Ian Urbina

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Ian Urbina
Born (1972-03-29) March 29, 1972 (age 51)
Alma materGeorgetown University
University of Chicago
OccupationInvestigative reporter
Organization(s)The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Outlaw Ocean Project
AwardsPulitzer prize, Christopher Dickey Award[1]

Ian Urbina (born March 29, 1972) is an American investigative reporter who has written for a variety of outlets, including The New York Times and The Atlantic.[2] Urbina is the author of The New York Times bestseller The Outlaw Ocean and founder of journalism nonprofit, The Outlaw Ocean Project.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

As a student at St Albans[4] and Georgetown University, Urbina was a long-distance runner.[5][6]

Urbina has degrees in history from Georgetown University and the University of Chicago.[7]


Urbina was outreach editor at the Middle East Research and Information Project from 2000-2003.[8]

A 2007 New York Times investigation by Urbina about "mag crews" — traveling groups of teenagers, many of them runaways or from broken homes, who sell magazine subscriptions — was optioned for a 2016 movie, American Honey, directed by Andrea Arnold and starring Shia LaBeouf.[9]

In 2008, Urbina was a member of the team of reporters that broke the story about the New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, and his use of prostitutes, a series of stories for which the Times staff won a Pulitzer in 2009 for breaking news.[10]

In 2011, Urbina wrote a series "Drilling Down" about the oil and gas industry and fracking.[11][12][13] John Krasinski said that the 2012 film Promised Land was partly inspired by the series.[14]

In 2013, he wrote a story about longterm exposure to hazardous chemicals and the federal agency, OSHA, which is responsible for protecting against these workplace threats.[15] For The New York Times Magazine, he wrote in 2014, a piece called "The Secret Life of Passwords" about the anecdotes and emotions hidden in everyday web-users' "secure" passwords.[16]

He left The New York Times in May 2019 to found the non-profit journalism organization, The Outlaw Ocean Project.[17][18]

In 2022, ‘Get Away from the Target’, a documentary film for which Urbina was Executive Producer, won an Emmy Award.[19][20]

The Outlaw Ocean[edit]

In 2015, Urbina wrote a series called "The Outlaw Ocean" about lawlessness on the high seas.[21][22][23][24] To report the stories, Urbina traveled through Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, much of that time spent on fishing ships, chronicling a diversity of crimes offshore, including the killing of stowaways, sea slavery, intentional dumping, illegal fishing, the stealing of ships, gun-running, stranding of crews, and murder with impunity.[25] This series served as the basis of the 2019 book, The Outlaw Ocean, which has since been published in various countries and languages.[26][27] In 2015, Leonardo DiCaprio, Netflix, and Kevin Misher bought the scripted and non-scripted rights for The Outlaw Ocean.[28] The series won various journalism awards, including the George Polk Awards for Foreign Reporting,[29] and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Foreign Correspondence from the Society of Professional Journalists.[30]

In 2019, Urbina created Synesthesia Media and recruited hundreds of musicians from more than 80 countries for his Outlaw Ocean Music Project.[31]

In 2021, Urbina was accused by musicians of exploiting recording artists through the Outlaw Ocean Music Project. Musician Benn Jordan claimed Urbina kept most of the revenue from the Outlaw Ocean Music Project for himself and his company, Synesthesia Media. Urbina was listed on streaming services as co-author of more than 2,000 songs by more than 400 artists in the project. Musicians shared emails showing that Urbina had solicited them through his New York Times email address for the project, when he was no longer at The Times, and that Urbina had not disclosed that Synesthesia was in fact owned by him. Urbina responded that he did not profit from the project.[32][33] The New York Times said it was “looking into the matter.”[34][35]

In 2022, Urbana released a self-hosted, 7-part podcast series by The Outlaw Ocean Project, in collaboration with the CBC and LA Times.[36]


  • 2019: The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier. Knopf Doubleday, New York 2019, ISBN 978-0451492944.
  • 2005: Life's Little Annoyances: True Tales of People Who Just Can't Take It Anymore. Reprint, Henry Holt and Company, New York 2010, ISBN 978-0805083033.


  1. ^ "Academy Partners With FilmAid for Conversation Series About Craft of Filmmaking". Hollywood Reporter. October 5, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  2. ^ "Ian Urbina Joins The Atlantic as Contributing Writer". The Atlantic. The Atlantic. August 15, 2019. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  3. ^ "The Tactics Behind a New Investigation by Ian Urbina & The Outlaw Ocean Project". Myrtle Beach. January 20, 2022. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  4. ^ Sonner, Tim (September 28, 1989). "Free from pain, St. Albans' Urbina regains momentum". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  5. ^ Graber, Michael (November 24, 1994). "Hoyas men chase 1st National Championship". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  6. ^ Niewiaroski, Donna (October 11, 1993). "Running". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  7. ^ "Author Biography". Macmillan. Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  8. ^ "Ian Urbina - MERIP". MERIP. Retrieved July 5, 2003.
  9. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael. "'American Honey': Travels with a youthful subculture, fleeing crushed dreams". Washington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  10. ^ "The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Breaking News Reporting". www.pulitzer.org. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  11. ^ McKibben, Bill (March 8, 2012). "Why Not Frack?". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  12. ^ Petit, Charlie. "New York Times Science Times". Knight Science Journalism at MIT. MIT. Archived from the original on June 2, 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  13. ^ Kennedy, Robert F. (October 20, 2011). "The Fracking Industry's War on The New York Times and the Truth". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  14. ^ Karpel, Ari (January 2, 2013). "Matt Damon and John Krasinski on making "Promised Land," A Non-Message Message Movie". Fast Company. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  15. ^ Starkman, Dean. "Three things to like about the Times OSHA exposé". Columbia Journalism Review. Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  16. ^ Urbina, Ian (November 23, 2014). "The Secret Life of Passwords". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  17. ^ "Ian Urbina issues apology after controversy erupts over The Outlaw Ocean Music Project". Fader magazine. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  18. ^ "A Former 'New York Times' Reporter Allegedly Exploited Artists". UPROXX. December 5, 2021. Retrieved December 7, 2021.
  19. ^ "Ian Urbina: Los delitos ambientales y contra los derechos humanos van mano a mano". Efe Verde. Retrieved October 19, 2022.
  20. ^ "ABC, Vice Lead 2022 News Emmy Award Winners". Variety. Retrieved October 2, 2022.
  21. ^ Murphy, Tim. "Deep Dive". The University of Chicago Magazine. The University of Chicago. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  22. ^ Torrence, Marc (February 17, 2016). "Murder, Slavery, A Harrowing Chase: Behind the Journalism Series That's Changing the Oceans". Patch.com. Patch Media. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  23. ^ Damanski, Maria. "Quick Take: Growing Momentum to Fight Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing". Talk. Nature.org. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  24. ^ Ryan, Chris (July 20, 2015). "'True Detective,' Season 2, Episode 5: 'Other Lives'". Grantland. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  25. ^ "Long Island University Announces 67th Annual George Polk Awards In Journalism". PR Newswire. PR Newswire. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  26. ^ Iglesias, Gabino (August 21, 2019). "'The Outlaw Ocean': A Forgotten Frontier Where Slavery And Illegal Activities Abound". NPR. NPR. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  27. ^ "The Outlaw Ocean Book". The Outlaw Ocean. Ian Urbina. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  28. ^ "The Tracking Board". The Tracking Board. June 20, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  29. ^ "Long Island University Announces 67th Annual George Polk Awards In Journalism". Long Island University. February 14, 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  30. ^ "2015 SIGMA DELTA CHI AWARD HONOREES". www.spj.org. Society of Professional Journalists. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  31. ^ Colin, Molly. "Art and Advocacy Combine in The Outlaw Ocean Music Project". www.sfcv.org. The San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  32. ^ Wise, Jeff (December 13, 2021). "Ian Urbina's Perfect Storm – Did a journalist get into the music business to help the oceans or help himself?". Intelligencer. Retrieved December 22, 2021.
  33. ^ Urbina, Ian. "An Apology from Ian". The Outlaw Ocean Music Project. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  34. ^ Leight, Elias (December 6, 2021). "A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Reporter Has Been Accused of 'Scamming' Musicians". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 7, 2021.
  35. ^ Stokel-Walker, Chris. "Did a former 'NYT' reporter exploit musicians for his personal gain?". Input. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  36. ^ "'Do something small': One journalist sees solutions for world's oceans". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved October 8, 2022.

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