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. He spent much of his time on various jobs flying airplanes, a skill he had acquired because of his family background.
After college Langewiesche moved to New York City and went to work as a writer for Flying, a large-circulation publication for general aviation pilots. 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.
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. This became the subject of a cover story for The Atlantic Monthly, in 1991, and later of a book titled Sahara Unveiled. The Atlantic sent Langewiesche to many parts of the world and increasingly into conflict zones. In 2006, while living in Baghdad to cover the Iraq war, Langewiesche left The Atlantic and went to work for Vanity Fair.
After the attacks of 9/11, Langewiesche was the only journalist given full unrestricted access to the World Trade Center site. 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. "American Ground" became a New York Times national bestselling book.
Langewiesche's 2007 article "Jungle Law" involved him in the controversy surrounding Chevron Corporation and Steven R. Donziger.