Columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts Jr. to speak at MNSU

Leonard Pitts Jr. (Wikimedia Commons)
‘The United States of Amnesia: Forgetting African-American History’

Katie Leibel
Staff Writer

Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald, will be speaking at Minnesota State University, Mankato Tuesday, April 24 at 6 p.m. in Ostrander Auditorium.

The Mass Media Department invited Leonard Pitts Jr. to talk at MNSU for Media Day for the Nadine B. Andreas Lecture. The title of Pitts’s lecture is “The United States of Amnesia: Forgetting African-American History.”

“I’m talking about the fact that we are a nation that are in a hurry to forget its African American history,” Pitts said. “You’ve got to understand where you have come from to understand and get to where you are going.”

Pitts is known for his commentary and opinion pieces on social and political ideas. He has taught as a visiting teacher at prestigious universities in the past and hopes to continue that after he retires from the Miami Herald in the future.

“Once I retire at the column, I might want to teach at least part-time,” Pitts said.

Through his experiences he has knowledge surrounding the subjects of mass media and journalism. He also knows of the importance of journalism and mass media in the country today.

“Truth matters. I think that so called ‘legacy media,’ old school stuff like newspapers and broadcast television news reports, are more critical than they have been,” Pitts said. “Human beings have a very powerful ability to reject facts. This comes into play in a lot of what I write.”

As a black man, Pitts has faced racism and ignorance in his line of work. He knows that sometimes people do not believe what does not side with their political biases. Because of this, he has advice for future ethnic journalists and people pursuing mass media careers.

“I would give them the same advice that I give anybody: to get in the door. So, my advice for people of color is to write,” Pitts said. “Before you even get into the position of challenging people’s racist attitudes.”

Pitts recognizes his platform as an important way for him to influence and inform many people. Because of this, he takes his platform seriously.

“I have been gifted with a podium, a platform, to say things that need to be said. That is an important responsibility and I don’t think that you take that lightly,” Pitts said. “I believe what Spiderman believes: with great power comes great responsibility.”

Pitts is not afraid to say what he believes. He has always been an opinion journalist.

“I think that if you are afraid of speaking out, then you are probably in the wrong field if you are an opinion journalist,” Pitts said. “That is the entire job description, to speak your mind and find and defend your opinion.”

Pitts has been writing since he was little. He says that writing has been “in him” since he was a young child.

“I was five years old when I realized that this is what I was put here to do,” Pitts said. “I knew from the time that I was very young that I was put here to be a writer.”

In regards to the importance of newspapers, Pitts acknowledged that less and less people are paying to read newspapers, but more people are reading newspapers than ever before on websites that publish papers for free and rely on advertisements.

“I have more readers now than I did my whole life,” Pitts said. “In terms of actual readership, there are more of those folks than there ever have been. Since the election of our last president, newspaper subscriptions have actually spiked.”

Pitts will be speaking on April 24. For more information, contact the Department of Mass Media at 507-389-6417.

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