What to expect at “A Conversation with Leonard Pitts Jr.”

American commentator, journalist and novelist Leonard Pitts Jr. opens the 2017 ASNE-APME News Leadership Conference with a discussion of today’s news media embracing polite euphemism.

The 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner will present “A Conversation with Leonard Pitts Jr.,” on the first full day of the conference.

For more than 35 years Pitts has worked in media and the basis of his session stems from his observation of a false equivalency in news reporting today.

“There’s a fear in news media for calling things out,” Pitts said. “The sort of squeamishness in calling the truth what the truth actually is, is ultimately more damaging and is a disservice to our readers to a very large degree.”

These issues, as Pitts puts it, stem from media members describing national issues, like the Charlottesville marches as “racially charged” and calling President Trumps lies “misstatements.”

Pitts said such descriptions are attempts at unbiased reporting. Pitts says the public sees through that and the weak-kneed journalism ultimately damages the reputation of the press.

Throughout his career, Pitts has been accustomed to calling it as it is and has even received death threats over some of his columns.

For him, the criticism is all part of the job.

“The thing about opinion, the moment you start giving opinion about anybody or anything, it’s a very divisive thing to do,” Pitts said. “We [column writers] talk about things that are on everybody’s minds, but they don’t generally discuss unless they are talking to someone who will generally agree with them from the beginning.

“It’s expected that there’s going to be some pushback and if you’re not receiving pushback, you’re probably not saying anything that’s worth saying.”

Pitts says that column writing gives him a voice in this “pivotal time in our national history.” Having that voice is important for him to discuss the issues in society, but he also admits that column writing, like most professions, has its ups and downs.

“There are days where you’re pulling your hair, or what’s left of your hair in my case, looking for something to write about,” Pitts said. “Then there’s days where you’re thankful to have a column because if you didn’t you know your blood pressure would spike through the roof because there’s so much craziness going on.”

Pitts described the location of this year’s conference in Washington D.C. as being “in the belly of the beast.”

During his career, Pitts has written a number of books and has been a columnist, college professor, radio producer and lecturer. Even with a wide-ranging background, Pitts defines himself as a writer, something he’s done since age 5, he said.

Pitts’ session – from noon to 1:30 at the Washington Marriott on Oct. 9 – will discuss the trends he has seen in national media, talking to members of the media about false objectivity and the danger of truth.

Robby General is a senior at Ball State University. He graduates in May 2018. His email is rjgeneral@bsu.edu.

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