A longtime writer and editor for National Geographic, Don Belt is an award-winning journalist, an educator and public speaker, and an experienced communications strategist working on behalf of worthwhile causes and organizations. He brings a global and humanistic perspective to every project, ranging from editing the first-ever National Geographic retrospective on Islam (above) to exploring the frontiers of journalism in the digital age. Favorite speaking topics include Lawrence of Arabia and the making of the modern Middle East, Slow Journalism, the Out of Eden Walk project, the geopolitics of Water, and his three decades covering the world for National Geographic.
One of Don’s most popular speaking topics, SYRIA today is in the aftermath of a brutal civil war that was years in the making. For an in-depth look at the modern history of Syria, including an interview with President Bashar al-Assad, see Don’s story in the November 2009 issue of National Geographic, with photographs by Ed Kashi.
For further insights on Syria and foreign affairs in general, Follow Don on Twitter: @dbelt50.
Don taught an interactive workshop and spoke at NYU Shanghai during opening festivities for “Walking China,” a public exhibition of creative work from Chinese artists, poets, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, and non-fiction storytellers who’ve been inspired by the Out of Eden Walk and Paul Salopek’s trek across the Middle Kingdom. Shanghai, China
Don taught “Home Stories: Slow Storytelling and the Out of Eden Walk” to 30 incoming students at NYU-Shanghai, sharing the literary and multimedia highlights of the Out of Eden project while inspiring students to practice slow storytelling in their hometowns around the world. Richmond, VA and Shanghai, China
Don taught an online adaptation of his Walk on Campus workshop to 15 educators at the weeks-long Joan Oates Institute, a summer enrichment program for Richmond public school teachers organized by the University of Richmond’s Partners in the Arts program. Richmond, VA
Don taught a course in International Reporting at the University of Richmond, which examined historical and media perspectives on two unfolding international stories: the pullout of US troops from Afghanistan and the massing of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine. Richmond, VA
Don taught an online adaptation of his Walk on Campus workshop to 40 educators at the weeks-long Joan Oates Institute, a summer enrichment program for Richmond public school teachers organized by the University of Richmond’s Partners in the Arts. Richmond, VA
Don taught an expanded version of his Pulitzer Center Walk on Campus workshop to 30 journalism professors and grad students in the honors program at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas. He also addressed students of long-form narrative, sharing insights from his career at National Geographic. Austin, TX
Along with UR International Education and the Pulitzer Center, Don hosted “India: Environment Undone,” an online discussion with two brave, enterprising Indian journalists, Disha Shetti and Tish Sanghera, whose work on environmental controversies in India has been supported by the Pulitzer Center and other publications. Richmond, VA and Delhi, India
Don taught an online adaptation of his Walk on Campus workshop to 40 educators at the week-long Joan Oates Institute, a summer enrichment program for Richmond public school teachers organized by the University of Richmond Partners in the Arts. Richmond, VA
On the eve of the coronavirus lockdown in early March, Don taught an expanded version of his Pulitzer Center Walk on Campus workshop to 30 journalism professors and grad students at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas. He also participated in a roundtable discussion with students of long-form narrative. Austin, TX
Shortly before the holidays, Don met with creative writing students and taught a customized version of his Pulitzer Center Walk on Campus workshop to 20 professors of English, journalism, and other disciplines at LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York. Queens, NY
On August 15 Don taught an expanded version of his Pulitzer Center Walk on Campus workshop to 35 educators at the Joan Oates Institute, a summer enrichment program for Richmond public school teachers organized by the University of Richmond Partners in the Arts. Richmond VA
From November 13-16 Don joined Paul Salopek, Prem Panicker, and Arati Kumar Rao to teach the third and final National Geographic Out of Eden Slow Journalism Workshop in India, sharing the concepts and techniques of immersive reporting with 20 professional Indian journalists. Kolkata, India
From September 4-7 Don joined Paul Salopek, Prem Panicker, and Arati Kumar Rao to teach the second of three National Geographic Out of Eden Slow Journalism Workshops in Chennai. His summary of the workshop is here. Chennai, India
On August 22 Don taught an expanded version of his Pulitzer Center Walk on Campus workshop to more than 30 educators at the Joan Oates Institute, a summer enrichment program for Richmond public school teachers organized by the University of Richmond Partners in the Arts. Richmond, VA
From June 26-28 Don taught an expanded version of his Pulitzer Center Walk on Campus workshop to more than 30 educators at the Joan Oates Institute, a summer enrichment program for Richmond public school teachers organized by the University of Richmond Partners in the Arts. Richmond, VA
From May 14-17 Don joined Paul Salopek in Delhi, India to teach a four-day National Geographic/Out of Eden slow journalism workshop for early- and mid-career journalists reporting on the Indian capital. Other faculty included Prem Panicker, former Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! India and renowned photojournalist Arati Kumar Rao. Don’s article for National Geographic about the workshop is here. Delhi, India
In mid-March Don visited Cornell University, lecturing to graduate students, meeting with undergrads, and presenting his Pulitzer Center Walk on Campus workshop to faculty from various departments on Friday, March 16. Ithaca, New York
On January 19 Don delivered a lecture on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the University of Richmond, then led students, faculty, and the public on a slow journalism excursion into nearby Jackson Ward, a historic black neighborhood in downtown Richmond. Relating Dr. King’s concept of a “beloved community” to the humanitarian mission of Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk, Don introduced participants to local residents who shared the history and culture of Jackson Ward. Richmond, VA
On November 29 Don visited LaGuardia Community College, where he delivered a lecture to journalism majors in the morning and presented his Pulitzer Center/Out of Eden workshop to several dozen professors from various departments in the afternoon. The afternoon session was part of an ongoing faculty development seminar, “Learning for a Connected World: Curricular Redesign in International Studies.” Long Island City, New York
On November 4 Don presented the Pulitzer Center/Out of Eden workshop at the University of Richmond, sharing his slow journalism curriculum with visiting university professors and a select group of Richmond public school teachers in a joint, community-oriented program. Richmond, VA
On July 19 and 20, Don joined several colleagues from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to present the Out of Eden Walk to some 30,000 Boy Scouts at the BSA’s annual National Jubilee. West Virginia
In March Don lectured at a number of universities in California. At San Diego State, he presented his Pulitzer Center/Out of Eden Walk on Campus workshop to San Diego educators, followed by a lecture on Slow Journalism to students and faculty. He also spoke to graduate students in Journalism at UC Berkeley, and presented the Out of Eden Walk to dozens of students of anthropology and geography at UC Santa Cruz. While in San Francisco, Don also delivered his lecture, “Crossing Invisible Borders,” to the executives and staff of Delta Dental Corporation. California
In October and November 2016, Don lectured on a National Geographic Expeditions trip to destinations around the world, including Peru, Easter Island, Samoa, Australia, Cambodia, Nepal, China, India, Tanzania, Jordan, and Morocco. Planet Earth
On September 23-24, Don appeared at Syracuse University to speak to students about his career as a National Geographic writer, and also to share the work of Paul Salopek on the Out of Eden Walk project. The next day, he conducted his Pulitzer Center/Out of Eden Walk on Campus workshop for faculty at the Newhouse School. Syracuse, NY
On September 20 Don and Jeff South, Associate Professor of Journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University, presented a six-hour Out of Eden Walk workshop at Excellence in Journalism 2016, the annual convention of the Society of Professional Journalists. New Orleans, LA
On August 4 Don appeared as a panelist at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) in Minneapolis. Devoted to the subject of “Slow Journalism and Why it Matters in an Age of Instant Information,” the program will be moderated by Michael Longinow of Biola University. Minneapolis, MN
On June 19 Don and National Geographic photographer Ed Kashi delivered an illustrated presentation, “Syria Before the Storm,” as the closing lecture of LOOK3, the international festival of arts and photography held each year in Charlottesville, VA. Ed’s photographs of Syria were exhibited from June 3 to July 10 at nearby Les Yeux du Monde Gallery, a local sponsor of the Festival. Charlottesville, VA
On June 2 Don delivered an illustrated presentation, “Syria and Sykes-Picot: A Recipe for Scrambled Eggs,” to an audience at Harvard Law School that included law school faculty and the Leadership Summit of LCLD, a non-profit organization working to build a more diverse and inclusive legal profession. Cambridge, MA
On April 8 Don addressed the International Education Conference at the University of Chicago, delivering a keynote on the value of global citizenship followed by a workshop for university and secondary school educators on using the Out of Eden Walk in the classroom. Chicago, IL
On April 25 Don appeared as a panelist at “Religion in the Public Sphere,” a symposium hosted by Washington University and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, with support from the Henry Luce Foundation. St. Louis, MO
On October 30, Don conducted his Walk on Campus workshop in Chicago, sharing his Out of Eden Walk “slow journalism” curriculum with more than a dozen university professors from the midwest at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. The workshop was presented in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
On October 23 Don delivered the Marshall Center Lecture on T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) to the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond.
Also, on October 7 he appeared as featured speaker at the quarterly meeting of Beer+Design, an organization of Virginia Architects, at Studio 23 in Scott’s Addition. Richmond VA
Don appeared in the Global Environment Speaker Series at the University of Richmond, delivering a lecture sponsored by the Environmental Studies, International Studies, and Journalism departments. Richmond, VA
Don delivered an evening lecture on the Out of Eden Walk project at Harvard Law School, to a leadership summit of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. Special guests included Liz Dawes Duraisingh of Project Zero (Harvard Graduate School of Education), and Jeff Blossom of Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis. Cambridge, MA.
Don conducted a day-long Pulitzer Center Workshop for university journalism educators, sharing his curriculum based on Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk and its potential as a teaching tool for professors of journalism, geography, anthropology, environmental science, and international studies. Ann Peters of the Pulitzer Center wrote an article about the Workshop here. Washington, D.C.
As part of the Richmond Writers Series, Don delivered a lecture on foreign affairs at the Richmond Public Library, at 7:00 pm on Friday, April 10. Title: “From Lawrence of Arabia to the Arab Spring: 100 Years of Middle East History in 30 Minutes.” Richmond VA
Don lectured on a variety of topics to 80 travelers on National Geographic Expeditions “Around the World by Private Jet” trip, with stops in Peru, Easter Island, Samoa, Australia, Cambodia, China, Tibet, India, Tanzania, Jordan, and Morocco. For more on the trip, including a photo gallery, click here. Planet Earth
Don delivered the Berglund Lecture on international affairs at the Honors College of Virginia Commonwealth University. Richmond, Virginia
Don addressed the graduating class at the International School of Indiana, one of the nation’s most progressive secondary schools for foreign languages, global citizenship, and preparing students for the International Baccaulaureate degree. Indianapolis, Indiana
Don delivered a lecture at the University of San Diego on “Crossing Invisible Borders”: lessons learned from 25 years of guerrilla diplomacy on the road for National Geographic, including advice on working in foreign settings and building rapport with ordinary people across cultural divides. The evening lecture was hosted by the Masters in Global Leadership program and the Masters in International Relations. To learn more about Don as a public speaker, click here. San Diego, California
Don delivered the Commencement address to graduating seniors at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Mass Communications. Richmond, Virginia
Don delivered an address on Water Issues at the Cape May Forum. Cape May, NJ
Don was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. Richmond, VA
March 6 and 7: Lecturing and teaching at Hood College Frederick, Maryland
March 8-19: Lecturing on a National Geographic Expedition to the Holy Land Israel and the West Bank
Don lectured on the Trans Siberian Railroad from Beijing to Moscow for National Geographic Expeditions. Along the way, the group stopped off in Mongolia, subject of Don’s October 2011 Geographic story on Ulaanbaatar, and at Russia’s Lake Baikal, which he wrote about in the magazine’s June 1992 cover story, “The World’s Great Lake.” Beijing to Moscow
In July, Don delivered a keynote address on the geopolitics of water at the Chautauqua Institution during “Water Matters,” a week-long National Geographic lecture series on our most precious natural resource. Here’s the Chautauqua Daily‘s article about his lecture. He also taught a workshop on environmental writing based on articles about the Jordan River (April 2010) and Bangladesh (May 2011). And on July 24, during “Pakistan Week” at Chautauqua, Don taught a master class in writing based on his reportage for the magazine’s September 2007 cover story on Pakistan. To download free ebooks for both classes, click here. Chautauqua, NY
Please watch this space for updates.
Latest from @dbelt50
In partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, I’m pleased to offer a half-day Walk on Campus Workshop based on the multimedia reporting of Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Salopek on his Out of Eden Walk project, a 7-year, 22,000-mile walk across the world in the pathways of early human migration, from the earliest Homo sapiens site in East Africa […]
January 13, 2015—At the Newseum in Washington, D.C., hundreds of journalists gathered to discuss the theory and practice of “slow” journalism, and to hear from one of its most skillful practitioners: Paul Salopek, a National Geographic Fellow who skyped into the event from his current location near Tbilisi, capital of the Republic of Georgia. Paul’s project, the Out of […]
Recent Geographic Stories
August 2, 2019
As Paul Salopek traversed India in 2018, he led three week-long workshops in slow journalism that were attended by some 60 up-and-coming Indian journalists. This summary of our efforts includes a short video and links to three dozen published stories, reported during the workshops, that collectively reached tens of millions of Indian readers. Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata, India
October 2, 2018
During the second National Geographic Out of Eden Slow Journalism Workshop, two dozen Indian journalists found powerful stories in the streets, beach communities, and fishing villages of this coastal metropolis. They were hosted by the Asian College of Journalism. Chennai, India
July 31, 2018
During the first National Geographic Out of Eden Slow Journalism Workshop, more than a dozen Indian journalists, reporting on foot, found powerful stories in the everyday details of life in the streets and alleyways of Old Delhi. Delhi, India
May 11, 2017
An Out of Eden Walk essay on how I teach the theory and practice of Slow Journalism at the University of Richmond, and to educators around the U.S. in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Trekking north of the Arctic Circle through Europe’s largest wilderness, travelers are on their own.
An influx of nomads has turned Mongolia’s capital upside down.
May 3, 2011
A portrait of the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, where Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed by a team of U.S. Special Forces in May, 2011.
The people of Bangladesh have much to teach us about how a crowded planet can best adapt to rising sea levels. For them, that future is now.
A source of conflict between Israel and its neighbors for decades, the Jordan River is now depleted by drought, pollution, and overuse. Could the fight to save it forge a path toward peace?
Geographic overview of a land still in turmoil.
Poised to play a pivotal new role in the Middle East, Syria struggles to escape its dark past.
Followers of Jesus for nearly 2,000 years, Arab Christians today are disappearing from the land where their faith was born.
A new superhighway linking its four major ciites is bringing old and new India into jarring proximity.
Sixty years after its founding as a homeland for India’s Muslims, Pakistan straddles the fault line between moderate and militant Islam. Its dilemma is a cautionary tale for the post-9/11 world.
Some people dream of exotic adventures with National Geographic. Thomas J. Abercrombie lived that dream.
For more of Don’s past articles for National Geographic, including two downloadable e-books and award-winning features on Lawrence of Arabia and Lake Baikal, visit his Journalism page.
Geographic Special Issues
Don authored “Life in the Time of Jesus,” the lead essay in this collection of articles about Jesus and the rise of Christianity. “Like billions of other human beings,” he writes, “Jesus of Nazareth, the man, passed through history like a campfire spark, a pinpoint of light here for an instant and then no more. Yet the short life and violent death of this obscure Jew soon took on a meaning that eclipsed the blank pages of his years on Earth. The religion that grew around him—Christianity—would alter the course of history and become the world’s dominant faith.”
Don authored “The Mad Tsar: Ivan the Terrible” in this special issue of the Exploring History series. Russia’s first tsar united the nation, built the splendid St. Basil’s cathedral that graces the capital—and tortured and killed untold thousands of innocents, including his own son. Looking for clues to the tsar’s cruel and bizarre behavior, historians trace at least part of his madness to a deeply traumatized childhood.
Don authored “Searching for Miracles,” the lead essay in this collection of articles about religious pilgrimages around the world. Every year, some 300 million pilgrims set out on some form of religious pilgrimage every year. Countless others embark on private journeys of the spirit, abandoning the comforts of home and the familiar in their quest for peace and enlightenment. Archaeologists have determined that this impulse, this movement in search of the divine, dates back to the earliest human cultures; anthropologists tell us that it is a defining characteristic of the human race. Pilgrimage, it seems, is written into our DNA.
For this Special Edition of National Geographic, subtitled Crossroads of Faith and Conflict, Don authored “A Land Still in Turmoil,” an essay about the Holy Land’s volatile recent history. In the wake of the 20th century’s two World Wars, the complex political ambitions of powerful European countries dramatically reshaped the geopolitical landscape, stoking Arab-Israeli hostility that continues to this day. Full text available.