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Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist to discuss 'Obama phenomenon'

WVU School of Journalism hosting Leonard Pitts Jr. day after election

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. will visit West Virginia University the day after the presidential election to discuss the public’s reaction to Sen. Barack Obama’s candidacy and how it reflects Americans’ attitudes about race in the 21st century.

The lecture, “Decision 2008: Race, Politics and the Drama of Obama,” will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, in 202 Brooks Hall. The presentation is part of the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism’s Ogden Newspapers Seminar Series.

Pitts, who won the 2004 Pulitzer for commentary, is a nationally syndicated columnist whose works are read by millions each week. Perhaps his most famous column was written following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

That column, “We’ll Go Forward From This Moment,” issued an angry and defiant open letter to the terrorists and was circulated around the world via the Internet. It generated upwards of 30,000 e-mails and has since been set to music, reprinted in poster form, read on television by Regis Philbin and quoted by former U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt as part of the Democratic Party’s weekly radio address.

Pitts has been writing professionally since 1976 when as an 18-year-old college student, he began doing freelance reviews and profiles for SOUL, a national black entertainment tabloid. Two years later, he became its editor. Since then, his work has appeared in such publications as Musician, Spin, TV Guide, Reader’s Digest and Parenting.

In addition, Pitts wrote, produced and syndicated “Who We Are,” an award-winning 1988 radio documentary on the history of black America, and he has written and produced numerous other radio programs on subjects as diverse as Madonna and Martin Luther King Jr. Pitts was also a writer for the popular radio program “Casey’s Top 40” with Casey Kasem.

Pitts joined The Miami Herald in 1991 as its pop music critic. Since 1994, he has penned a syndicated column of commentary on pop culture, social issues and family life. His book, “Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood,” was released in May 1999 and was reissued in paperback in June 2006.

Pitts has received numerous awards for his commentary. In addition to his 2004 Pulitzer Prize, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

In 1997, Pitts took first place for commentary in division four (newspapers with a circulation of more than 300,000) in the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors’ Ninth Annual Writing Awards competition.

The Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, among others, have honored him.

He is also a five-time recipient of the National Headliners Award. In 2001, he received the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ prestigious ASNE Award for Commentary Writing and was named Feature of the Year Columnist by Editor and Publisher magazine.

In 2002, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded Pitts its inaugural Columnist of the Year award. Also in 2002, GLAAD Media awarded Pitts the Outstanding Newspaper Columnist award.

In 2003 and 2004, he taught journalism at Hampton (Va.) University as a visiting professor. In 2005-06, he was a journalism professor at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.