He was a journalist for the New York Times from 1961 to 2004, reporting on a multitude of topics regarding Eastern and Western Europe, Soviet Union, the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico. He served as a foreign correspondent in Berlin in 1961 where he reported on the building of the Berlin wall; in the Balkans, based in Belgrade 1963–1966; in Germany based in Bonn and later Berlin, 1967 to 1973. During the latter period he reported on the gradual rapprochement between East and West Germany, and on the Prague Spring of 1968. He then transferred to the Washington, D.C bureau as a diplomatic correspondent, later serving as the bureau's assistant news editor, and again as a reporter.
He served on numerous occasions as a special correspondent for the New York Times on some of the most newsworthy events of the 20th Century in Europe, including reporting on the decline of the Soviet Bloc in 1987, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the end of the Communist regimes in the German Democratic Republic, Romania, Albania and Yugoslavia in 1990-1992.
In the 1990s, he traveled extensively in the Balkans to report on the wars that brought about the dissolution of Yugoslavia (1990-1995) and the post-Communist regimes in Bulgaria and Romania. He also reported on the unification of West and East Germany. In 2000-2001, he went back to the Balkans to report on the burgeoning sex trade and drug smuggling in the region for MSNBC.
Early in his career, he worked briefly as a science reporter for the New York Times, and then returned more than three decades later to report on wildlife biology. In addition, over the years, he also contributed to other publications including The Reporter, The Nation, The New Republic, Foreign Policy (published in Washington), Politika (a daily published in Belgrade), Vreme, (a weekly published in Belgrade) Weltwoche (Swiss weekly published in Zurich), der Spiegel, (a German weekly published in Hamburg) Stern, (a German magazine(published in Hamburg) Neues Deutschland, (a daily published in Berlin), Blaetter fuer deutsche und internationale Politik (published in Bonn) and The Wilson Quarterly (published in Washington). In 1970, he was elected president of the Verein der Auslaendischen Presse (Foreign Press Association) of Germany. In 1989, he was appointed to the Editorial Advisory Board of the newly created Mediterranean Quarterly. In its first issue, he published an article entitled "The End of the Bloc," stating that the Soviet Union's Eastern European empire was "falling apart before our eyes." This appeared before the falling of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
In November 2013, his latest book, "Fare Well Illyria," was published by the Central European University Press. The book is a collection of his thoughts and memoirs from his long career covering and analyzing the centuries of geopolitical and cultural history of the Balkans and their peoples such as Serbia, Kosovo and Metohija, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia, Vlachs, Slovenia, Croatia, Dalmatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Magyar, Crna Gora and Greece. Amazon.com described the book as "[a] comprehensive yet concise account of the cultural and political situation in the Balkans during the last three decades of the Cold War (1960-1990). Fare Well, Illyria sums up the author's thorough knowledge of the political and cultural history of the Balkans as well as his personal experience gained over four decades covering the region."
After his retirement from the New York Times, he continued to contribute to the New York Times with his painstakingly detailed obituaries of such political or cultural figures as Egon Bahr, John Keegan, Rauf Denktash, Christa Wolf, Judith Coplon, Werner Eberlein, Spike Milligan, Hildegard Knef, Stefan Heym, Budd Boetticher and Ruth Werner. Binder was one of the contributors to the New York Times obituary of Zbigniew Brzezinski, a National Security Adviser for the Jimmy Carter administration, who died on May 26, 2917.
Following his graduation from Harvard University, Binder became a journalist, following the career choice also made by his father, Abner Carroll Binder. He married Dr. Helga Binder,née Wagner, a German physician whom he had met in East Berlin during his stint in Germany and who went on to become a pediatric physician at Children's Hospital National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. David and Helga Binder had three daughters, Julia, Andrea and Alena.
During his tenure at the New York Times, he also wrote a number of lighthearted articles about his family including his journalist father, Abner Carroll Binder, and his siblings and children such as "About Men; Brotherhood of the Inept," a self-deprecating article on the clumsiness of the men in his family, and "With Rent-a-Dad, Who Needs Movers?" a touching account of his road trip with his youngest daughter, Alena.
His collection of personal notes, memoirs, books, articles, photographs and other work from more than 60 years as a journalist will be housed and made available to the public at the Newberry Library of Chicago, "an independent research library dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge, especially in the humanities," which also houses the correspondence, writing, personal and family materials, and photographs of his father, Abner Carroll Binder, a newspaper editor and foreign correspondent. His 2415 articles and other publications through the New York Times have also been archived and are accessible to the public via the New York Times' Collection of David Binder.
Binder was born on February 22, 1931 in London, England, along with his twin sister Deborah, to American parents Abner Carroll Binder, an American journalist best known for contributions as a newspaper correspondent and editor for the Chicago Daily News and the Minneapolis Tribune, and Dorothy (Walton) Binder. He had two other siblings, Carroll "Ted" Binder, Jr. and Mary "Sis" Kelsey (nee Binder) Mikkelson. His older brother, Carroll Jr., was killed in action over France during World War II. His brother's untimely death—the subject of a book "One Crowded Hour: The Saga of An American Boy" by Jenane (Patterson) Binder—was the source of considerable despair for his family.
He was raised in Highland Park, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago until the age of 13, when he left home to attend George School, a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania. Following the academic path chosen by his father and his older brother, he attended and graduated from Harvard University, AB '53, before attending the University of Cologne for graduate study on a Fulbright Scholarship. He worked as an assistant in American literature at the Salzburg Seminar in Austria in the summer of 1953.
Binder spent each summer of his early years at his family cabin on Black Oak Lake in Land O' Lakes, Wisconsin where he developed his love for the wildlife, the peoples and the cultures of the Northwoods of Wisconsin, the Great Lakes, Upper Peninsula Michigan and fly fishing. He has continued to spend several weeks each summer for more than 80 years at this family cabin which he has stated is his spiritual home.
He has written extensively about the areas with a number of his articles published by the New York Times. The topics of his publications included invasive species in the Great Lakes, wild bears of the Hiawatha National Forest of Michigan, moose in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the Great Lakes Sturgeons, the Chippewa Indians of Vilas County, Wisconsin, the "Yoopers" of Upper Peninsula of Michigan, native birds of the Hiawatha National Forest and "Life in the North Woods: Hillbillies and Hyperbole Amid the Red Pines," his ode to Land O' Lakes, Wisconsin where generations of his family have spent their summers for more than ninety years.Carbondale Free Press-Southern-Illinoisan (summer, 1951)
Louisville Times, Reporter (1954–1956)
Institute of Current World Affairs, fellow in Germany, (1957–1959)
Daily Mail,(London) Reporter in Berlin, (1959–1960)
Minneapolis Tribune, copy editor, (1960–1961)
The New York Times, Reporter, (1961–2004),
President of The Foreign Press Association of Germany,(1970)
"Berlin: East and West in Pictures," 1963 ISBN 978-0806910185
"The Other German: Willy Brandt's Life and Times," 1976 ISBN 978-0915220090
"Children of a New Fatherland. Germany's Post-War Right-Wing Politics (Introduction)," 1999 ISBN 978-1860644580
Forward to "Media Cleansing, Dirty Reporting: Journalism and Tragedy in Yugoslavia," 2005 ISBN 978-1882383306
"Fare Well Illyria," 2013 ISBN 978-6155225741