Watch the live stream beginning at 7 p.m.

Reception: 6 p.m. in Palmer Room 100A, Reynolds Journalism Institute. Copies of his latest novel, "Grant Park," will be available for purchase at the reception. Pitts will sign books after the presentation.

Presentation: 7 p.m. in Fisher Auditorium, Rm. 88, Gannett Hall (Please note, this was originally scheduled in Smith Forum at RJI, but has moved just across the journalism school to Fisher Auditorium in Gannett Hall. The reception will still take place in the Palmer Room on the first floor of RJI).


There’s no shortage of hot-button issues during this election year:

  • Extraordinary presidential primary battles.
  • A raucous presidential campaign.
  • Income inequality, the one-percenters, the minimum wage.
  • Trade agreements, jobs and student debt.
  • Immigration.
  • Guns, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter.
  • Concerned Student 1950.
  • Resignation of two top University of Missouri officials, triggered by protests and a football team boycott, resulting in funding cutbacks by the state legislature.

What is the media’s responsibility during a year like this? Is the press living up to its obligation? How might it perform better?

Join nationally syndicated columnist, author and former Miami Herald journalist Leonard Pitts Jr. for a frank, honest assessment of politics and press responsibility, the latest in the Gerald M. Boyd Lecture Series. Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize winner whose twice-weekly columns appear in newspapers across the country (and locally in the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune).

The Boyd Lecture will be held Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. A reception begins at 6 p.m. in Palmer Room 100A on the first floor of the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Books will be available for sale at the reception (his third novel, “Grant Park,” was released in October 2015). Pitts’ insights begin at 7 p.m. in Fisher Auditorium, Rm. 88 on the lowest level of Gannett Hall.

Leonard Pitts Jr.’s biography, from

In a career spanning 40 years, Leonard Pitts Jr. has been a columnist, a college professor, a radio producer and a lecturer. But if you ask him to define himself, he will invariably choose one word. He is a writer, period, author of one of the most popular newspaper columns in the country and of a series of critically acclaimed books, including his latest, a novel called "Grant Park." And his lifelong devotion to the art and craft of words has yielded stellar results, chief among them the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. But that is only the capstone of a career filled with prizes for literary excellence. 

Twice each week, millions of newspaper readers around the country seek out his rich and uncommonly resonant voice. In a word, he connects with them. Nowhere was this demonstrated more forcefully than in the response to his initial column on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Pitts' column, "We'll Go Forward From This Moment," an angry and defiant open letter to the terrorists, circulated the globe via the Internet. It generated upwards of 30,000 emails, and has since been set to music, reprinted in poster form, read on television by Regis Philbin and quoted by Congressman Richard Gephardt as part of the Democratic Party's weekly radio address. 

Pitts was born and raised in Southern California. He was awarded a degree in English from the University of Southern California at the age of 19, having entered school at 15 on a special honors program. Since 1995, he has lived in Bowie, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C., with his wife and family.

About "Grant Park,” from

After the breakthrough success of 2012’s "Freeman," Leonard Pitts returns with an even richer, more complex, and more suspenseful story—one that takes on the past four decades of U.S. race relations through the stories of two veteran journalists, a superstar black columnist and his unheralded white editor. The novel ricochets between two eras: 2008, when a senator from Illinois stands on the verge of history, and 1968, when Martin Luther King confronts his troubled last campaign in Memphis. Disillusioned, weary, and outraged by yet another report of an unarmed black man gunned down by police, Malcolm Toussaint writes a column so incendiary that his editor, Bob Carson, rejects it—but Toussaint uses Carson’s password to hack into the newspaper’s computer system and publish it anyway. Then he mysteriously disappears, and Carson, left to take the fall, is fired. Furious and bent on revenge, Carson tries to find Toussaint while dealing with the sudden reappearance of his one true love from his days as an activist. Meanwhile, Toussaint has been kidnapped by a pair of unlikely-yet-dangerous white supremacists who plan to bomb Barack Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park. As Election Day unfolds, Toussaint and Carson are forced to confront the choices they made as idealistic, impatient young men, when both their lives were changed by their work in the civil rights movement. Forty years later, they face an explosive opportunity to make peace with their respective pasts.

The Gerald M. Boyd Lecture Series

Created in memory of Gerald M. Boyd, former managing editor of The New York Times and 1973 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, the series about politics and press responsibility examines and analyzes the media’s coverage of major political issues of the day.

Boyd became managing editor of The Times in September 2001 after serving as deputy managing editor for news since September 1997. From 1993 to 1997, Boyd served as an assistant managing editor. He resigned in June 2003.

Six days after he took over as the second-ranking editor at The Times, he managed the newsroom through coverage of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and their aftermath. In 2002, The Times received six Pulitzer Prizes for work related to the paper's coverage of the attacks, the most a newspaper had ever received in a single year.

Boyd also served as the co-senior editor of The Times' "How Race Is Lived In America" series, which the paper published in 2000. The series received a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in the following year.

Boyd joined The Times following a 10-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He started there as a copyboy and worked his way up to be the newspaper's White House correspondent. He also covered Congress, after serving as the paper's city hall reporter for three years.

Following his tenure at The Times, Boyd wrote his memoirs, "My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at The New York Times," for HarperCollins.

Boyd was a former board member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and a former chairman of its leadership committee. He had been a constant voice in the journalism industry on issues of leadership, ethics and diversity. He spoke frequently before trade groups, lectured at colleges and think tanks and led discussions at industry forums.

Boyd attended Harvard University in 1980 as a Nieman Fellow — the youngest journalist at the time selected to the program. He received an honorary doctorate from Maryville University of St. Louis, the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri and the Frederick Douglass Award for distinguished leadership from the New York Urban League. In 2001, The National Association of Black Journalists named him Journalist of the Year.

Registration is free and open to the public, but please sign up so we can make plans for how many to expect. Space is limited.



Missouri School of Journalism

The 6 p.m. reception is on the first floor of RJI in Palmer Room 100A, Reynolds Journalism Institute, 401 S. 9th St. Columbia, Mo. 65211.

The 7 p.m. presentation is on the lowest level of Gannett Hall in Fisher Auditorium, Rm. 88.

This map contains three pins. The car pin shows the location of Hitt St. Garage. The coffee mug pin is the Reynolds Journalism Institute, where the reception will take place. The microphone pin is Gannett Hall, where the presentation will take place. Click the map to interact with the locations.



Parking is available to the public after 5 p.m. in Hitt St. Garage (see map above). Metered parking available on 9th St. and throughout downtown Columbia.


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