William Langewiesche

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William Langewiesche
William Langewiesche
Born William Langewiesche
June 12, 1955 (age 59)
Occupation Journalist, author, aviator
Nationality American
Genre non-fiction

William Langewiesche (pronounced:long-gah-vee-shuh)[1] (born June 12, 1955)[2] is an American author and journalist who was also a professional airplane pilot for many years. Since 2006 he has been the international correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine.


William Langewiesche is currently the international correspondent for the magazine Vanity Fair, a position he has held since 2006. Prior to that, he was the national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly magazine where he was nominated for eight consecutive National Magazine Awards. He has written articles covering a wide range of topics from shipbreaking, wine critics, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, modern ocean piracy, nuclear proliferation, and the World Trade Center cleanup.

Langewiesche grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, and attended college in California, where he received a degree in cultural anthropology from Stanford University.[3] He spent much of his time on various jobs flying airplanes, a skill he had acquired because of his family background.[4]

After college Langewiesche moved to New York City and went to work as a writer for Flying (magazine), a large-circulation publication for general aviation pilots.[3] While there he wrote technical reports on the flight characteristics of various airplanes, and profiles of people. In his mid-twenties, he quit the job in order to write books—one non-fiction, and two novels—none of which was published.[3]

He continued to travel and write, supporting himself by flying airplanes. The travels eventually took Langewiesche to the most remote parts of the Sahara desert and sub-Saharan West Africa.[3] This became the subject of a cover story for The Atlantic Monthly, in 1991, and later of a book titled Sahara Unveiled.[5] The Atlantic sent Langewiesche to many parts of the world and increasingly into conflict zones.[5] In 2006, while living in Baghdad to cover the Iraq war, Langewiesche left The Atlantic and went to work for Vanity Fair.[4]

After the attacks of 9/11, Langewiesche was the only journalist given full unrestricted access to the World Trade Center site.[5] He stayed there for nearly six months and produced "American Ground," a serialized report in the Atlantic Monthly that is one of the longest magazine articles in US publishing history.[4] American Ground became a New York Times national bestselling book.[6]

In 2014 William Langewiesche was involved in a Chevron Corporation v. Donziger controversy.[7] Steven Donziger filed a $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador over pollution at oil-drilling sites, a video surfaced of judge in Ecuador admitting that he already made up his mind on how to rule even before all evidence was submitted. Chevron filed a suit in USA asking Donziger to release all emails related to the case. Some of the emails were between Donziger and William Langewiesche.

Donziger convinced the magazine Vanity Fair to do a long and extraordinary sympathetic story about the case. Steven Donziger’s wife at the time worked in corporate communications at Condé Nast, (the magazine’s publisher).[7] Emails revealed that Steven Donziger told William Langewiesche what questions to ask Chevron and Langewiesche also asked Donziger and his legal staff prepared a legitimate excuse for avoiding a face-to-face meeting with Chevron officials. “I want to avoid a meeting, simply because I do NOT have the time. But I don’t want to go on record refusing a meeting,” writes Langewiesche. “Perhaps I could say that my travel schedule is intense . . . ”[7] Langewiesche went as far as submitting his communication with Chevron for Donziger to read, edit and approve. “What say, Steve. I gotta send this tonight”, “Let me know if this works,”, “I was a little aggressive in the editing.”[7]

Langewiesche also sent Steven Donziger a copy of the Vanity Fair story several weeks before it was published and added “particularly satisfying to the extent that it supports your efforts, and you personally.” In his article Langewiesche used numbers that were provided by a paid expert hired by Donziger, the expert originally said that it may cost $6 billion to clean up sites in Ecuador, however only a few months later he realized he made a mistake and wrote to Donziger “a ticking time bomb which will come back to bite you, and very badly, if anyone attempts due diligence on it.” Knowing these facts William Langewiesche still used a wrong number to paint Chevron in a negative way.After writing the story William Langewiesche wrote to Donziger “You and I are now firmly on the same side,” “But actually we were about an hour after I met you.”[7]

The article in question, “Jungle Law,” [8] documented the soil and groundwater pollution caused by drilling for oil in the Ecuadorean Amazon, and the inadequacy of remediation efforts. Langewiesche defended his account and described his reporting efforts in detail in a 2014 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald and in a post on vanityfair.com:

However unhappy Chevron may be about the article, in the seven years since publication, the company has never disputed a single point or fact that it contained. Rather than going after the content, they went after me—and in terms very similar to those now used by Mr. Garvin in the Miami Herald.[9]


Langewiesche is the son of Wolfgang Langewiesche, author of Stick and Rudder. He lives in New York and France.



  • 2007 National Magazine Award for Public Interest for Rules of Engagement
  • 2002 National Magazine Award for Reporting for The Crash of EgyptAir 990


  • 2008 National Magazine Award for Reporting for City of Fear
  • 2007 Michael Kelly Award.
  • 2006 National Magazine Award for Reporting for The Wrath of Khan
  • 2005 Lettre Ulysses Award for The Outlaw Sea
  • 2005 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing for A Sea Story
  • 2004 National Magazine Award for Reporting for Columbia's Last Flight
  • 2004 Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage for American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center
  • 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center
  • 2002 National Book Critic’s Circle Award for American Ground: Unbuilding The World Trade Center
  • 2001 National Magazine Award for Profiles for The Million-Dollar Nose
  • 2000 National Magazine Award for Profiles for Eden: A Gated Community
  • 1999 National Magazine Award for Reporting for The Lessons of ValuJet 592
  • 1992 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing for The World in Its Extreme

Partial Bibliography[edit]


Magazine Articles[edit]

Newspaper Articles[edit]


External links[edit]