Pulitzer Prize winner to lecture

By Alex Simon

The 2004 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary, Leonard Pitts Jr., will take the stage Tuesday as the second African-American to give the Creason Lecture.

The Creason Lecture, named after UK alumnus Joe Creason, began in 1977 and there have been 33 lectures since — one each year except for 1978.

The lecture, presented by the School of Journalism and Telecommunications, typically draws several hundred people, as students and faculty come to hear a prominent figure from their field speak.

“It’s a very wide spectrum of diversity that they try to bring in,” Beth Barnes, director of the School of Journalism and Telecommunications, said.

The previous African-American to give the lecture did so eight years ago.

“The last Pulitzer Prize-winning African-American journalist to give the Creason Lecture was Angelo Henderson, one of our J-school graduates in 2002, and he got a standing ovation,” said associate professor of journalism Buck Ryan, the journalism school director from 1994 to 2002.

Pitts is the five-time recipient of the National Headliner Award, and in 2001 he received the American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Commentary Writing and was named Feature of the Year columnist by Editor and Publisher magazine.

“We had been trying to get Leonard Pitts in previous years,” Barnes said. “It’s hard to get away for a couple of days. I was very relieved this year when it actually worked out.”

In trying to get speakers booked for the Creason Lecture, Barnes asks other journalism faculty about which prominent figures would have a good perspective on what is going on in the community.

“I think he fits into the group very well,” Barnes said of Pitts. “The (Lexington) Herald-Leader carries his column quite often. He’s pretty widely known.”

Pitts joined the Miami Herald in 1991 as its pop music critic and since 1994 has written a syndicated column of commentary on pop culture, social issues and family life.

“People should come to the lecture because it will be not only fun but also important,” Ryan said.

“Journalists like Pitts need support to serve as watchdogs against corruption and as spirit-lifting storytellers who spotlight heroes fighting the good fight.”

The lecture, titled “Owning What You Know,” will be Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Student Center’s Worsham Theater. It is free and open to the public.

For more information about the Creason Lecture Series, visit http://jat.uky.edu/lectures/creason-lectures.htm.