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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Steve Coll to Lecture as W&L's Fishback Visiting Writer

Steve Coll
Steve Coll
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Steve Coll, president and CEO of the New America Foundation and a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine will present a lecture at Washington and Lee University on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. in Stackhouse Theatre of Elrod Commons.

Coll is this year's Fishback Visiting Writer at W&L. The title of his talk, which is free and open to the public, is "Osama Bin Laden and the Globalization of Terror."

When Joe Biden warned last October that America's enemies abroad would quickly test a newly elected Barack Obama, many people shrugged, figuring it was just another symptom of Joe's foot-in-mouth disease.

Not Steve Coll.

A month before, in an interview with The Atlantic magazine, Coll had offered his own cautionary words. "Al-Qaeda leaders like anniversaries," he had said, "and they pay attention to elections abroad. So I'm sure they have the American election in mind."

Steve Coll is not easy to shrug off. He is a renowned journalist who has covered terrorists and terrorism for years. His 2004 book, "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001" won that year's Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. And his most recent book, published just last year, is "The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century."

Coll began his distinguished journalism career at California magazine in 1982 then moved to the Washington Post in 1985, where he held several positions including feature writer, financial correspondent in New York and South Asia bureau chief. Coll's work in New York lead to his first Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for explanatory journalism for his coverage of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

From 1998-2004 - at the same time he was working on "Ghost Wars" - Coll was also the Post's managing editor. "Ghost Wars" has been called "the finest historical narrative so far on the origins of al Qaeda in the post-Soviet rubble of Afghanistan."

In addition to his current position at the New Yorker, Coll is also director of the New America Foundation, a nonprofit public policy institute in Washington, D.C.

Following his talk, Coll will sign copies of his books outside Stackhouse Theatre. Both “Ghost Wars” and “The Bin Ladens” will be available.

The Fishback Fund for Visiting Writers was established by Sara and Bill Fishback, '56, in memory of Bill Fishback's parents, Margaret Haggin Haupt Fishback and William Hunter Fishback. The fund brings an outstanding writer to campus annually in a cross-disciplinary program. First consideration is given to men and women who have written with distinction about public affairs, nature and the environment, history and the theatre - all special interests of the Fishbacks, who believed deeply in W&L's liberal arts mission.

Previous Fishback Visiting Writers have included journalist Robert Kaplan, syndicated columnist Charley McDowell, political scientist Jean Bethke Elshtain, sociologist Alan Wolfe and legal scholar Stephen Carter.

The Fishback Fund is administered by the University's department of journalism and mass communications.