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John Pomfret is an American journalist and writer. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and raised in New York. He attended Stanford University, receiving his B.A. and M.A. in East Asian Studies. In 1980, he was one of the first American students to go to China and study at Nanjing University. Between 1983 and 1984 he attended Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies as a Fulbright Scholar, researching the Cambodian conflict.

He started his journalistic career at the Stanford Daily as a photographer, from where he was fired. After that he worked at a newspaper in Riverside County, California, and after a year was hired by Associated Press to work in New York, covering the graveyard shift.

After two years with the AP in New York, in 1988, he was sent to China as a foreign correspondent, thanks to his knowledge of Mandarin and Asian studies background. After that, he worked in several countries, including Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. For over 15 years he covered the armed conflicts in these countries and the politics of the post-Cold War era. Currently, he is the editor of the Washington Post's weekend opinion section, Outlook.

During his career, he received several awards, including 2003's Osborne Elliot Prize for the best coverage of Asia by the Asia Society and 2007's Shorenstein Prize for coverage of Asia.

The experiences he had when he attended Nanjing University, and his perspective of the Chinese opening, are narrated in his 2006 book "Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China."

He speaks, reads and writes Mandarin, and also speaks French, Japanese and Serbo-Croatian. He lives near Washington, D.C., with his wife and family.

Charlotte Allen article controversy

On March 2, 2008, the Washington Post's Outlook opinion section published a controversial piece about women, authored by conservative writer Charlotte Allen and edited by Pomfret, entitled "We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get." [1] The piece claimed that "Depressing as it is, several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true" and suggested that women should "shriek and swoon and gossip and...not mind the fact that way down deep, we can be...kind of dim." The piece was criticized by the paper's ombudsman, who wrote "The Post is a newspaper, not a comedy club. And Allen's article was a bad joke." [2]

The piece was also criticized by Columbia Journalism Review, journalism professor Jay Rosen, and throughout the blogosphere. [3] [4] The Columbia Journalism Review's Megan Garber hypothesized that, despite the widespread criticism of the piece, "judging by the hundreds of comments the piece has already received, it’s a winner, tally-wise, whatever else its (many) failings. Because of that, we’ll probably see more similarly ridiculous pieces in the Post’s pages and elsewhere." Pomfret has said that "it presented a different, albeit very non-PC take at a time when women and politics is a riveting topic in this country. I expected the piece to be controversial, but I did not expect the intensity of the reaction." [5]


  • Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China. Holt Paperbacks. 2006. ISBN 0805086641.  

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