From Unearthing Crime Here and Abroad
To Tackling Tales of Alien Abductions
IN HIS 45 YEARS AS one of the top reporters at The New York Times, Ralph Blumenthal has covered subjects that range from the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to the Tawana Brawley racial hoax, and from Nazi war criminals hiding in America to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He has been a foreign correspondent reporting from West Germany and Vietnam; a national correspondent in Texas; a prize-winning investigative reporter in New York; and a member of the metro staff as well as a culture reporter.
Blumenthal has authored books that further reflect his wide range of interests. They include “Miracle at Sing Sing: How One Man Transformed the Lives of America’s Most Dangerous Prisoners,” a portrait of warden Lewis E. Lawes, and “Stork Club: America’s Most Famous Nightspot and the Lost World of Café Society.”
For his latest book, Blumenthal found something completely new to write about, something literally out of this world. The book, just out, is “The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack,” the tale of John E. Mack, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist who evaluated the stories of men and women who claimed to have been temporarily abducted by extraterrestrial beings. (For the story behind the story of “The Believer,” there’s a piece by Blumenthal in the January issue of Silurian News.)
On Wednesday, March 17, Blumenthal, a long-time Silurian and a former member of the club’s Board of Governors, will be on hand via Zoom to talk to us about “The Believer” as well as the many subjects he’s covered for The Times, the only newspaper he’s ever worked for.
The date: Wednesday, March 17, 2021.
The time: Noon, via Zoom.
The place: Whatever device you use to access Zoom.
So please make sure to check your emails from Silurian president Michael Serrill for details on how to register.
Blumenthal actually began producing copy for The Times when he was still a student at City College of New York in the early ’60s. He was editor of The Campus, CCNY’s student paper, and managed to snag a job as a Times stringer. He graduated in 1963, continued his education at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and in 1964, was hired fulltime by The Times as a news clerk. Within months, he was appointed to the metro staff. In 1968, when he was 26, he was a foreign correspondent reporting from Bonn, West Germany, and writing about such matters as the Soviet incursion into Czechoslovakia, the rise of neo-Nazism and the economic boom in West Germany. In 1969, The Times sent Blumenthal to Saigon, from where he reported on the war in Vietnam and its spread to Cambodia.
He returned to New York in 1971, and became an investigative reporter who specialized in stories about foreign and American corruption and organized crime. Among the highlights of his career: Being the lead reporter on the team that covered the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, bringing The Times a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage; being the first American reporter to learn of Kurt Waldheim’s secret Nazi past; co-authoring a series on fatal crashes by USAir, an effort that prompted new safety procedures, garnered a Pulitzer nomination, and earning Blumenthal the 1994 Worth Bingham prize for investigative journalism. His other awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Alumni Award.
Blumenthal joined the culture news department as an arts news reporter in 1994, winning a Times Publisher’s Award for co-writing a series on an antitrust scandal at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. He went to Houston in 2003 to cover the Southwest, reporting on death penalty cases, President George W. Bush’s military record, and a polygamous cult.
Blumenthal retired from The Times in 2009 and started teaching journalism in the summer program of Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., in 2010. That same year, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer at Baruch College in New York, where he currently oversees historic collections in the college’s Newman Library Archives.