Harden, Blaine 1952-

views updated

HARDEN, Blaine 1952-

PERSONAL: Born April 4, 1952, in Moses Lake, WA; son of Arno (a welder) and Betty (a homemaker; maiden name, Thoe) Harden. Education: Gonzaga University, B.A. (political science and philosophy), 1974; Syracuse University, M.A. (journalism), 1976.

ADDRESSES: Home—New York, NY. Agent—Raphael Sagalyn, 7201 Wisconsin Ave., Ste. 675, Bethesda, MD 20814.

CAREER: Trenton Times, Trenton, NJ, reporter, 1976-78; Washington Post, Washington, DC, reporter, 1978-83, foreign correspondent and bureau chief in Nairobi, Kenya, 1984-89, bureau chief, Eastern Europe, 1989-93, political reporter, 1996-97, bureau chief, New York, NY, 1997-98; New York Times, metro desk, 1999-2000, national correspondent, 2001. Washingtonian, Washington, DC, senior writer, 1983-84; New York Times Magazine, writer, 1999—.

AWARDS, HONORS: First prize for a feature story, Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association, 1982; Livingston Award for Young Journalists, 1986; award from American Society of Newspaper Editors, 1987; PEN's Martha Albrand Citation for first book of nonfiction, 1991, for Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent; Ernie Pyle Award for human interest reporting, 1993; Alicia Patterson research fellow, 1993.


Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, Norton (New York, NY), 1990.

A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia, Norton (New York, NY), 1996.

(Contributor) The Best American Science and NatureWriting, edited by Natalie Angler, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: For more than a quarter-century globe-trotting reporter Blaine Harden has reported on conditions in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Washington, D.C. His work in Africa during the mid and late 1980s lead to his writing the 1990 book Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, in which he treats the challenges of governing diverse cultures on that continent. Although he centers his discussions on individuals, he also draws on his knowledge of African politics, travel, history, and economic conditions. According to Publishers Weekly reviewer Genevieve Stuttaford, the work is an "outstanding" introduction to Africa.

From 1989 to 1993, Harden covered the war in the former Yugoslavia for the Washington Post. During a particularly difficult night under fire, he made an important decision. As he told a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter, "[I decided] to go home, get to know my family again, and try to figure out where I came from." As the grandson of a Washington State farmer and son of a welder, Harden had grown up in a middle-class family. So, with the support of a research fellowship, Harden returned to the Pacific Northwest to enjoy a hiatus from daily reporting and immerse himself in a new project.

During 1993, he drove some 20,000 miles as he interviewed farmers, fisherman, Native Americans, business owners, environmentalists, and barge pilots about the most significant controversy facing his home state: the effect of dams on the natural resources of the Columbia River basin. In 1996 the result of his "admirably thorough" research, to quote Booklist's Dennis Dodge, rolled off the presses. Unfortunately for Harden, but great for readers, A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia followed in the wake of four other books about the region. "The point of the book is to give people perspective, to care about people in the basin, but to see where they are deluding themselves," the author explained in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article. While as a native son Harden has his own interest in the region, he provides a balanced account of the issues, several critics noted. Harden portrayed a representative array of people who have vested interests in the Columbia River basin, letting them present their views. Wrote Phil Keisling of the Washington Monthly, "Many of his subjects . . . drop their guards and articulate their prejudices and rationalizations," which, he added "makes for a dismaying account of greed, short-sightedness, and natural catastrophe in the name of 'progress.'" An Economist contributor, remarking that Harden draws few conclusions, viewed the work as a chronicle of change: "A River Lost records in fascinating detail how the well-being of those who live off the Columbia's largesse was purchased with billions of federal dollars and how one of the West's most majestic rivers was sacrificed to economic advance." From the environmentalist perspective of a writer for Underwater Naturalist, the work is "a sad, hard-hitting, and sometimes macabre look at one of this nation's maybe unsolvable problems." Harden himself wrote, "It is silly to pretend that the Columbia is a river in the sense that Lewis and Clark understood it. The river was killed more than sixty years ago and was reborn as plumbing." Yet whatever his personal opinions, "Harden provides a sensitive and thoughtful examination of a complex situation," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Finally, according to Carolyn Maddux, writing in the Antioch Review, A River Lost also compares favorably to several other works on the topic, "being perhaps the most readable of the new issues."

When Harden returned to reporting, he hired on with the New York Times, working first for the metro desk and later as a national correspondent.



Amicus Journal, fall, 1996, James Marcus, review of A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia, pp. 43-44.

Annals of American Academy of Political and SocialScience, July, 1992, review of Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, pp. 160+.

Antioch Review, spring, 1997, Carolyn Maddux, review of A River Lost, p. 241.

Atlantic Monthly, November, 1990, review of Africa, pp. 169-172.

Audubon, July, 1996, p. 113.

Booklist, April 15, 1996, Dennis Dodge, review of ARiver Lost, p. 1400; October 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of The Best American Science and Nature Writing, p. 369.

Business Week, January 14, 1991, Jonathan Kapstein, review of Africa, p. 19.

Choice, December, 1996, review of A River Lost, p. 636.

Economist, October 19, 1996, review of A River Lost, pp. S6-S7.

Foreign Affairs, summer, 1991, Gail M. Gerhart, review of Africa, p. 184.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1996, review of A RiverLost, pp. 349-350.

Library Journal, April 1, 1996, Tim J. Markus, review of A River Lost, pp. 109-110.

New Scientist, December 6, 1997, review of A RiverLost, p. 49.

New York Times Book Review, July 21, 1996, Hal Espen, review of A River Lost, p. 30; December 8, 1996, review of A River Lost, p. 92; February 15, 1998, review of A River Lost, p. 36.

Perspectives on Political Science, spring, 1992, review of Africa, p. 113.

Publishers Weekly, August 17, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Africa, p. 58; March 11, 1996, review of A River Lost, p. 47.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, WA), June 7, 1996, review of A River Lost, p. 21; August 23, 1996, "Reporter Turns Bosnia-Trained Eye to a Natural-Resource War Zone," p. 20.

Seattle Times (Seattle, WA), June 23, 1996, review of A River Lost, p. M2.

Times Educational Supplement, June 25, 1993, review of Africa, p. 10.

Tribune Books (Chicago), December 23, 1990, p. 4.

Underwater Naturalist, February, 1999, p. 46.

Village Voice, January 7, 1997, review of A River Lost, p. 43.

Washington Monthly, July-August, 1996, Phil Keisling, review of A River Lost, pp. 58-59.

Washington Post Book World, September 30, 1990, p. 4; June 2, 1996, review of A River Lost, pp. 3+.


New York Times,http://www.nytimes.com/learning/students/ask_reporters/Blaine_Harden.html/ (May 10, 2003).*