Get ready for Leonard Pitts, Jr.

I’m really looking forward to meeting our guest Tuesday morning in class, and you’re going to be stoked, too, when you do a little homework on Leonard Pitts, Jr.

He’s in town to accept a Missouri Honor Medal. Here’s what it says about him on the J-school’s website:

In a career spanning more than 35 years, Leonard Pitts Jr. has been a columnist, a college professor, a radio producer and a lecturer. But he defines himself in one word: writer. Pitts won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary and was a 1993 finalist in the Criticism category.

Pitts writes a twice-weekly column for The Miami Herald that is read by millions around the world. His inaugural article, “We’ll Go Forward From This Moment,” was launched after the 9/11 attacks and has since been set to music, reprinted in poster form, read on television and quoted by others. Pitts is also the author of a series of critically-acclaimed books, including Freeman (Agate Bolden, 2012).

Numerous organizations have recognized Pitts for his literary excellence. Among them are the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Atlantic City Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of Newspaper EditorsEditor and Publisher magazine, the National Society of Newspaper Columnistsand GLAAD Media. Pitts received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Old Dominion University.

Pitts is in demand as a lecturer and has also been invited to teach at a number of prestigious institutions of higher learning. He was awarded a degree in English from the University of Southern California at the age of 19, having entered college at 15 on a special honors program.

Recently, he’s written about Jemele Hill with ESPN’s “Sports Center.” This is the column I would like you to read (at a minimum) in preparation for this impressive writer’s visit to class.

See you Tuesday!

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Stop scrambling for ‘why,’ and stop calling them ‘shooters’

Another week, another mass shooting in America. In addition to being heartsick, angry and frustrated, I am, as usual, distressed by the way mass shootings are reported in the breaking news cycle. I think of the survivors and the loved ones of victims of Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora, The Pulse and all the others, knowing in addition to the pain they’re feeling as they’re forced to relive their own personal horror, they’re watching journalists make the same mistakes over and over.

First, there is something desperately wrong with the scramble to answer the question “why” by reporting random facts about the killer in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting. If ever there were a case for “slow journalism,” it is right after some maniac opens fire and kills a bunch of people. It produces some of the most useless, speculative and perhaps even reckless reporting news organizations do….

Read the rest at the Center for Journalism Ethics.

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