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 West VirginiaUniversity campus for another Festival of Ideas lecture.
The free public program, Big Story: The Extraordinary Path to Winning the Pulitzer, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, at the Mountainlair Ballrooms. It will include a question-and-answer session, and a reception will follow. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
As a reporter for The New York Times , Halberstam received a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his accounts of the Vietnam War. 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 latter part of the century, according to scholars.
The three volumes dealt with the path that the Kennedy-Johnson administrations followed drawing America into war in Southeast Asia, the dramatic rise of power in the media and the ascent of the Japanese 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 March 21 panel is Liz Balmaseda of The Miami Herald , Tom French of the St. Petersburg Times and Terry Wimmer, a former Charleston Gazette reporter now teaching at WVU . Wimmer left the Gazette to become health and technology editor at the Orange County Register in California. He captured a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 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 recalled.”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 internet.
Balmaseda 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.
The panel will also visit Charleston March 22 for a Festival of Ideas lecture at Embassy Suites.