John Darnton

John Darnton (born November 20, 1941 in New York City) is an American journalist who wrote for the New York Times. He is a two-time winner of the Polk Award, of which he is now the curator, and the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.[1] He also moonlights as a novelist who writes scientific and medical thrillers.

John Darnton
Born (1941-11-20) November 20, 1941 (age 79)
OccupationJournalist and author
Notable credit(s)
New York Times; Neanderthal, The Experiment, Mind Catcher, The Darwin Conspiracy (novels)
Spouse(s)Nina Darnton
ChildrenKyra Grann and Liza (daughters), Jamie (son)
Parent(s)Byron Darnton and Eleanor Choate Darnton
RelativesRobert Darnton (brother)
David Grann (son-in-law)


After graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Darnton joined the New York Times as a copyboy in 1966. Two years later he became a reporter and for the next eight years he worked in and around New York City, including stints as the Connecticut correspondent during the Black Panther trials in New Haven, and as a City Hall reporter in the Lindsay and Beame administrations.[2]

In 1976 he went abroad as a foreign correspondent, first covering Africa out of Lagos, Nigeria, and then, when the military government there expelled him in 1977, out of Nairobi, Kenya. He covered protests in South Africa, liberation movements in Rhodesia, guerrilla fighting in Ethiopia, Somalia, Zaire, and the fall of Idi Amin in Uganda. His work in Africa earned him the George Polk Award in 1978.

In 1979, based in Warsaw, Poland, he covered Eastern Europe for the Times and received both the Polk Award and the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his coverage of Poland under martial law and the rise of the Solidarity movement (he had to smuggle dispatches out of the country). He went on to become the bureau chief in Madrid and London and also served as the deputy foreign editor, the metropolitan editor, and the cultural news editor at the Times. He retired from the Times in 2005.[2]


In addition to his work as a journalist, Darnton moonlighted as a fiction writer, ultimately publishing five novels "notable for their sinister themes and exotic settings, for overcooked plots that seemed custom-made for Hollywood".[3]

Since his initial success, Darnton has continued his fiction writing, in general sticking to thrillers with scientific and historical narratives:


After retiring from the Times in 2005, Darnton began teaching journalism as a visiting professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz.[9] In 2009, John Darnton was named curator of the George Polk Awards.[2]

Personal lifeEdit

In 2011 he forayed into nonfiction, publishing Almost a Family, a memoir about growing up without a father that also dealt heavily with alcoholism. His father Byron "Barney" Darnton had been a New York Times war correspondent until he was killed off the coast of New Guinea while covering the Pacific War during World War II, when John was 11 months old and his brother Robert (now a renowned cultural historian) was three years old.[8][10]

Darnton and his wife, journalist Nina Darnton, live in New York City. They have two daughters, Kyra and Liza, and a son, Jaime.


  1. ^ "International Reporting". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Former Times Editor Will Oversee Polk Awards". New York Times "City Room" blog. 16 April 2009.
  3. ^ a b Hammer, Joshua (3 August 2008). "Anybody We Know?". New York Times.
  4. ^ Darnton, John (1996). Neanderthal Hardcover. ISBN 0679449787.
  5. ^ Darnton, John (1999). The Experiment Hardcover. ISBN 0525945172.
  6. ^ Mind Catcher Hardcover. ISBN 0525946624.
  7. ^ Darnton, John (2006). The Darwin Conspiracy Hardcover. ISBN 1400041376.
  8. ^ a b Mnookin, Seth (19 September 2008). "Sometimes a Deadline Can Be Murder". New York Times.
  9. ^ "Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professorship". State University of New York at New Paltz. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  10. ^ Cheever, Susan (18 March 2011). "A Journalist Investigates a Father Lost at War". New York Times.