Vanessa M. Gezari is the James Madison Visiting Professor on First Amendment Issues. Before coming to Columbia, she taught narrative nonfiction and war reporting at the University of Michigan.
Since 2001, her reporting has taken her to four continents, nine countries, and many corners of the United States. On the eve of September 11, she left the U.S. to freelance in South Asia and spent the next three years reporting from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Kashmir, and Sri Lanka, for the Chicago Tribune and others. Gezari went on to become a national writer for the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times), where she wrote a narrative account of a West Virginia mine collapse, explored the veracity of rape allegations against Duke lacrosse players long before the world had reason to doubt them, traveled the Gulf Coast to document the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and reported on terrorism, disaster, and resilience from Russia, England, Indonesia, and Liberia.
Gezari’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Slate, The New Republic, Mother Jones, and Columbia Journalism Review, among others. She has trained Afghan journalists with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and mentored reporters and editors at Pajhwok Afghan News, Afghanistan’s largest independent news agency. Her 2013 book, The Tender Soldier: A True Story of War and Sacrifice, is a narrative account of an ambitious, troubled Army program that sends civilian social scientists into combat with soldiers to help them understand local culture, and of one idealistic group of Americans who risked everything to try to change the course of the war in Afghanistan.