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John Fisher Burns

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John Fisher Burns

John Fisher Locksley Burns (born 4 October 1944) is a British journalist, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes. He was the London bureau chief for The New York Times, where he covered international issues until March 2015. Burns also frequently appears on PBS. He has been called "the dean of American foreign correspondents."[1] On 26 March 2015, The New York Times announced that an article about the burial of Richard III would conclude Burns' career at the New York Times.[2]


  • Life and career 1
    • Controversy 1.1
    • Personal life 1.2
  • References 2
  • External links 3

Life and career

Born in Nottingham, England, his family emigrated to Canada when he was young where he later studied at McGill University. Between 1980 and 1981, he studied Russian at Harvard, and in 1984 he studied Chinese at Cambridge University.[3] From 1998 to 1999, he was a visiting fellow at King's College, Cambridge, studying Islamic history and culture.[4] He also speaks French and German. His father was a South African who served in the Royal Air Force.[5]

In the early 1970s, Burns wrote for the Canadian Globe and Mail, as a local and later parliamentary reporter. He was sent to China in 1971 to be among one of few Western journalists in China during the Cultural Revolution, after a confusion that led to his brief ban from the precincts of the Canadian Parliament by the Commons Speaker.[6] Burns joined The New York Times in 1975, reporting, at first, for the paper's metropolitan section, and has written ever since for the newspaper in various capacities.

He has been assigned to and headed several of the Times foreign bureaus. He and fellow Times journalists Africa. Burns was the Times bureau chief in Moscow from 1981-84. In 1986, while chief of the Times Beijing bureau, Burns was incarcerated on suspicion of espionage by the Chinese government. Charges were dropped after an investigation, but Burns was subsequently expelled from the country.

Burns received his second Pulitzer in 1997, this time "For his courageous and insightful coverage of the harrowing regime imposed on Afghanistan by the Taliban".[3]

Burns was based in Baghdad during the lead up to the Iraq war in 2003 and has written extensively on the war and the subsequent occupation. In July 2007, Burns succeeded Alan Cowell as bureau chief in London. On 30 September 2007, Burns received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award as well as an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colby College.

Burns is a frequent contributor to PBS, including a number of appearances on the Charlie Rose show and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer via satellite from Afghanistan and Iraq. In a January 2009 interview, Michael Barone called Burns "one of the great foreign correspondents of our time".[7] In an August 2010 interview with Charlie Rose, Christopher Hitchens, while recounting a tour of Sarajevo guided by Burns in which they were fired upon, called Burns "the greatest war correspondent of our time".[8]

On 26 March 2015, The New York Times announced that an article about the burial of Richard III would conclude Burns' career at the New York Times.[2]


In an October 2008 interview with the Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, Burns accused Kabulov of being a KGB operative.[9]

Burns was awarded the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting citing "his courageous and thorough coverage of the destruction of Sarajevo and the barbarous killings in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina".[10] Some of Burns's reporting in Bosnia and Herzegovina was later put in doubt for using questionable sources.[11][12] Within the book Media Cleansing: Dirty Reporting Journalism & Tragedy in Yugoslavia, Burns is criticised extensively, accused of journalistic malpractice by its author Peter Brock.[13]

Personal life

Burns is married to Jane Scott-Long, who manages the New York Times' Baghdad Bureau.


  1. ^ Samuels, David (3 December 2010) "The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange", The Atlantic
  2. ^ a b NYT Staff (26 March 2014) "John F. Burns, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist, Ends Acclaimed Run", The New York Times
  3. ^ a b The 1997 Pulitzer Prize Winners; accessed 15 October 2009
  4. ^ John F. Burns' Biography Accessed 15 October 2009
  5. ^ "'"John F Burns: How a Brit came to star at 'The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-05-11. 
  6. ^ "Memories from Past Correspondents" The Globe and Mail, 3 October 2009; accessed 15 October 2009
  7. ^ Michael Barone. Uncommon Knowledge. Hoover Institution. Filmed 14 January 2008.
  8. ^ Author Christopher Hitchens. Charlie Rose. 13 August 2010.
  9. ^ "An Old Afghanistan Hand Offers Lessons of the Past", New York Times (19 October 2008); accessed 6 May 2009
  10. ^ Official list of Pulitzer winners from 1993 Pulitzer website. Accessed 6 May 2009
  11. ^ Media cleansing book review and analysis Global research ca. Accessed 6 May 2009
  12. ^ Marlise Simons and the New York Times on the International Court of Justice Decision on Serbia and Genocide in Bosnia ZMagazine. Accessed 6 May 2009
  13. ^ Brock, Peter. Media Cleansing: Dirty Reporting Journalism & Tragedy in Yugoslavia. ISBN 1-882383-30-3

External links

  • Video: John Burns Interviewed by Bill Maher, 10 March 2006
  • Transcript: John Burns interviewed by Hugh Hewitt, 9 February 2007
  • interview with Burns, 11 February 2007Q&AC-SPAN
  • interview with Burns, 5 December 2010Q&AC-SPAN
  • Video: John Burns presentation and Q&A with Ralph Begleiter at the University of Delaware, 8 April 2009
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