of Colby’s Lovejoy selection committee, called him “one of the most important and accomplished journalists of his generation, a reporter of uncommon skill and a writer of uncommon grace.”
The Lovejoy Award has been given annually since 1952 to honor courageous journalism. It honors the memory of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, Colby’s valedictorian in 1826 and a passionate abolitionist publisher who was killed in Alton, Ill., in 1837 by a pro-slavery mob. He is considered America’s first martyr to freedom of the press.
Lipinski, now vice president for civic engagement at the University of Chicago and former editor of the Tribune, said, “Paul’s work has illuminated some of the most challenging and complex issues of our time, from genocide to the human genome, with remarkable clarity. Throughout, he has exhibited a brand of courage that in the committee’s view evokes the legacy of Elijah Lovejoy in extraordinarily powerful ways.”
Born in California 1962, Salopek was raised in central Mexico. He is known for arduous immersion journalism. He often spends weeks living and laboring alongside the people he chronicles. He has walked across a virgin mountain range in New Guinea, toiled as night clerk at a Midwest gas station, and ridden a mule 1,300 miles through rural Mexico for his stories.
In 2006, while reporting on genocide in Darfur, in western Sudan, he was captured by a pro-government militia and imprisoned on false charges of espionage. Pressure from journalism colleagues and negotiations by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson eventually won his release.
He was chosen to receive the 2009 Lovejoy Award by a selection committee that includes Lipinski; Rebecca Corbett, deputy Washington bureau chief for the New York Times; Gregory Moore, editor of the Denver Post; Mike Pride, editor emeritus and columnist for the Concord Monitor; David Shribman, vice president and executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and Professor L. Sandy Maisel, director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby.
Previous winners of the award include Anne Hull of the Washington Post (2008), who exposed the Walter Reed veterans’ health-care scandal; Daniel Pearl (2002, posthumous); David Halberstam (1997); and Katherine Graham (1973), publisher of the Washington Post during Watergate.