CHARLESTON , W.Va. �€Four Pulitzer Prize-winning journalistsincluding best-selling author David Halberstamwill share the paths they followed in capturing one of their professions top awards when they visit the Kanawha Valley for a 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22, panel discussion at Embassy Suites Ballroom.

The free public lecture, Big Story: The Extraordinary Path to Winning the Pulitzer, is co-sponsored by The Charleston Gazette and West Virginia University and marks the second Festival of Ideas event in Charleston. Political satirist Mark Russell delighted a packed house at the Civic Center Little Theater when he kicked off the series Feb. 19.

As a reporter for The New York Times , Halberstam received a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his accounts of the Vietnam War.

As a best-selling author, his trilogy of books on power in America The Best and the Brightest, The Powers That Be and The Reckoning have since helped define the later part of the century. They deal with the path that the Kennedy-Johnson administrations used to take America to war in Vietnam, the dramatic and sudden rise of power in the media and the ascent of the Japanese rival economic superpower.

His latest book,”The Children,”chronicles the lives of eight young civil rights activists he met in 1960 as a reporter for The (Nashville) Tennessean.

“Martin Luther King was the general, and these kids were the foot soldiers, the shock troopswho deliberately picked out the most dangerous places to put their bodies on the line,”Halberstam said.”They were like the airborne brigades that dropped in on D-Day. And the more I looked back at it, the more I found out about the Freedom Rides, the more respect I had for their extraordinary courage.”

Another of Halberstams books,”The Fifties,”was broadcast nationally on The History Channel, and he is currently at work on a book about basketball superstar Michael Jordan

Joining Halberstam on the panel is Liz Balmesada of The Miami Herald , Tom French of the St. Petersburg Times and Terry Wimmer, a former Charleston Gazette reporter/editor and health and technology editor at the Orange County Register, now teaching at WVU .

Balmesada won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1993 for columns on Cuban-American and Haitian issues.

During her 20-year career, she has served as the Central American bureau chief for Newsweek, worked as a producer for NBC News and co-produced the film American Purgatory about Guantanamo refugee camps. The Cuban-born journalist recently co-authored Waking Up in America and is working on a screenplay with singer Gloria Estefan.

French was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for Angels and Demons , a project that chronicled a mother and her two daughters who were murdered when they came to TampaBay on vacation from their dairy farm in northwestern Ohio.

He is primarily a projects writer, specializing in book-length serial narratives that are based on months or years of reporting and then published in the paper one chapter at a time.

Other projects have included The Exorcist in Love , which followed a mother of five investigating the paranormal; The Girl Whose Mother Lives in the Sky , which chronicled life at a preschool for children from Southeast Asia refugee families; A Cry in the Night , a murder case in Gulfport; and South of Heaven , which detailed a year in the life of students at Floridas Largo High School. 

 Wimmer captured a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 while at the OrangeCounty (Calif.) Register as part of an investigative team that exposed theft and fraud at the University of California Irvines fertility clinic.

“I was fueled by sustained outrage,”he said of the wrongdoing.”I was blown away by the idea that physicians would have such disdain for women that they steal their eggs and embryostheir genetic heritage.”

A native of Princeton, Wimmer graduated from WVU in 1976 and returned to his alma mater last fall as the Shott Chair of Journalism. His emphasis is in new media, merging written stories with audio and video on the web.

There will be a question and answer session following the panel discussion. Seating for the event is on a first-come, first-served basis; a reception will follow.


Other upcoming Charleston Festival speakers:

  • Poet Maya Angelou, Thursday, April 19, 7:30 p.m., Geary Auditorium, University of Charleston

  • Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Monday, May 7, 7:30 p.m., Charleston Civic Center Little Theater