Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Story Teller

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Story Teller

Article excerpt


Byron Pitts was diagnosed as functionally illiterate at age 12 and stuttered until he was 20. As a child, he faked his inability to read by utilizing his great memory, relying on what he could glean from photos and having his brother help him with his homework.

During Pitts' freshman year at Ohio Wesleyan University, Pitts recounts in his autobiography Step Out on Nothing, an English professor told him, "Mr. Pitts, you are wasting my time and the government's money. You are not Ohio Wesleyan University material. I think you should leave." Another English professor, who saw Pitts outside on a bench crying after he'd gone to pick up forms to withdraw from school, took him under her wing. She tutored him everyday.

With help from that professor, whom he refers to as an angel, and his mother, whose cutting words gave him a much-needed kick in the pants, Pitts graduated in four years with a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in political science. Today, the award-winning journalist is the chief national correspondent for CBS Evening News With Katie Couric and a contributor to the network's "60 Minutes" program. The 49-year-old Baltimore native spoke to Diverse about his career in journalism, his faith and his autobiography.

DI: Why become a broadcast journalist?

BP: I'm a child of television. The television was the only company I had at home during the summer growing up. Television, just like football, is a team sport. It takes a team of us to do a story. When I went to Haiti, it was nine of us. Technicians, engineers, drivers, photographers ... everybody has a moment to shine. I like that. For a limited time with the school newspaper (in college) and an earlier time in print journalism, I felt alone. You are part of a team in broadcast.

DI: You recount in your book a time when a news director relayed a message from his boss to you that a "(n-word) would never anchor one of my broadcasts." Does being Black add an additional challenge to being a journalist?

BP: I think it is certainly a challenge at times. It is also sort of an edge. As a person of color in this nation, minority journalists more than likely have experienced some hardship. …

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