James Mackenzie Fallows (born August 2, 1949) is an American writer and journalist. He has been a national correspondent for ''The Atlantic
'' for many years. His work has also appeared in ''Slate
'', ''The New York Times Magazine
'', ''The New York Review of Books
'', ''The New Yorker
'' and ''The American Prospect
'', among others. He is a former editor of ''U.S. News & World Report
'', and as President Jimmy Carter
's chief speechwriter
for two years was the youngest person ever to hold that job.
Fallows has been a visiting professor at a number of universities in the U.S. and China
, and holds the Chair in U.S. Media at the United States Studies Centre
at University of Sydney
. He is the author of eleven books, including ''National Defense'', for which he received the 1983 National Book Award
''Looking at the Sun'' (1994), ''Breaking the News'' (1996), ''Blind into Baghdad'' (2006), ''Postcards from Tomorrow Square'' (2009),
''China Airborne'' (2012), and ''Our Towns'' (2018).
Life and career
Fallows was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jean (née Mackenzie) and James Albert Fallows, a physician. He was raised in Redlands
, and graduated from Redlands High School
. He studied American history and literature at Harvard College
, where he was the editor of the daily newspaper, ''The Harvard Crimson
''. From 1970–72, Fallows studied economics at the University of Oxford
as a Rhodes scholar
. He subsequently worked as an editor and writer for ''The Washington Monthly
'' and ''Texas Monthly
For the first two years of the Carter administration
he was Carter's chief speechwriter. From 1979 through 1996, he was the Washington Editor for ''The Atlantic Monthly'' (now ''The Atlantic
''). For two years of that time he was based in Texas, and for four years in Asia. He wrote for the magazine about immigration, defense policy, politics, economics, computer technology, and other subjects. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Awards
five times and won in 2003, for "The Fifty-First State?" (''The Atlantic'', November 2002), which was published six months before the invasion of Iraq and laid out the difficulties of occupying the country. He won the National Book Award for ''National Defense''
and won a NY Emmy in 2010 for his role as host of a documentary series, "Doing Business in China".
Fallows's most influential articles have concerned military policy and military procurement, the college admissions process, technology, China and Japan, and the American war in Iraq
. Early in his career, he wrote an article called "What Did You Do in the Class War, Daddy?" (''Washington Monthly'', October 1975). It described the "draft physical" day at the Boston Navy Yard
in 1970, in which Fallows and his Harvard and MIT
classmates overwhelmingly produced reasons for medical exemptions, while the white working-class men of Chelsea
were approved for service. He argued that the class bias of the Vietnam draft
, which made it easy for him and for others from influential and affluent families to avoid service
, prolonged the war and that this was a truth many opponents of the war
found convenient to overlook.
In the 1980s and 1990s Fallows was a frequent contributor of commentaries to National Public Radio
's ''Morning Edition
,'' and since 2009 he has been the regular news analyst for NPR's ''Weekend All Things Considered
''. From 1996 to 1998, he was the editor of ''US News & World Report''. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation
, a nonprofit group based in Washington D.C
. During the 2000–2001 academic year, Fallows taught at the graduate school of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley
, and in 2010 he was the Vare Writer in Residence at the University of Chicago
. Starting in the 2010 academic year, he is a visiting Professor in U.S. Media at the United States Studies Centre
at the University of Sydney
"Urgent Need to Save Quality Journalism, Professor Warns"
''The Australian'', February 16, 2009.
Fallows is an instrument-rated pilot. In ''Free Flight'', published in 2001, he describes the new generation of "personal jets
" and other advanced aircraft now coming onto the market from Eclipse Aviation
and Cirrus Design
, as well as the story of Cirrus founders brothers Alan and Dale Klapmeier
and how they became involved in aviation.
Fallows has received numerous honorary degrees, including from the University of Utah
, the University of Maryland
, the University of Redlands
, Northwestern University
, Ursinus College
, and in 2017 the University of Vermont
Fallows has had a long interest in technology, both writing about and helping to develop it. He's taken a special interest in personal information management
software, going back to Lotus Agenda
which he glowingly reviewed for ''The Atlantic'' in 1992 ("Of all the computer programs I have tried, Agenda is far and away the most interesting, and is one of the two or three most valuable"). During the operating system
wars of the early and mid-nineties, Fallows used and wrote about IBM
's Operating System/2
(OS/2) and its battles with MS Windows
, often frequenting the Canopus forum and online community on CompuServe
. In 1999, he spent six months at Microsoft
designing software for writers. More recently, he has written about the design of the Open Source Applications Foundation
's information manager, code-named Chandler
. He was the on-stage host for the IDG
Corporation's "Agenda" conference (no relation to Agenda software) in the early years of the 2000s (decade) and of Google
" conference starting in 2005. He has written regular technology columns for ''The New York Times'' and ''The Atlantic''.
Fallows, a former speechwriter for Democratic President Jimmy Carter
, has identified himself as a Democrat
and has been described by ''Politico
'' and ''The Hill
'', among other publications, as a liberal
. According to journalist Howard Fineman
, Fallows also wrote policy memos to Democratic President Bill Clinton
. An article in ''The Futurist'', a publication of the World Future Society
, identifies Fallows as a radical centrist
For the first paperback edition of ''National Defense'', Fallows received a 1983 National Book Award for Nonfiction
["National Book Awards – 1983"]
National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
He was a finalist at the National Magazine Award in the years 1988, 2006 (twice), 2007 and had won the award in 2003 for his article ''The Fifty-First State?''. The documentary series ''On The Frontlines: Doing Business in China'' in which he participated as an editorial supervisor and co-host (together with Emily Chang) was awarded the 2010 Emmy Award.
He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
In 2012, Fallows gained notice for the results of the testing of his genetic makeup. In addition to the fact that the lineage shown on the mitochondrial DNA of his mother's side did not resemble any other samples found in a large-scale study, it was shown that Fallows had an abnormally high percentage of Neanderthal
ancestry, at 5% of his genes being of Neanderthal origin. This drew attention from numerous scientists.
Fallows is married to writer and researcher Deborah Fallows, with whom he has two sons.
The book ''Our Towns'' (2018) was co-authored and researched by the couple.
* ''National Defense'' (1981). Random House.
** One of three excerpts from ''National Defense'' published in ''The Atlantic
* ''More Like Us: Making America Great Again'' (1989). Houghton Mifflin.
* ''Looking at the Sun: The Rise of the New East Asian Economic and Political System'' (1994). Vintage Paperback (reprint ed, 1995)
* ''Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy'' (1996). Pantheon Books. . Vintage Paperback (1997)
* ''Free Flight: Inventing the Future of Travel'' (2001). PublicAffairs Paperback (2002)
* ''Blind into Baghdad: America's War in Iraq'' (2006). Vintage.
* ''Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China'' (2009) Knopf.
* ''China Airborne'' (2012) Random House.
Essays and reporting
Fallows' websiteAudio of lecture delivered to the World Affairs Council of Northern CaliforniaAudio/Video recording
of James Fallows on his book ''Blind Into Baghdad: America's War in Iraq'' as part of the University of Chicago'World Beyond the Headlines
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