2014—David Finkel

Photo of David Finkel
Writer, Washington Post and Center for a New American Security

David Finkel is a renowned war correspondent and Pulitzer-winning author. At present, he is a writer and editor at the Washington Post and senior writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security in Washington D.C. He was earlier a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Mr. Finkel received wide acclaim for his book The Good Soldiers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2009). In this nonfiction work, he chronicled an infantry battalion fighting for survival on the streets of Baghdad at the height of the 2007 surge. It has been described as a modern-day Iliad for its account of the emotional and psychological toll exacted by the war. Finkel’s account is the narrative of someone embedded in a military unit, witnessing first-hand the lives of soldiers in a combat zone. He captures the on-the-ground enforcement by ordinary soldiers of foreign and military policy decisions made by government leaders. His work is not only riveting for what it offers, but also for its contribution to the larger cultural and political project of understanding this global conflict.

Finkel’s recently-released book Thank You for Your Service (Farrar Straus & Giroux 2013) continues the story begun in The Good Soldiers. He follows the travails of American veterans as they return home from the war, coping with its aftermath. Many of these soldiers are dealing with PTSD, personal struggles in their day-to-day lives, and a strained support system. Recognized for his deeply human and ethical approach to reporting, Finkel is able to tell this story so effectively because of his unparalleled ability to earn his subjects' trust.

Finkel’s work, however, extends far wider than his reporting on Iraq. For the past three decades, he has reported around the world, from the refugee camps of Kosovo to the death row cells of Florida. In 1986 he won a distinguished writing award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors for his coverage of a variety of subjects. He received a Missouri Lifestyle award in 1995 for a piece on racial and class conflict in Washington D.C. In 2001, Finkel was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy award for a series on worldwide patterns of illegal migration. His Pulitzer Prize in 2006 was in recognition of his series on U.S.-funded attempts to export democracy to Yemen. More recently, he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2012.

As National Enterprise Editor of the Washington Post, David Finkel has championed an immersion-based, long-form reporting method that is becoming less common in contemporary journalism. In its recognition of Finkel, the MacArthur Foundation notes that his “finely honed methods of immersion reporting and empathy for often-overlooked lives yield stories that transform readers’ understanding of the difficult subjects he depicts.”