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IU School of Journalism

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University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas French returning to teach at the IU School of Journalism

Aug. 28, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas French has accepted an offer to serve on the faculty in the Indiana University School of Journalism, beginning in fall 2009.

Thomas French

Photo by: James Brosher

Thomas French

Print-Quality Photo

French is the 1998 Pulitzer winner in Feature Writing and has worked at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times since he graduated from IU in 1980.

"Tom clearly is one of the best writers and teachers of writing in the world today," said Bradley J. Hamm, dean of the School of Journalism.

French's work has set the standard for a generation of reporters, according to Washington Post reporter Anne Hull, whose work helped the Washington Post earn the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for public service.

"He wrote a seminal piece of journalism called 'A Cry In The Night' that dominated our craft for a long time and made a model for the rest of us to follow," Hull said. "He's been my teacher since the day I met him. IU will soon get a glimpse of his passion and ferocious belief that journalism should be fair and truthful but also raucous, subversive, emotional and daring."

French will serve as the Riley Endowed Chair in Journalism, named for J. Stewart Riley, former owner and publisher of Bloomington Herald-Telephone (now the Herald-Times) and Bedford Times Mail. Riley is also a former IU trustee.

St. Petersburg Times Executive Editor Neil Brown, in an announcement to the newspaper staff, said French "was in the small group of writers who led the renaissance in newspaper narratives in the '80s and '90s, and he is known around the world for his evangelism on the subject -- which is why IU came calling."

In 1998, French was awarded the Pulitzer for "Angels & Demons," a series that chronicled the murder of an Ohio woman and her two teenage daughters. Two of his other serials, "A Cry in the Night" and "South of Heaven," were later published as books. His most recent project, "Zoo Story," explored the inner world of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo (book publication date, 2009).

In addition to his reporting, French has led workshops across the U.S. and around the world, from the Nieman conference at Harvard to newsrooms in Dubai, Singapore and Johannesburg. French is a writing fellow at the Poynter Institute and teaches in a nonfiction masters program at Goucher College, outside Baltimore.

David Finkel, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2006, said French has the ability to inspire both students and veteran journalists alike.

"Tom has so many strengths. One is that he knows how to do journalism. He has a body of work that students can study and learn from, which I think is the best way for a student to learn. Second, he knows how to explain journalism. I've heard him teach many times, and every time I've walked away excited by the possibilities of what we do," Finkel said.

"In his teaching, French is skilled at striking a balance between using his stories and not making all his teaching about 'war stories,'" said Roy Peter Clark, vice president/senior scholar at the prestigious Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, future journalists and teachers of journalism.

French is a 1980 graduate of IU, where he was a Poynter scholar and editor-in-chief of the Indiana Daily Student.