Tuesday, November 9, 2010
A Prize Lecture
Two time Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Weingarten spoke this evening at the Umass Student Union to a good sized crowd of perhaps 125, mostly students, almost all of whom will find it much harder to follow the same path Weingarten used to win that most coveted award in journalism, namely, finding a job writing or editing for a newspaper.
Weingarten doesn't normally do the speaking circuit but came as a favor to old print buddy, and current acting director of the Umass Journalism program Maddie Blais, herself a Pulitzer Prize winner.
His first Pulitzer in 2008 came for an event he staged in the Washington Metro where he observed, recorded and interpreted how a busy crowd on their way to work reacted (or didn't) to the virtuoso performance of violinist Joshua Bell, dressed like a common street musician playing for food.
I guess if he really wanted to get a reaction he should used The Flying Wallendas.
The second Pulitzer coming this year, I find far more impressive and something (unlike staging a street theatre event) I could never do: interview 13 parents who lost a child because they had left them in the car on a hot day.
His harrowing piece, aptly titled "Fatal Distraction", won over the Pulitzer Prize Committee but not so much the online commenters who reacted to the Washington Post feature article. Weingarten reported that about two-thirds of them were angry with him for portraying the parents in a sympathetic light rather than pillorying them.
In spite of technical problems with the overhead projector Weingarten kept the crowds interest, telling stories--mostly funny--of days gone by.
Maddie Blais does the intro.
The Daily Collegian reports