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Leonard Downie Jr.: All About the Story: News, Power, Politics, and the Washington Post

CALS Bobby L. Roberts Library Presents

All About the Story: News, Power, Politics, and the Washington Post

Speaker: Leonard Downie, Jr. and Benji de la Piedra

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Join CALS in-house oral historian Benji de la Piedra for a public conversation with Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of the Washington Post and author of the new memoir All About the Story: News, Power, Politics, and the Washington Post. Written in an era that has urgently needed protections and guidance for good journalism, Downie’s book recounts more than fifty years of his experiences reporting, writing, and editing impactful stories for the Washington Post. These stories—among many others—made a difference: exposing a corrupt court system, rendering detailed accounts of civil unrest, doggedly pursuing the truth about Watergate, putting tough questions to leaders such as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Bill Clinton, and offering crucial explanations about matters of war and national security to the American public.

In conversation with de la Piedra, Downie will not only discuss the contents of his book, but also share some memories of Little Rock’s own Herbert Denton Jr., whose biography de la Piedra is writing. Denton—who was also a journalist with the Washington Post—worked closely with Downie on local coverage of the DC area throughout the 1970s, and each counted the other as a highly trusted colleague. The evening will therefore not only introduce readers to Downie’s crucial book, but also prompt a discussion of what it means to be a good journalist and explore how Herbert Denton’s upbringing in Little Rock’s Dunbar community might have uniquely prepared him for this work.

Benji de la Piedra writes about American history, media, and art. He is currently at work on a biography of Herbert Denton Jr., a journalist who among other things was the first African American to assume command of a section of the Washington Post newsroom. De la Piedra is also an oral historian, currently based at Central Arkansas Library System. He has directed and consulted on a wide variety of community-centered oral history projects around the United States, and he teaches oral history courses at both the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of the District of Columbia.

Leonard Downie Jr. was the executive editor of the Washington Post for seventeen years. Downie has spent his entire journalistic career at the paper, where he started as a summer intern reporter in 1965. He soon became a prize-winning investigative reporter on the paper’s Metro desk. In 1974, when he was assistant managing editor for Metropolitan News, Downie oversaw the paper’s Watergate coverage. Downie also served as the Post’s London correspondent before becoming national editor in 1982, managing editor in 1984, and executive editor in 1991. Under Downie’s leadership, the paper won twenty-five Pulitzer Prizes, including three Pulitzer gold medals for public service.