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Arts & Culture

Leonard Pitts To Appear as Part of Siegenthaler Speaker Series


Leonard Pitts Jr., who won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, will emphasize the importance of “Owning What You Know” on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at MTSU.

Pitts, a syndicated columnist for The Miami Herald and author of three books, will speak at 2:20 p.m. in the State Farm Lecture Hall in MTSU’s Business and Aerospace Building as part of the Seigenthaler Speaker Series. The speaker series is sponsored by the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, which is housed in the College of Mass Communication.

The address is free and open to the public as well as the campus community.

“We’re living at a time when demi-facts, sorta-maybe-truths and wannabe realities can go viral in an instant,” said Dr. Deborah Gump, who directs the Seigenthaler Chair. “When a senator can justify statements on the Senate floor about Planned Parenthood by saying they weren’t intended to be factual, or when one political party can accuse another of voting to end Medicare, we need to think about the consequences.

“`Truthiness’ is great for comedy, but it’s a dangerous way to run a democracy. There’s no one better than Leonard Pitts to put in perspective what’s at stake.”

Pitts became a published writer at 14 when the Los Angeles Sentinel published one of his poems. Four years after that, he became a freelance writer for “SOUL magazine,” juggling interviews with Gladys Knight and the Temptations with his studies at the University of Southern California. Since then, his work has appeared inpublications as varied as “Musician,” “Spin,” “Reader’s Digest” and “Parenting.”

Pitts also wrote, produced and syndicated “Who We Are,” an award-winning radio documentary on the history of black America. He’s written and produced several other radio programs on topics from Madonna to Martin Luther King Jr. Pitts was also a writer for Casey’s Top 40, Casey Kasem’s radio countdown show.

Pitts joined The Miami Herald in 1991 as its pop music critic; in 1994, he started writing his syndicated column on pop culture, social issues and family life. He won the Pulitzer for “fresh, vibrant columns that spoke, with both passion and compassion, to ordinary people on often divisive issues,” according to the Pulitzer citation. Pitts was a Pulitzer finalist in criticism in 1993.