Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

January 29, 2003

Syndicated Columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., to Speak at Whitworth

Leonard Pitts, Jr., an award-winning syndicated columnist for The Miami Herald, will deliver his trademark thought-provoking commentary on social-justice issues in a February speaking engagement at Whitworth College. Pitts' address, "Choosing Sides," will take place on Monday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. in Cowles Memorial Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please call (509) 777-4572.

"Whitworth is committed to increasing its campus community's and the Spokane community's awareness and understanding of our country's cultural landscape, whether the topic is race, religion, politics or common themes in our everyday life," says Esther Louie, assistant dean for programming and diversity at Whitworth. "Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s thoughtful and honest viewpoint will help us expand our horizons."

Pitts joined The Miami Herald in 1991 as its pop-music critic. Since 1994, he has penned a twice-weekly syndicated column of candid commentary on pop culture, social-justice issues, families, and - since Sept. 11, 2001 - terrorism.

According to Tribune Media Services, Pitts often "shouts against injustice, intolerance and the inanity of some of the country's most influential citizens and organizations. On these occasions, Pitts' column is the warning bell that sounds when the prevailing viewpoint must be questioned with force."

Pitts often sounds warning bells about race relations in America. However, in a recent column he challenges readers who complain that he focuses too much attention on race.

"[Readers] always frame the complaint as a simple matter of numbers," Pitts states. "Too much of this, not enough of that. Yet the funny thing is, in nine years of doing this, I've never received a single complaint of too many columns on family, too many on pop culture, even though...I rant about those things almost as often as I do race. The reason is self-evident. It's not about numbers at all, but about the fact that race makes some people uncomfortable, pushes buttons they'd rather not have pushed."

Pitts is a writer who doesn't hesitate to tackle America's - and his own - toughest issues with unflinching, carefully reasoned insight.

"Leonard Pitts, Jr. is a powerful American voice for justice and compassion," says Arlin Migliazzo, chair of the History & Politics Department at Whitworth. "In a real sense he is a modern-day Jeremiah, calling us to examine our actions in light of our deepest values and aspirations. He challenges us to be more than we are even as he exposes our self-interested behavior and shortsighted decision making. His message touches us all."

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 was the tabloid's editor. Since then, Pitts' work has appeared in such publications as Musician, Spin, TV Guide, Reader's Digest and Parenting.

Pitts wrote, produced and syndicated "Who We Are," an award-winning 1988 radio documentary on the history of black America, and has written and produced numerous radio programs on subjects as diverse as Madonna and Martin Luther King, Jr. Pitts was also a writer for radio's popular countdown program, "Casey's Top 40 with Casey Kasem." His book, Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood, was published in 1999 and will be available for purchase during his Feb. 17 speaking engagement at Whitworth.

Pitts was named the 2002 Columnist of the Year by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was winner of the 2001 American Society of Newspaper Editors' prestigious ASNE Award for Commentary Writing. In 1997, he was awarded the first-place prize for commentary in newspapers with circulations over 300,000 in the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors' Ninth Annual Writing Awards competition. Pitts was also a 1992 finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

Pitts has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, among others. He is also a three-time recipient of the National Headliners Award. Born and raised in Southern California, Pitts now lives in Bowie, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., with his wife and five children.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,200 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.

Pitts' visit to Whitworth is sponsored by the college's Lives of Commitment program, which is funded by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust; Whitworth's Speakers & Artists Series and the Department of Student Life; and Spokane School District 81.


Esther Louie, assistant dean for programming and diversity, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4572 or elouie@whitworth.edu.

Arlin Migliazzo, chair of the History & Politics Department and dean of the faculty, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4367 or amigliazzo@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information specialist, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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