Gary Lee (journalist)

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Gary Lee
Education Phillips Academy
Alma mater Amherst College
Occupation journalist,
travel writer
Years active 33
Employer Washington Post,
Time Magazine
Home town Tulsa, Oklahoma
Awards Lowell Thomas,[1]

Gary Lee is an award-winning American journalist with a focus on foreign policy, travel writing and environmental issues. He wrote for the Washington Post as well as Time Magazine. He speaks five languages including Russian[2] German, French and Spanish, and he was the Washington Post's Moscow Bureau Chief.[2][3] He was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for foreign coverage and won the Lowell Thomas Award for travel journalism for his coverage of 9/11.[1][2] He was elected to the position of charter trustee at Phillips Academy in 2009. In 2007, he left the Washington Post to become a freelance journalist.[4]


Lee grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the fourth child in a family of eleven. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts between 1970 and '74. His studies there centered on English literature and modern languages. He began his reporting career at Andover as a writer for The Phillipian, the campus newspaper, and general manager of WPAA, the school's radio station. Lee, in a later interview with travel writer Ross Potts, thought that his parents realized that he had a wanderlust and urge to explore the world.[5] Lee graduated from Andover in 1974, the school's first co-educational class; among his classmates were many future writers, including poets Chris Agee and Karl Kirchwey, writer Nate Lee, publisher and activist Ted Nace, editor Sara Nelson, and political analyst and writer Heather Mac Donald. Lee completed his secondary school education in studies at Uppingham School, a private academy in Rutland County, England. Lee attended Amherst College and graduated cum laude in 1979, with a double major in Russian language and Development Studies with particular interest in Africa. He was editor in chief of the Amherst Student, the campus newspaper, an avid track runner, and dj of a jazz radio program.


In his early career, Lee worked at Time Magazine first as a writer focusing on the environment and later as a correspondent in the magazine's bureau in Germany. In 1984, he was hired by the Washington Post and became the paper's bureau chief in Moscow from 1985-1989. There he led the coverage of the era of then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a later interview, he described the experience as both "brutal and exhilarating" since it forced him to "bang out long pieces on deadline almost daily". Lee also covered Congress and served as the Post's National Environmental writer. Later, he became a travel writer for the Post specializing in eco tourism, and cultural travel issues. According to Lee's own accounting, he has written about more than 80 countries, stayed in over a thousand hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts on assignments.[4] He has camped out near the Potomac River as well as taken the Trans-Siberian railway in Russia. In his reporting, Lee advised travelers on such matters as getting around Moscow,[6] ecologically correct hotels,[7] safety on cruise ships,[8] travel to Canada,[9] dining options,[10][11] avoiding hurricanes in the Caribbean,[12] tipping customs,[13] private tour guides,[14] and many other travel-related matters. Since 2007, Lee has written articles on sociological travel trends and environmental issues for several national magazines.

Lee was interviewed by travel writer Rolf Potts who assembled a collection of "globe-trotting authors", including Lee in his blog "Rolf Potts' Vagabonding Blog".[15] Lee advises would-be travel writers to learn a foreign language to help one "gain insight into how another culture ticks."[15] In an interview, Lee described his approach to travel writing:

When I arrive at a destination, I like to have a plan for what I want to focus on: music in Salvador Bahia, Brazil, art galleries in Dallas and Fort Worth, dive bars in LA, and so on. But I always grapple with how much I should stick with the plan and how much to riff, be serendipitous and follow the natural path that unwinds through every place.[15] — Gary Lee, Interview in Rolf Potts' "Vagabonding"

According to the Washington Post, he loves "exotic digestibles" such as "mare's milk in Mongolia."[16] In addition to his writing, Lee is co-founder and co-owner of Las Canteras Restaurant, voted the top Latin restaurant in Washington, D.C. in 2011 and 2012. He is also helped to start and is co-owner and marketing director of Casa Arequipa, a boutique hotel in Arequipa, Peru cited by Tripadvisor as one of the top 25 hotels in South America in 2012.[5]

Charity work and volunteering[edit]

Lee was elected to the position of charter trustee of Phillips Academy in 2009, and helps organize events such as Non-sibi day as well as hosting and speaking at alumni events.[5][17] He received Andover's "Distinguished Service Award" in 1998.[17] He's a member of the Ted Scripps Fellowships Advisory Board at the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado.[17] Lee has served as a board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. He was a founder and co-chair of the newsroom diversity committee at The Washington Post.


  1. ^ a b "Notable Alumni in the field of Journalism". Phillips Academy. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  2. ^ a b c "Where In the World". Edge Travel Magazine. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  3. ^ Ken Ringle (August 6, 1998). "The New Yorker's Literary Lion Cub". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  4. ^ a b Gary Lee (November 2, 2007). "Ten Favorite Hotels". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  5. ^ a b c "Gary Lee 1974". Phillips Academy. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  6. ^ Gary Lee (October 26, 2007). "Moscow Calling: Tips for the Trip". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  7. ^ Gary Lee (October 25, 2007). "In D.C., It's Easy Going Green". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  8. ^ Gary Lee (October 4, 2007). "Are Cruise Ships Safe?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  9. ^ Gary Lee (September 13, 2007). "Is Canada the Boring Girl Next Door?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  10. ^ Gary Lee (August 10, 2007). "Put That French Fry Down!". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  11. ^ Gary Lee (August 27, 2007). "Domino's Pizza and Other Healthy Dining Options". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  12. ^ Gary Lee (July 19, 2007). "Hurricane Season: Too Risky for Caribbean Travel?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  13. ^ Gary Lee (May 17, 2007). "$32 Tip Included". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  14. ^ Gary Lee (March 5, 2007). "Private Tour Guides: Worth It?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  15. ^ a b c Rolf Potts (2007). "Travel Writers". Rolf Potts' Vagabonding. Retrieved 2016-11-12. ...for a Pulitzer Prize for articles about Gorbachev's Russia. 
  16. ^ Staff writer (December 8, 2006). "Blogger Profile: Gary Lee". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  17. ^ a b c "Phillips Academy Names Five New Trustees". Phillips academy. June 30, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 

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