Michael Specter

Michael Specter

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Michael Specter is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

 who has been a staff writer, focusing on science and technology, and global public health at The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

since September 1998. He has also written for The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

and The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...



Specter initially covered local news at The Washington Post in 1985, then became a national science reporter for the Post and finally New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 bureau chief. In 1991, Specter transferred to the Times, where from 1994 to 1998 he was based in Moscow. In 1995, he was appointed co-chief of the Times Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 bureau, and while in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 he covered the war in Chechnya
The Chechen Republic , commonly referred to as Chechnya , also spelled Chechnia or Chechenia, sometimes referred to as Ichkeria , is a federal subject of Russia . It is located in the southeastern part of Europe in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The capital of the republic is the city of Grozny...

, the 1996 Russian presidential elections
Russian presidential election, 1996
Presidential elections were held in Russia in 1996. Incumbent Russian President Boris Yeltsin was seeking a four-year term after officially winning the 1991 presidential election. The first round was held on 16 June 1996...

, and the declining state of Russian health care among other stories. In 1998, he became a roving correspondent based in Rome covering topics as varied as Europe's demographic crisis, Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

's Florentine Pietà and the spread of AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

 in Africa.

His 2009 book, Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives (ISBN 978-1594202308), explores the ways in which people in the United States and Europe have increasingly rejected scientific truths, backed by impressive data, instead embracing what often seem to be more comfortable fictions – about issues such as the value of organic food, vaccine safety, and personal genomics. He recently delivered a talk titled "The danger of science denial" at TED
TED (conference)
TED is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate "ideas worth spreading"....


At The New Yorker, he has written about the global AIDS epidemic, avian influenza, malaria, scientific efforts to resurrect extinct viruses, synthetic biology, genetically modified food, efforts to mine the human genome to fight disease, and the world’s diminishing freshwater resources. He has also written profiles of many people, including Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong
Lance Edward Armstrong is an American former professional road racing cyclist who won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times, after having survived testicular cancer. He is also the founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research and support...

, Richard Branson
Richard Branson
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is an English business magnate, best known for his Virgin Group of more than 400 companies....

, the ethicist Peter Singer
Peter Singer
Peter Albert David Singer is an Australian philosopher who is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne...

, P. Diddy, Manolo Blahnik
Manolo Blahnik
Manuel "Manolo" Blahnik Rodríguez CBE, , is a Spanish fashion designer and founder of the self-named, high-end shoe brand.-Biography:Born to a Czech father and a Spanish mother and born and raised in the Canary Islands , Blahnik graduated from the University of Geneva in 1965 and studied art in Paris...

, AIDS activist Larry Kramer
Larry Kramer
Larry Kramer is an American playwright, author, public health advocate, and LGBT rights activist. He began his career rewriting scripts while working for Columbia Pictures, which led him to London where he worked with United Artists. There he wrote the screenplay for Women in Love in 1969, earning...

, and Ingrid Newkirk
Ingrid Newkirk
Ingrid Newkirk is a British-born animal rights activist and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals , the world's largest animal rights organization...

, the highly controversial founder of PETA
Peta can refer to:* peta-, an SI prefix denoting a factor of 1015* Peta, Greece, a town in Greece* Peta, the Pāli word for a Preta, or hungry ghost in Buddhism* Peta Wilson, an Australian actress and model* Peta Todd, English glamour model...



In 1996, Specter was awarded the Overseas Press Club Citation for Excellence for his coverage of the War in Chechnya. In 2002, he won the A.A.A.S.
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the...

 Science Journalism Award. He has also twice received the Global Health Council's Annual Excellence in Media Award- for his piece about AIDS in India, “India's Plague” (12/17/01) and for one about AIDS and the population crisis in Russia ,“The Devastation,“.

In 2009, Specter received the Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking for his book Denialism. The yearly award is given by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry to the author of the published work that best exemplifies healthy skepticism, logical analysis, or empirical science.


Specter is a son of Howard and Eileen Specter. He was previously married to Alessandra Stanley
Alessandra Stanley
Alessandra Stanley is an American journalist. In 2003 she became the television critic for The New York Times. Stanley was previously co-chief of the paper's Moscow bureau, Rome bureau chief, and as a correspondent for Time. She is the daughter of defense expert Timothy W...

, now a television critic for The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

. They have one daughter, Emma.

Specter is a 1977 graduate of Vassar College
Vassar College
Vassar College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, in the United States. The Vassar campus comprises over and more than 100 buildings, including four National Historic Landmarks, ranging in style from Collegiate Gothic to International,...


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